It’s been a hectic and stressful week, but one thing has remained clear: coffee, above all else, is the necessary component of life. I’m addicted and yet I can’t bring myself to be sufficiently alarmed to do anything about it. Sure, I enjoy drinking coffee, love it even when it’s made just right, but that’s not why I seek it out. I drink it because I have to, because I crave it, because I cannot function without it.
Earlier in the week, I found myself in Northern California. It was 9:00am, I had been up since about 4:30 and I not yet had any coffee. I could feel the crankiness edging in. My head started to hurt. I was agitated and antsy. The Starbucks I passed in the airport was still closed for some reason that I’m sure is entirely against nature and all that is good and lovely in the world. I got into my rental car and started scanning the exits. I was looking for Starbucks.
Not that I’m a great lover of Starbucks coffee, you understand. In fact, when rating coffee establishments, Starbucks ranks far lower than many. But while I might not love the coffee, I do love the company. They have made coffee available. I even drink a lot of Starbucks when I’m home in Seattle, even though I could easily rattle off several places I would rather get my coffee. Because sometimes, I just need my fix. And Starbucks is everywhere. There are two Starbucks within walking distance of my office. And one I can walk to from my apartment. Starbucks are like gas stations. They’re on both sides of the street so you don’t have to worry about crossing traffic.
But as I was driving along Hwy 101 that morning, I was not hopeful. If you live in the Bay Area, you might think Starbucks is ubiquitous, but I have been down this path before. Every time I have been in dire need of coffee while in California, Starbucks has forsaken me. I remember one time P. and I were driving from Orange County to San Diego and we were twenty miles down the road before we found a Starbucks. Was he happy to see it. He knew that any minute I would go into withdrawal-induced craziness.
I kept driving, searching, hoping, praying, but coffee was not to be found. I finally got to my destination and asked the parking guard if he could point me to a Starbucks. He looked at me like I was a crazy person, which quite honestly, I probably was by that point. He didn’t know of any nearby Starbucks, but there was a McDonald’s down the road. Not ideal, but they had coffee. Terrible coffee that had been sitting on a burner for three hours, but if a back alley fix was what it took, I was in no condition to be choosy. I drove towards McDonald’s. As I pulled in, I saw a bakery nearby and swerved towards it at the last moment.
They were brewing Seattle’s Best Coffee (drip only), which as been pointed out elsewhere, is not really Seattle’s best. But whatever, it would do fine. It was in a carafe that had undoubtedly been sitting out for quite a while, but still better than a burner, right? I haven’t fallen that far, have I? I felt better just having the cup in my hand.
I cupped it lovingly, inhaled the bitter, wonderful coffee aroma. I took that first hot, intoxicating, life-affirming sip. I would be OK after all.