Thursday, December 9, 2010

Starbucking The System

So the other night I went to pick up a late dinner from a local eating establishment. As is tradition, my wait included a trip to the bar for a cold refreshment. Christmas Ale, brewed by Cleveland's finest, Great Lakes Brewery, was on tap, making the choice easy for me. The Colt's/Titans game was playing on the big screen located above the bar. I sipped, waited and enjoyed.

This is probably a good time to tell you about one of my special hidden talents -- some might even call it a super power. Superman can fly, use x-ray vision and crush rocks with this bare hands. Spiderman can swing from tall building to tall building with web stuff he launches from his wrists. Me? Well, I can time up the drinking of a pint of beer within a few seconds of my carryout food being ready for pick-up. It's amazing really. I don't know how or why I have this ability. In fact, I haven't really been able to identify a single benefit of being able to do it. But I don't care.

Taking a final swig from the glass, my food beeper started to flash and vibrate indicating my powers were still intact. Now, normally I would leave a tip, button my coat and head for the carryout counter to grab my food. But something caught my eye as I began to leave. Her name was Dogfishhead 60 Minute IPA. Man alive, a beer I've not tried was calling out to me, in a whispery-echo, "Trrrrrrryyyyyyyyy Mmmmeeeee." Hold on baby, I'll be right there. In an odd reversal of roles, my food would now have to wait for me.

When it comes to beer, I like the good stuff, but I'm not someone who can spend fifteen minutes describing all the subtle nuances of Dogfishhead 60 Minute IPA. Beer, to me, falls within one of three categories: 1) Getting Drunk Beer (i.e Miller Lite), 2) Loosening Up Beer (i.e. Sam Adams) and 3) Comfort Beer (i.e. Christmas Ale). The Dogfishhead was somewhere between a Loosening Up Beer and a Comfort Beer -- Good, not great.

But, it was worth the additional six minutes and thirty-five seconds it took to drink. And, my food would still be warm when I got home. A win/win outcome in the world of take-out.

Back home, I needed something to drink while my wife and I ate our dinner and watched the one-hour Christmas episode of "The Office." I grabbed a Yeungling from the fridge. Yeungling is not available in Ohio. I have it in my possession because of my very awesome brother-in-law who brought two twelves when he was in town with the family for Thanksgiving. My brother-in-law lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. The beer is brewed in Pennsylvania. I live in Cleveland, an hour and fifteen minutes from the Pennsylvania border. Charlotte is eight hours from Cleveland. Yet, I need to have this beer delivered like contraband Cuban cigars. It just doesn't make sense. For those keeping score at home, Yeungling has its own super power -- its the only beer I know that fits into all three of my beer categories.

Unfortunately, I remained awake only a few minutes after consuming the Yeungling. I was out. Three beers and I'm out. Let me save you the trouble. "What a lightweight." How'd that feel? You're welcome.

I awoke the next morning feeling a bit hazy with a huge headache that got worse as the day went on. You just don't expect a hangover from three beers. I don't anyway. It's bad enough I pass out, not allowing myself to truly enjoy my near-drunken state. Now I'm being double punished with a throbbing cranium? Bullshit.

So I'm at work thinking I should have grabbed some aspirin before I left home. Stupid, stupid. It was eight-thirty and no one was in the office but me. I checked all the places that aspirin might hide. I even checked places that aspirin probably had not heard of yet, like the conference room desk and under the ping-pong table. No dice.

Then I noticed a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Someone must have come in earlier and started a batch. Either that or the same aliens that help my neighbors with their Christmas decorations had paid our office a visit. I couldn't be certain, but I decided not to try and figure it out.

Now anyone who knows me knows I am not a coffee drinker. Everyone except my mother. I'm 43 years old and she still offers me a cup whenever I visit. Every time, it's the same dramatic response, "When did you stop drinking coffee?"

"You wanna know when I stopped drinking coffee mom? Really? When I was in your womb, that's when."

As far as coffee goes, I've never been able to figure out how something that smells so good could taste so bad. Besides urine, coffee is the only beverage I know of that you need to add other ingredients to in order to make it taste better. Cream. Sugar. Honey. Barbecue sauce. Tea doesn't count -- nothing could possibly make that swill taste better.

As much as I despise coffee, it's impossible to avoid it in daily life. Every sales call I go on where the prospect can't or won't meet me at their office, is held at Starbucks. What is it about that place that's so damned fantastic? I'm intimidated by it. I can't order anything. Even if I wanted to pretend I was a coffee drinker to impress the person I'm meeting with, my body won't cooperate. I'm too nervous. I get all toungue-tied and I start to shake.

It's embarrassing really. So, I usually just grab a bottled water from the refrigerated case so as not to have any sort of interaction with the person behind the counter other than a quick exchange of currency. I know what they think too. "Poor, stupid bastard. Look at him. Can't even get up the nerve to order a cappuccino. Someone should just put him out of his misery already."

My sales calls never end up well at Starbucks. I'm sure my prospects, seeing my bottle of water say, "Look at this guy. Who the hell does he think he is? And, he wants ME to buy something from HIM? Yeah, right."

I like lots of things. There are few things I hate, but coffee and Starbucks are two of them.
So, there I was, tragically tempted to pour myself a cup. My head pounded and I needed some sort of relief. Coffee is one of those things people drink when they're fighting a hangover, right? My head wouldn't allow this debate to go on much longer.

I reached for a paper cup and poured myself some of the hot liquid. Then some sugar. And some powdered cream. Not exactly sure how you get powdered cream, but I'll trust the manufacturers know what they're doing. A quick stir with a spoon and it was ready.

Since I'm not a coffee drinker, the only reference point for what to do next was from what I see my friends and family do. I picked it up, blew at the lip of the cup to cool the now chocolate-colored mixture. Then, I sipped. Blech. For the love of god, aaaahhhh. Not enough sugar. Too much coffee. Couldn't someone have stocked the first aid kit with ibuprofen? Dammit.

Okay, another couple blows, followed by another couple sips as it cooled. Still bad, but like the survivor of a plane crash who is forced to cannibalize another passenger for nourishment, it had to be done. One last gulp and the cup was empty. I did it.

And just how did it make me feel? Well, my head was hurting about as badly as before. But now my mouth tasted like tar. Awesome. I can't imagine why someone wouldn't drink this "nectar of the gods."

It was then I decided to do this thing right. I bolted for the door. The drugstore would have what I needed and it wouldn't taste so bad -- 1500 milligrams of acetaminophen. Within twenty minutes, my headache was cured.

Afterward, I felt guilty. I had been so negative towards coffee when it was beer that was making me feel bad. I should be angry with beer. Right?

Nah. Like an abused spouse, I'll keep coming back for more. As long as it falls within one of the three categories -- and it usually does.

Now if I could only change my super power to avoiding a hangover after three beers. That's gotta be better than finishing a beer when your food is ready.


  1. Have I not taught you anything...B-Complex!!!! Thae end all be all in hangover prevention.

  2. Technically, nearly all beer can be classified as "Getting Drunk" beer. It's sort of a superset of beer that also includes "Comfort Beer", "Flatulence-inducing beer", and "Stuff I can't afford".

    And I love coffee, but hate Starbucks with a passion. It's not necessarily the faux-Continental froo-froo whipped cream shenanigans, it's just that their coffee is too acidic for my tastes. I even prefer McDonald's coffee over theirs, at about half the price. I'm only drinking Starbucks if there's absolutely no alternative. Blech.