Brew That Routine

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

Every Thursday night as I walk across Robert Morris University’s Chicago campus to my night class, I stop to get a cup of free coffee – or as I call it, liquid supplemental income – from one of the faculty lounge areas.

I didn’t drink coffee regularly until I was 21 when I started management training at the Chicago Tribune to run a Distribution Agency. This required me to be up through the night, seven days a week. My bosses offered me coffee the first night and I politely declined, but like java-pushing drug dealers they said, “Oh, you’ll be drinkin’ coffee by the end of training.”

I said, “No chance!”

A week later, they found me outside a 7-11 in the fetal position, jittering and surrounded by empty styrofoam cups, my nose caked in powder creamer.

These days, I have coffee only a few times a week at most. On Thursdays, the coffee is more for routine than effect, because it no longer perks me up. It’s one of the few beverages that doesn’t have a measurable effect on me. For example, milk makes my bones strong, Gatorade rehydrates me, and tequila makes me think I’m attractive to women.

I get my coffee from a delightful, space age coffee machine with a digital screen, fancy buttons, and coffee packets that look vaguely like birth control pill cases. I always select the “Donut Shop” coffee, and consequently feel saddened and misled when it doesn’t also produce a donut.

After adding a packet of creamer, I come to the hard part: the sweetening options.

Morpheus SweetenersI have convinced myself that I have a preferred artificial sweetener, though I can’t tell you which one, partly because I don’t identify the options by name, but by color. There’s the blue, the pink, and the yellow. They’re probably all the same, and they may not even be sweetener. There’s a good chance it’s just drywall dust from inside the Blue-Pink-Yellow factories. But I’ve convinced myself I need to select the correct color as if it won’t just determine the outcome of my coffee, but of my entire night. It’s like having Morpheus as a barista.

I consider using regular sugar to avoid this problem. It would be the healthier option, after all. Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of sweeteners will gradually turn you into something artificial and overly sweet.

We get it, Rachael. You're chipper and happy. Now stop it.

We get it, Rachael. You’re chipper and happy. Now stop it.

This explains Rachael Ray.

The problem with real sugar is that it is antisocial. The coffee and creamer mingle with ease, but the sugar granules just want to hangout together at the bottom of the cup. Stir all you want. You have a better shot of mixing the boys and girls at a Bayside High dance after a Zack Morris prank.

Limbo brought Bayside back together. You might even say Tori got "Sweet n' Low" to win.

Limbo brought Bayside back together. You might even say Tori got “Sweet n’ Low” to win.

That’s why I like the artificial sweeteners – they’re the social butterflies of the beverage world. They come dressed in colors and fit right in.

By the way, have you ever thought about how someone had to discover that stirring coffee was the most effective way to equally distribute sugar and cream throughout a beverage? There had to be unsuccessful early attempts to mix components, like drinking without stirring, or shaking, or blowing bubbles with a straw. Somebody had to be the first to tell his friends, “No, no, no. You’re doing it all wrong. Check THIS out….”

Fun fact: The person who discovered it was Alfred B. Stirrin of Bournemouth, England in 1610. Share that with your friends.

During the short walk from the lounge to my classroom, I inevitably spill some coffee on my hand. I wipe it off with handouts or quizzes when I get to the lectern, making sure to pass those soiled versions out to create the illusion that I stayed up all night preparing for class.

Is this a scene from Office Space or me lecturing on Thursdays? It's hard to tell.

Is this a scene from Office Space or me lecturing on Thursdays? It’s hard to tell.

For the first half of class, I lecture with Bill Lumbergh breath and even continue to take a few sips from the cup after it’s empty, just because I feel I teach better when I have a prop.

And a week from now, this will all happen again, because routines are hard to shake, particularly when coffee is involved, and my Thursday nights are already set to brew.

  1. Jeanette Morales says:

    Hello Paul, I really liked your story. I laughed when I read the part that said that you were jittering and surrounded by Styrofoam cups and your nose caked in powder creamer. It meant to me that you were addicted like a drug abuser I just thought that part was really funny.

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