Marti Schodt
November 12, 2015 8:37 am

After 21 years of ardent avoidance, I’ve recently started drinking coffee, and I have no idea what I’m doing. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me. By all appearances I’m a fully functioning Seattleite college student, darting in and out of Starbucks with my red cups, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and bursting with caffeine.

But while I smile and laugh with the baristas like we’re old friends, I’m hiding a secret:when the other customers aren’t looking I’m sweating and stuttering and begging the nice people behind the counter to help me. Mocha-loca, americano-frappuccino, one shot, two shot, red shot, blue shot, none of it makes any sense and it is stressing me out. So I drink my coffee black and grow more and more like Ron Swanson with every gulp, hoping and praying for an angel to swoop down from the skies and explain seasonal blends.

I hope to one day order my coffee with the casual grace of a Friends character, or the insistent urgency of Frasier Crane. But until that day, here’s some current struggles and embarrassments I’m facing, I hope all my fellow coffee converts can relate.

Ordering anxiety is so, so real

Those few hellish minutes waiting in line when you have to decide what kind of day you want to have—dark, iced, sweet—and what kind of impression you want to make on the people standing in line behind you who are totally eavesdropping and judging even if they pretend that they’re not. It’s all so much pressure and the stakes are so high because you don’t want to be that guy who holds up the line and makes everyone late because you can’t decide between the the 12 and 16 oz (I usually just say “the big one” and hope for the best).

Adjusting to the newfound power and energy of the magic beans

As a tea drinker, I never knew that I could feel this awake. Every time I opt for a cup of coffee over my usual jasmine-infusion, zen-meta, green tea what-not, I feel like someone zapped me with a defibrillator and gave me permission to live my best life. Suddenly I have energy! I have ideas! I can do anything! I AM ALL POWERFUL HEAR ME ROAR AND WATCH ME SMASH BUILDINGS! But there’s a downside. I get a little caffeine in my bloodstream and I think I can change the world. I start making promises and plans my schedule can’t keep. I agree to go hiking and learn pottery and climb mountains and move furniture, none of which I have any business doing since I have the back and the social stamina of an 98 year old man. So then I have to text everyone and explain that the beans made me do it, which never goes well.

Learning to make your own coffee is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube 

I actually still don’t know how to do this. I know that there’s a filter involved, and I know that you scoop powder into the top of a growling gremlin of a machine. But that’s where my knowledge ends. When I need coffee at home I kind of just lurk behind my roommate and suggest casually that maybe she should make extra. Just in case. AND THEN I SWOOP.

Pretending to know what “shot” means

The first time my barista asked me if I wanted a shot in my coffee I genuinely thought she meant a shot of whiskey or rum, and while I was questioning the wisdom of spiking coffee at 7 a.m., it was Monday and I said yes. I’m just kidding. I panicked and said “I’ll take a shot of milk!” and laughed very loudly and threw cash down on the counter and ran away. I still don’t really know what “shot” means, but I know it’s very serious and intense and only for veteran coffee drinkers who have accepted that they’re never sleeping again.

Pretending to know what anything means

I honestly think that a bunch of practical jokesters in capes and crocs got together in a darkly lit basement and made up an entire coffee language and everyone else just went with it because they were embarrassed to admit that they couldn’t see the emperor’s new clothes. None of these words are real. Macchiato is a suitable name for a pomeranian, not a beverage that will go into my body. I’m onto you, Coffee Wizards of Mount HaHa. You’re not fooling this warlock.

Being too adventurous too fast

Sometimes when I’m in a hurry or just feeling generally anxious about embarrassing myself in front of the cool baristas, I’ll let them decide what I’m drinking. It all feels very cool and retro, like I’m flipping a quarter over a bar and muttering “dealer’s choice” in a cool Humphrey Bogart voice while tipping back my fedora and smoking a cigar. In this scenario cigars are still cool and have not been revealed to be burning cancer sticks of death. Just go with it. But then I get my coffee back and it tastes like blended unicorn droppings and I still have to drink it because I got myself into this mess and there’s no way I can admit my failure.

Admitting to yourself that you’re addicted to the rush, and learning moderation

Coffee addiction begins as simple curiosity. You just want to know what all the kids are talking about, so you order a cup. And then another. And then another. And soon you can’t start your day without a cup of joe and a tasteful croissant. And then you’re getting coffee in the afternoon to wake you up. And then you’re going on evening coffee dates. And then you’re having a casual cup by the fire. And then it’s 3 a.m. and you’re lying in bed wide awake, wondering where it all went wrong.

Being a responsible coffee consumer means learning when to say no. For me, I know that any caffeine after 2 p.m. means I’m going to spend all night remembering every horrible thing I’ve ever said and done. But everyone is different, maybe you’re stronger than me and can down a grande before bed and sleep like a baby that just ate a full Thanksgiving dinner. You do you, boo.

[Image via NBC]

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