Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coffee and Do Nots

coffee-cup-optimismAt eye level, just to the right of the rear entrance to the coffee shop, someone had plastered a clear sticker with a single word on it.


Every few days when I’d stop by the store, whether it was to treat myself or the family (excluding the dog, who’s trying to kick caffeine), I’d reach for the handle then pause ever so momentarily to stare at this assembly of letters.


Who put this here? Why was it here?  What does it really mean?


This vexed me for weeks, and weeks turned into months.


Do I interpret it at face value? Is it a whisper campaign for local band that covers No Depression alt-country? Was its placement just to the right of a computer printout taped to the inside of the glass warning that this door is locked after 9 p.m. a simple coincidence or a flailing attempt at irony?


Every time I saw that stupid word in its stupid black, stupider san serif type, and stupidiest-yet lowercase smirk, it irritated me like a rash of unknown origin. Optimism, my bloody eye.

Then, one day, it was gone.

I ran my fingers over the metal plate it had been affixed to and felt no adhesive tackiness. The baby blue paint that had always been beneath it showed no flaking or hint of discoloration to suggest anything had ever been stuck here before and pried off since.

It was like “optimism” had never existed.

At that very moment, I felt strangely angry with all of mankind.

Every time I entered that door to the coffee shop from then on, I looked at that blank plate and wondered why and how and to where my “optimism” had disappeared.

I did so again yesterday when I wandered in around 2:30 in the afternoon to order a Latte Lite.

“Do you want sugar in that?" 

“No,” I said. “That kinda defeats the purpose of ordering a Lite.”


“No. No sweetener.”

The clerk disappeared around a stack of the industrial-sized, stainless steel deus ex machina that make coffee from this place taste so much better than what I brew from the same beans and water through the $200 coffee maker in my kitchen.

“Hey, uh, do you know what the deal was with the sticker that used to be outside by the back door?”

“Excuse me,” she said, reappearing with my coffee.

“For the longest time, there was a clear plastic sticker with the word ‘optimism’ printed on it that someone had stuck just to the right of the back door. It’s been missing for a couple of months now.”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled and shrugged. I figured  her English was roughly as suspect as my question.

“Never mind,” I said, handing her a five for the coffee. She made change and I pocketed the bills before dropping the coins into the ceramic “tip mug” on the counter.

I made a quarter turn then hesitated. I reached back into my jacket for a dollar and let it fall on top of the coins lining the bottom of mug.

When I got into the minivan, I peeled back the lid to my coffee, carefully avoiding the sharp edges that had slit open a finger more than once before.

I brought the steaming, caffeinated cup of joy to my lips.

An unexpected sweetness hit my tongue.

I puckered. I winced. I eyed the cup like a deceitful spouse.

Yeah, that’s frickin’ optimism for you.

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  1. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    We have one of those Keurig brewers at home. Heaven! Haven't been out for coffee in months.

  2. Optimistic folks get on my last nerve.

  3. Like so many things, Optimism is something from our childhood that is often lost over time. Thank goodness our own kids help us find it again.

    (That, and maybe switch to decaf?...)

  4. That would bug the crap out of me and I'd probably be on a quest to find out why it's missing or replace it. I'm OCD like that.

  5. This is probably related to the optimism art campaign on the back of the metro cards. It even looks like the same font... I actually HAVE one of the optimism cards at my desk at work. The sad thing is that I can't ever use it again; you can't recharge a metrocard once it was bought unlimited ride, so my optimism only lasted 30 days.

  6. That's kind of sad in a surreal sort of way.

  7. Coffee shops are extremely profound places. That's why I switched to tea, at home.

  8. Great story. It's a progression from indifference through compulsion, questioning, disappointment and anger. Finally resting on contemplation. Perhaps that was the point all along :-).

    I'm somewhat compulsive about little things like that myself. It becomes a ritual to look at the sticker. Then when it's not there it's hard to get rid of the habit. I thought you were going to say you made your own sticker and replaced the old one. That might be something I'd do.

  9. Oh! Tee he! Sorry, its funny!

  10. I like that it's an official campaign - the opposite being despair - and there are so many people despairing in our economy. Will I ever get another comparable position, or even another job, or please God - an interview? So many people, so many fewer jobs available.

    Kevin, add some sweetness to that beverage. Good God, coffee is bad enough without imagining it minus all the lovely add-ins (and I'm a tea drinker).

  11. Your post made me laugh, made me cry, but most of all made me want to get into my car and go to Starbucks. I have no problem with optimism (all lower case) but there is a point where you have to stop being optimistic and start being realistic. To those "pie-in-the-sky" douchebags I say this, "You want optimism? I got your optimism hanging right here..."

  12. I love that link. I'm totally printing out the pdfs andyesiknowimatotaldork.
    btw, coffee=black=yum
    and if this comment shows up 4 times its not my fault, the poster is spazzy today.

  13. At least she didn't pee in your coffee.

    Now THAT'S optimism.

  14. I kinda like it. And I'm a cranky bitch.

  15. Sorry about the sticker. If I had known it would cause you so much grief and sleeplessness I wouldn't have placed it there.

  16. When I saw the word "optimism" at the beginning of this post, I was like "Uh-oh." does that mean something bad? I say no. That's optimism.

  17. The person putting it there probably thought they were being deep and profound. I prefer the little sign at my favorite coffee shop that shows a picture of a young Tom Waits with the caption, "You don't meet nice girls in coffee shops."

  18. optimism

    perhaps acronym for coffee house employee in reaction to questions she has no answer to?


  19. Optimism is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Optimism is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell BAD. Optimism is ordering a cup of coffee without sweetener and actually expecting it.

  20. Optimism. What is this you speak of?


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