Livin’ la vida mocha

On October 16, I started drinking coffee. It was the exact opposite of going “cold turkey”; that morning, I changed from a lifelong coffee-avoider to a person who sips the stuff more or less nonstop throughout the work day.
Blame Weight Watchers and IBM. When I started on the Weight Watchers plan in 1999, I suddenly had a very powerful incentive to reevaluate my taste preferences. I was drinking several canned drinks a day, and their sugar content was a major reason why my weight had reached 230 pounds. I needed an alternative. I had tried diet sodas in the past, and had always found them to taste nasty. So, during the first weeks of my diet, I drank a lot of water. But eventually, I broke down and drank a diet soda, and found that it tasted just fine. In fact, all diet sodas now tasted good to me.
Apparently, once the sugar content of my bloodstream came down out of the stratosphere, I could taste the artificial sweetener. (I should have expected this; years before, I had stopped salting my food, and had discovered that foods had flavors of their own.) So instead of sipping Dr. Pepper all day, I could now sip Diet Dr. Pepper. It was still expensive buying all those drinks from vending machines, though. I tried bringing store brands from home, but lugging several cans of liquid to work every day wasn’t much of an improvement.
Over the next two years, I discovered that diet drinks were just the tip of the iceberg. Virtually every food I thought I disliked, I found that I enjoyed eating or could at least tolerate. My diet gradually shifted from meat and carbohydrates to semi-vegetarian, as I learned that collard greens, brussels sprouts, and squash were not the inedible horrors I had always believed. I even found that my childhood allergies to raw vegetables and fruits had disappeared, and I could now eat bananas and watermelon like everyone else.
When I started work at IBM in May, one of the perks of the job was the free drinks. Coffee and tea had been free at many of my former workplaces, but not Coke and Pepsi products. Now I had access to vending machines that would dispense Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi without payment. At last I could get my daily caffeine without worrying about the calories or the expense! If only the drinks didn’t run out so often.
Of course it was too good to last. The drinks were running out because IBMers had no incentive to limit their consumption, and the cost of refilling the machines was becoming prohibitive. Finally IBM put its corporate foot down. Drinks would now cost 25 cents. This was still a bargain, but it started me thinking. “If what I’m really after is the caffeine,” I reasoned, “why am I ignoring the free coffee?” The last time I had tried coffee, it had tasted horribly bitter and nasty to me, but how long ago was that? Ten or fifteen years? If I could learn to love Brussels sprouts, it was time to give java another try. So, on the morning of October 16, I took the IBM thermal mug that I had owned for over a decade (since my previous stint as a contractor) and filled it with coffee for the first time. And found that with the proper amount of nondairy creamer and artificial sweetener, I like it a great deal.
So now I drink coffee all day. It’s a little thing, but I feel as if I’ve finally completed the transition into adulthood. At the age of 41, I’ve joined the worldwide fraternity of coffee drinkers at last. I’ve been initiated into the mysteries of grounds, filters, little plastic stirrers, and the magic button that sets the brewing process in motion. I’ve burned my lips and tongue with coffee that was too hot, and learned that the interval of enforced patience between pouring and drinking can enhance the joy of the first sip. And although I’ve managed to avoid getting coffee stains on my clothing, I know that it’s only a matter of time before I bear the Mark.
Best of all, I never have to sleep any more.
Note: I borrowed the title of this post from an Onion article.

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