It’s Not Just Java: Skipping My Morning Cup of Joe Becomes a Tale of Chaos


Coffee is a luxury for some students, but for others it’s a necessity. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published: December 10, 2009

I drink Starbucks twice a day. The habit is high in costs. It’s expensive, it’s not the healthiest thing in the world and I could have written a novel with the amount of time I have spent waiting in line. But despite the costs, I continue to pump my veins full of overpriced caffeine twice a day every day, justifying it to judgmental friends and my worried mother with the excuse, “There are worse things I could be addicted to.” It shuts them up pretty quickly.

While I have always been quick to defend myself (“Starbucks is just something I enjoy; I don’t have to have it”), it was only recently that I discovered just how dependent I am on the paper cup of goodness when I skipped my morning coffee and the world came crashing down around me.

Why I decided to skip my morning energy boost on this particular day is beyond me, especially since I was commuting from Jersey and braving the mass transit system. It’s as if the alarm rang the moment I stepped foot on the train: “ALERT! ALERT! Crabby, caffeine-starved girl on the verge of developing withdrawal symptoms!” it hissed. The door slammed shut, not to open in New York City for a good two and a half hours (the trip is scheduled to take an hour).

I spent the first hour letting the toddler in the throes of his terrible twos sitting next to me maul my dog since my other option was listening to him wail the entire way. Just as he moved on and became enthralled in pulling his mother’s hair, the train came to a screeching halt and the loudspeaker informed us that at the exact moment we were attempting to cross the bridge, so was a military vessel, and of course, it trumped us.

As my temples began to pulse and I felt the craving for a Venti-sized cup of caffeine surge within me, the conductor broke the news that someone had jumped in front of a train and we would therefore be proceeding at this slow pace the entire way to Penn station. The jumper must have skipped his morning coffee, I thought to myself.

When I finally made it to a cab line I was past the point of caring that I was minutes away from missing my first class. At this point, I could barely see straight with the excruciating pain emanating from behind my eye sockets. I fought the urge to scream at the driver, “Drop me at the closest Starbucks, stat!” Instead, I watched the streets roll by on the drive to my apartment, pedestrians taking the form of Espresso shots and bags of coffee beans, taunting me as I passed.

Maybe it was the craving-induced haze, the pounding headache, or the shaky hands.  But what happened next left me vowing to never begin another day of my life without my cup of joe. For some reason, my brain skipped right over the part of the process where you look before opening a car door into a New York City street, and the stars aligned just right, sending a van whizzing past at the exact moment my door swung open. The result was extremely loud.

God must have been looking out for me, knowing that I was a walking zombie, and I had dropped some change causing me to pause before stepping out. As I stared in shock at the cracked pieces of the door falling onto the pavement, the back door of the van exploded open and I was confronted by three screaming workmen, complete with threatening Brooklyn accents. As if this wasn’t enough, every guy from the barbershop across the street surrounded my taxi, examining the damage.

I sat speechless. Unable to form sentences.   I wanted to shrink into my seat and disappear, save myself the humiliation of having to apologize to my driver and do the walk of shame to my front door, fumbling for my keys as the entire neighborhood of crusty Upper East Siders, women walking their dogs and the Italian barbers stared accusingly. But most of all, I wanted to drop my bags and sprint to the nearest Starbucks, find solace in the familiar face of a barista, curl into a fetal position on a comfy chair and wrap my hands around a steaming cup of coffee…or three.

Might this have happened to anyone on any day? Yes. But I think it’s more than a coincidence that a trip I have taken hundreds of times suddenly became a nightmare filled with screaming babies, car crashes and nosey neighbors wagging their finger on the one occasion that I missed my morning dose of caffeine.

I now look at that large portion of my monthly budget going right into the pockets of Mr. Starbucks as collateral for my life, or at least a life where trains run on time, screaming kids sit in the next car and taxi rides end with me slipping inconspicuously into my building.