I would walk in, the cold bite of winter pouring out of my breath as the warm steam of coffee smells lingered in the worn vinyl seats that I scanned, looking for an empty spot. Coats, toques, mitts would topple down onto the green canvas bag that defined my student life and I would shake out the bright red hair tangled around my shoulders knowing that soon I would be able to cozy up to the word, my pen scratching thoughts as I drank in the fragrant cup of coffee set before me. Friends would come in, their cheeks bright as they went through the routine of ordering and settling in, and conversation would swirl mingling with the cream of laughter.
There is an independent coffee shop that I regularly go to if I meet with friends to catch up or if I have set aside some time to cozy up to my laptop and do some writing outside of the house. But in my day-to-day of life and work, I grab my coffee at one of the many chain coffee shops that litter the streets downtown. I can hit at least four different ones in a one block radius. I line up and chat with a colleague then try and remember which coffee shop I am at so that I use the right terminology because a ‘medium’ is never just a ‘medium’ anymore unless you are in the coffee shop that uses ‘medium’ cups and they will be quick to tell you if you inadvertently say the wrong thing. I dish out my change, just over two dollars generally unless I am in the mood for a frappadappa ding dong or a latte hold the sweet and please use skim thank you very much and then I hand over five dollars give or take a few cents. I am usually pretty good at using my handy dandy to-go cup, one of many that litter my desk at work and I try to be matchy matchy and bring the right-labeled generic cup to the appropriately labeled coffee shop so I don’t offend anyone with the notion that I am cheating with the shop down the street. The whole ordeal pretty much takes up all the time of my coffee break but I’m used to that now.
I actually own a pretty fancy coffee maker that can be programmed the night before and will even grind the beans fresh before brewing the pot. It’s a gleaming shiny piece of kitchen accessory that I dust on a regular basis and use infrequently. On the weekend, as I pushed my shopping cart, chewing on the ragged nail of my index finger, finding myself annoyed with that one wheel that always want to go off in its own direction when it would be so much simpler to follow the other wheels (what is with that wheel and how do I always find the one cart that has an errant wheel?), I almost missed the sale sign as I reached wearily for a new bag of fair trade roasted fairly locally coffee beans. A six dollar savings meant the bag of coffee would only cost me ten dollars. I do love a good sale and this was a good sale so I got a little bit crazy in the end bought eighty dollars worth of coffee. Um. Yeah.
I got home giddy and slightly nauseated as I realized what I had done. We don’t really drink enough coffee to warrant this sort of crazy binge. Do we? And then my head became one of those screens with numbers floating by brightly illuminated like one of those genius characters on crime shows … only I am far from genius. Doing the most conservative estimates, I calculate that my husband and I spend at least five dollars a day on coffee as we trudge through the line ups waiting to be refilled as we dash about our days. This means that in just over two weeks, we have spent eighty dollars. If we make a pot of coffee a day, it will take us approximately two and a half months to use up the coffee that I spent eighty dollars on. So basically I save two months worth of coffee for an approximate total of … three hundred dollars. Three hundred dollars!! At this point my breathing got a little shallow because I know that this is a conservative estimate that doesn’t take into account any of the latte extravaganzas that I can quickly rack up in a week.
I remember my grandfather’s thermos, worn and chipped and filled with a steaming hot brew of coffee every morning for as long as I could remember. Coffee shops were places where my mother went to meet her friends and chat and laugh in steamed cream conversation much like my days as a student. Otherwise she drank coffee at home or it was bundled up in a thermos for the ride. I have a grande collection of to-go cups, some ceramic and some encased in steel but if I search the cupboards of my mind, I can’t come up with a good old fashioned thermos. That is about to change because I realized that on top of being able to bank some extra money, I might actually have some time on my coffee breaks to pull out my notebook and scratch out some words.
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