Coffee with a Side of Scandal
I am a creature of habit.
In fact, I am more than just an accidental creature of habit … I love my habits. I live by them.
I can eat the exact same thing for lunch every single day for six months and love every bite. I ride the same spin bike, at the same time, on the same mornings of every week and love it. And when Target stopped carrying the toothpaste I absolutely love, it took me a month to recover.
But most importantly, I love my coffee iced. Always. 112 degree heat or Christmas morning, when it comes to my coffee there better be ice cubes in the glass and a solid layer of un-melted sugar at the bottom.
One of my fondest pre-parent memories is of my sweet husband, Michael, sneaking out to the neighborhood coffee shop just after sunrise and coming home with his hot coffee in one hand and my iced coffee in the other.
Yes, my iced coffee one of my most cherished habits. So you can imagine Michael’s surprise one fall morning when, though I usually pretended to be sleeping when he snuck out of the house, I lifted my head off the pillow and asked if I could please have a hot coffee instead of my usual order. When he gave me a confused look I mumbled something about hot coffee and metabolism and went back to fake-sleeping.
Michael returned shortly after and gave me my new order.
I took one sip.
It was too hot.
It didn’t have a crunchy sugar stock-pile at the bottom.
And actually, I really like straws.
Knowing I wouldn’t be able to function without proper amount of caffeine and knowing one sip wasn’t going to cut it, I resolved to swing into the coffee shop on my way to the office to remedy the situation. No big deal, I thought. Lesson learned.
At approximately 8am that fateful morning I walked into the bustling establishment filled with all the people of the neighborhood. I stepped up to the counter and nonchalantly asked for “the usual” from my favorite barista while waving across the room to my favorite attorney who was talking to my favorite real estate agent.
But when I turned back the counter to hand over my $3.50, I was caught completely off guard. The barista was staring at me with an intense look on her face; a mixture of concern, confusion, and speechlessness. I looked over my shoulder to see if a ghost or a man with a machete was standing behind me and when I confirmed neither, I turned back to the gal behind the counter. She was still staring. “Um. Is something … wrong?” I asked. “Oh, sorry! No,” she said as she fumbled with my clear plastic cup, snapping out of her trance.
I narrowed my eyes, suspicious. But with a growing line behind me and not much time to spare, I decided to just let it go. Just then, the barista spoke in a faux-casual tone, “Hey Kindra … Um. So. Did you try a different drink or something this morning? I don’t usually see you in here at this time. …” she held her breath as I rattled off something about hot coffee, metabolism and conspiracy and only exhaled when I said, “Yeah, Michael thought it was weird too.”
“Oh thank GOD!”
Her response was more dramatic than I expected.
And judging by the sudden turning of heads in our direction, more dramatic than most of the patrons expected.
“I was so worried!” she shouted as the pace of her speech quickened. “Michael came in and got two hot coffees and I know you only drink iced coffee and I thought maybe he was bringing coffee to someone else! I thought maybe he was having an affair!”
The word AFFAIR echoed off the acoustically-advanced walls of the coffee shop as the entire place stopped. No whirring of blenders, no chatting of PTA moms, nothing. You could hear a stylus drop from across the room. Everyone, friends and strangers alike, stared at me – the wife whose husband may-or-may-not be having an affair based on the temperature of a beverage purchased earlier that morning.
“Um … No. …” I spoke slowly, still in shock. “I just wanted to try something new.” And then, in a louder voice and rotating my head so everyone could hear, “Just wanted to try something new is all. No affairs. We’re all good.”
“Well, good!” the barista sighed. “Because I really like you guys.”
I must say. It took me a while to decide how I felt about what happened that morning. Part of me was a little upset. I mean, what if she really had discovered a horrible secret and then announced it to every single one of my neighbors?
But there was also a part of me who was relieved and a little grateful. It was comforting to know that, even where we least expect it, there are people in our communities, more-or-less strangers, who care about us. People who are watching out for us. Our paths cross at random times and for random reasons but still, there is that subtle sense that we’re on the same team.
Now certainly, the barista could have expressed her caring in a different way, or at least in a whisper, but I love knowing the love, tactful or not, is there.
That incident was several years ago and much has changed. My favorite barista has moved on, Michael and I have had two children and lazy mornings of any kind are but a distant memory. But some things haven’t changed – I still rotate my lunches bi-annually, I still ride the same spin bike every morning, and I may never drink a cup of hot coffee again.
Because if I learned anything from that incident, as neurotic as my habits may be, I’m sticking to them – after all, my marriage depends on it.