When I tell people that I’ve never tasted coffee, you’d think I had announced that I’ve never seen a bird before, or tied my shoes, or even heard of the game of baseball. They look at me completely befuddled. And what planet are you from? Have you seen a psychiatrist for this? It’s never too late to seek help.
Once during a formal dinner at a high-end restaurant in Chicago, a waiter approached my table of ten and asked if I’d like an after-dinner roast. I looked at him and said, “No thank you. The one I had for dinner was just fine.”
He said, “A coffee roast.”
I looked around the table at nine befuddled faces. Did I say something wrong? Little did I know, I was burying myself under a dog pile of ignorance. “Beef.” I continued, “It was roast beef. Remember? You served it to me about twenty minutes ago.”
Wiping off the look of (you guessed it) exasperated befuddlement, the waiter smiled at the other patrons, from whom he received normal-people answers. It took me a bit, but, in the end, I figured out their sneaky coded language about this roast beverage. And while I wanted to feel no more of the oddball than I’d already become, I feared if I did order an after-dinner roast, I’d spew my first taste across the table like a high-powered fire hydrant. I chose the safe route and said, “Some more water, please. Thank you.”
You think I don’t blend in well amongst coffee drinkers in restaurants, then you should see me in Starbucks.
I’m a Starbucks manager’s worst nightmare. While everyone and their dog is ordering coffees, lattes, espressos, and racking up the bill, I’m this guy…
Starbucks Manager: “Welcome to Starbucks! How may I help you?”
Already, I can’t speak. I’m drowning in a sea of alien coffee terminology as I stare at the overhead menu. Caffe Misto. Iced Coffee. Cold Brew Coffee. Skinny Mocha. Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Caramel Macchiato. I’m thinking since when did coffee get to be so complex? It’s got to be a chore to decide what you want. But, then again, I don’t even drink the stuff, so what do I know?
I know one thing: this guy sure could use an answer.
Me: “You have so much to choose from.”
SM: “We most certainly do! Starbucks prides itself in a large variety of tasty options. Would you be interested with an espresso?”
I honestly don’t even know what an espresso is. I’m guessing it’s a term Fed-Ex has coined for overnight shipments to Mexico…”Send your package ESPRESSO!!”
Me: “Does an espresso taste like coffee?”
SM: “It’s thicker than coffee, brewed through a pressurized process that involves very hot water and finely ground coffee beans. Has a wonderful creamy consistency. Would you like to try one?”
Me: “Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve never tasted coffee before. I’m not sure I’d like it.”
There it was—that look of befuddlement.
Me: “No. Never. Just as I’ve never kissed the belly of a pig.”
SM: “But you’ve kissed other parts of a pig?”
Me: “No, I didn’t mean to imply that.”
SM: “Well, you did, and to that I say, to each his own.”
Me: “Look, I don’t kiss pigs, period. All I’m saying is that I’ve never tasted coffee before.”
SM: “I gathered that. But as a little bit of advice: the pig analogy makes you seem….well, rather odd.”
Me: “I’m not odd!”
SM: “You say that, but you’ve never tasted coffee.”
Me: “And that makes me odd?”
I looked around the cafe at the tables occupied by customers sipping their morning brews. Bent over and engaged in little whispers, aghast at what they had just overheard.
“Did you hear that? Did you hear about the pig man?”
“The pig kisser…that guy at the counter. He doesn’t drink coffee. Rather odd, huh?”
“Hell yes that’s odd. Are they his pigs?”
“Oh, I’m sure they’re his pigs. Probably babies them. Makes them oatmeal for breakfast.”
“Coffee with that breakfast?”
“Maybe for the pigs, but not him. He’s just too odd.”
And that’s where it all comes back to—the fact that I am on oddity. I don’t drink coffee, therefore I might as well be put on exhibit next to the bearded lady or the man with three belly buttons. I absolutely love the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I love to stick my nose inside a can of coffee grounds, and inhale it like it held the secret longevity to life. If it led to pure bliss, I could snort a line of grounds off the kitchen countertop in order to kick start my day. The smell of coffee has it all. But to taste it—I have no curiosity. Oddly.
So, why is that I don’t drink coffee? What’s the story behind my dysfunction? I think it has to do with my preconceived notion that people who drink coffee appear more adult than those who don’t. There is something about a person holding a steamy cup of coffee that immediately settles them into a state of registered maturity. They speak with slow and proper annunciation—their word selection being delivered with confidence and ease. They are calm and reserved.
I, on the other hand, exit Starbucks with only bottled water in my grasp. As I walk down a rain-soaked sidewalk, I come to a large puddle and contemplate what my chances are of clearing it in one long, leap of faith.
My chances are slim, but honestly the kid in me could care less.
Copyright Ros Hill 2016