this is quitting coffee

Ever since I quit drinking coffee, I've had to reconfigure my daily routine. Before, I could count on getting fresh air first thing in the morning during my 1.5 minute walk to a nearby coffee shop, where, due to the congeniality of a friend who works there, I received free coffee at least three days out of the week, a 20-oz thermos filled with coffee, glugged down slowly over the course of the morning. I sincerely believed I needed that beverage to stimulate and awaken, a pathology that manifested itself physically when, in the first two days after I quit coffee, my head throbbed even while lying in my bed and the smell of coffee lurked in waiting around every city corner. In forsaking coffee, I lost one of my favorite morning occurrences, which is the small talk that happens between barista and customer. That particular type of small talk might bother some people, but because it happens within a bounded and predictable space, without any expectations of depth or chemistry, it is actually rather enjoyable to me. There's no sense that we need to talk about a meaningful subject. Shooting the shit about weather is perfectly acceptable. Having the same conversation five days in a row is okay too. It's the kind of easy small talk in which you don't need to judge the quality of the conversation, or scrutinize the affability of another human being. It's perfunctory enough that it feels like a morning calisthenic, whetting your social appetite for the day. Of course, there are baristas I prefer to banter with. Who doesn't like a warm and smiling barista? In this city you'll rarely err on the side of being fawning or excessively enthusiastic, as a barista. You just don't see that kind of behavior. But the barista whose eyes are daggers, whose mouth is pursed, whose judgment and disdain seeps out from her nostrils, is certainly not a pleasant person to encounter in the morning, and that I do not miss. But still, the coffee shop in the city is a crucial hub because it's a reliable place to be around people. Even the mere noise and the faint chatter and the grinding hum of the coffee beans will ameliorate acute pangs of aloneness, at least for a little while.


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