Beantown – The Coffee Drinkers Guide To Etiquette
Is this really the end? All I can see is pitch black, as my eyes can't adjust to even a tiny ray of light in my own personal nanosphere. I've always wondered what happens when you die, and surprisingly there are no God-like instructions to take me through the dark portal into the after-life.
In the next instant, I grasp the finger-sized hole in my espresso cup, expertly tilt it, and take the plunge into the welcoming arms of caffeine land. "Yes, I have tasted the bean and it's good" – I silently mutter to myself as I walk straight out the door of the coffee shop and into the deadly rays of the thermal Phuket tropical sunshine.
Pinching myself just to check that I am really alive, my jumpstart to the day has its desired effect. Another run scored, and I remain a stone's throw away from the big sleep. Broad daylight is nobody's friend, be they an ageing supermodel or a tattered fifty-something consultant who has increasingly more lines on the corners of his eyes than a coked-up '80s musician figure might have shot up their nose. Lines, lines, it's always more lines.
Somehow, the older I get, the more comfort I find in the company of the bean. We then come to the truly tricky part, that cultural exchange – and yes, coffee drinking does have a clear set of rules of engagement. Let's not get biblical here, or even flout the fine lines of the democratic process, but when you jump on the coffee train, you had better be willing to punch the ticket and enjoy the ride.
One of my biggest frustrations (and trust me, as my angst-ridden wife will attest, there seems to be an endless list), is the ability to obtain seating in one of those comfortable posh lounge chairs at Starbucks. Even the walk inside makes me nervous, and puts me in a panic-like state, sweating as I weigh up the odds.All too often, there is someone parked in a seat with the chair opposite only used for a purse, shopping bag or worst of all, a backpack. My readers all know how I feel about backpacks, so let's not even go there. Sadly, we live in an age of vanished hospitality and slack manners. Worst yet is finding someone camped out for the day, showing no sign of consuming anything. Money can't buy you love, but it ought to buy you temporary comfort at Starbucks.
Moving on to the not quite as comfortable, but still more cozy than those wooden chairs, are the couches and ottomans. If you don't understand what the latter is, please stop reading immediately as you are too dense to read this article or even understand the pictures in this magazine. Return home to your PlayStation immediately and continue doing all-nighters with your only real friend, that lunatic called Red Bull. I've digressed, and must apologize. On the couch back at the coffee shop is a twosome or threesome conducting job interviews or perhaps some sort of business meeting. This current trend towards working out of coffee shops or even those hip communal work spaces is offensive. If you can't afford an office, go out and get a job, but whatever you do, don't make me listen to public renditions of your idea for a cool new app, or the even more lame thoughts of getting out of the box.
Equally annoying in my lead up to caffeination is the obnoxious habit of asking for my name to put onto a coffee cup by some young trainee who cannot pronounce the name Bill. Has humankind sunk so low that we cannot even figure out which coffee is ours and can't these people understand that we are offended by the faux Americanized theory of personalization? Join the Jehovah's Witnesses or start selling Amway products if you really want to get on a first name basis with strangers. At times my anger and rage border on the edge of madness. Sadly there are no coffee police in the world, and much as I'd like to thrust that non-purchasing loiterer's backpack out in the street in the hope that a speeding bus will run it over and tear it to shreds, I take a moment, inhale, and revel in my own false set of coffee etiquette. This is after all what separates us from our friends in the animal kingdom.
My thirst for life and coffee seem interconnected and entwined in dark despair with moments of humor, together with the hope which accompanies me on each trip to the dark continent of the bean. As for happiness, this fleeting concept is never more than a sip away, as long as I can brave the savage tribes inhabiting these haunting aromatic places. I'll be just fine as long as I can continue to remember my name.
This article is written by Bill Barnett and appears in the latest edition of Bikinis and Martinis magazine.