Coffee, I owe you my life

You’re the first thing I think of in the morning. I’ve never smoked, but I imagine it’s a similar craving. Should I make a pot or run to the corner café? When my head is heavy with sinusitis, it’s impossible to lift it off the pillow.  On these days I need coffee to keep me from blowing my brains out.

If I drank the night before, I can mistake the dull throbbing for a hangover. But I rarely drink enough, unfortunately to be hung-over. If only I could drown my sorrows and my sniffles in enough Vicodin and very fine wine.

Gulp two extra-strength Tylenol from the bottle on the nightstand. When I wake up listening to the Pacific ocean in Mexico, I always feel better. It’s the sea air and the ability to blame tequila for whatever hurts.

It’s hard to imagine coffee life before Starbucks. When I travel to New York or Washington D.C., they feed my beast, quickly and conveniently. Here in the U.S., a four-shot, venti, vanilla latte is always around the next corner, never more than a few steps away.

When I lived in South America, it was Starbucks that I missed the most. It’s impossible to get a take-out coffee to save your life in Argentina or Brazil. In Buenos Aires, if you ask at a café for a coffee “para llevar”, that is, “to go”, they squint their eyes and give you a very funny look.

“To go? But why? Relax, sit down, take an espresso and then go to work. It can wait. ”

There is no driving and drinking in Latin America. Coffee that is. Only a foreigner would think about walking down the street with a paper cup full of espresso.

When I order my four-shot drink in Chicago, sometimes iced in warm weather, the baristas do a double-take. “Are you ok?” they ask. “Whole milk? Are you sure?”

Really…If I order four shots of espresso, cut with a double dose of vanilla syrup, do you really think I give a flying tomato about fat calories?

Every once and a while I try to cut down. I hear caffeine is bad for women in all sorts of ways. But I’ve been drinking coffee since I was ten or eleven. My grandmother served it as a warmer-upper when we stayed over, in brown melamine teacups.  My mother fed it to all six of us before school on cold mornings.

The electric coffeepot is always perking at my parents’ house, even though now, because of my father’s heart, they drink decaf.  A percolator keeps the coffee hotter than a drip coffeemaker. And we always drink our coffee with half and half.  I just can’t stomach it with milk or, god-forbid, 2% or skim. My sister takes her coffee with Equal, a bow to a diet of sorts, but good old regular sugar is still my vice.

Sometimes, when I drink too much on an empty stomach at the office, my knees start twitching uncontrollably under my desk. But the absence of coffee in my life feels like an absent lover. My head aches, my limbs go limp, and I crave, too much, a pillow and my blanket to hide from the sunrise.

Francine McKenna is a freelance writer and independent journalist with a regular column at called “Accounting Watchdog”. You can follow her on Twitter at @retheauditors.

2 Responses to “Coffee, I owe you my life”
  1. Jonah Gibson says:

    I too need my daily dose. I make my own. I’m enjoying one now. I get organic French roast beans and grind them myself. I make a double cafe latte every morning, with skim and stevia, after I walk and feed the dogs. I want to be able to sit down and collect myself while the caffeine works its magic. When my Krupps single cup espresso maker gave up the ghost two days ago I got a new Cuisinart programmable one the same day. The big initial outlay has a 6 week payback when you consider the cost of gasoline and what Starbucks gets for a venti. The South Americans are right about ‘para llevar’. No one should be walking around with coffee. For one thing you might spill it on your shoes.

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