My mother gave my father the ultimate birthday present two months ago: a programmable coffee maker. It's his newest toy.
He can push a button to program it to start brewing at a certain time, a sort of alarm clock for coffee beans. He can push another button to have it walk his dog and yet another one to file his taxes.
OK, I made those last two up. But it's quite the gadget. And it even has me doing something I thought I'd never do on even a semi-regular basis --drinking coffee.
IMPORTANT READER NOTE, HENCE THE CAPITAL LETTERS: The next paragraph contains the word "spew" to describe my initial reaction to coffee. If you're brave enough to keep reading, well, I warned you.
My father drinks coffee the way most people drink water: by the gallon. I, on the other hand, grew up finding it quite repulsive. I tried it once to see what it tastes like. I immediately wanted to spew (see, I told you) it out of my mouth but somehow managed to swallow it. I swore I'd never drink it again.
That lasted until my freshman year in college, when I had to stay up late to study for finals. This wasn't the problem -- I'm a night person to start with. I have a streak I'm quite proud of: Every night since junior high school, I've been up past midnight. That's not likely to change anytime soon. I feel like I've accomplished something if I do it when the rest of the nine-to-fivers are asleep. But then again, they're up at 8 a.m. As far as I'm concerned, 8 a.m. doesn't exist.
Anyway, I was pushing an all-nighter, and I knew it, so I went to the campus coffee shop to get a latte or a mocha or something that wasn't plain, black coffee. It worked. It had taste and kept me awake. But when I took the test the next morning, I felt like I got three minutes of sleep instead of three hours. I passed the test but made a rule: The "gourmet" coffee would be done when at coffee shops to fit in. When I needed caffeine, I'd stick to Coke -- or for the last five-plus years, Diet Coke.
My father keeps an old Mr. Coffee at my apartment for when he comes to visit --it's far better than going to a gas station or McDonald's. One morning -- all right, one afternoon -- I had trouble waking up and decided to try another cup of regular coffee. Again, revolting. Sugar makes it tolerable. Milk makes it drinkable. This, to my dad, is not coffee. It's mud. But it works for me.
My dad was similarly disgusted by beer until his two sons entered college. It was no secret what we were doing while there, so he figured he'd try again when we were home. Now he's a semi-regular beer drinker. We share favorites such as Blue Moon and Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome -- fitting now with winter welcoming us. Now we share coffee, although we like it different ways and for different reasons.
Mine comes from necessity. I'm not a regular drinker --only one cup at a time, and only when I need extra wake-up juice. But it's there if I need it.
I'm still shying away from Starbucks --nothing personal if you happen to work or visit there. But the smell is too strong, and I don't want to be classified as a Starbucks-drinking, SUV-driving Wal-Mart shopper. WAIT! Don't send those letters yet! I have a few admissions to make: I do drive a Jeep -- bought before gas exceeded $2 a gallon --and I also occasionally shop at Wal-Mart if I have to.
The point is drinking coffee seems to be one of the "hip" things to do. As with technology, I'm late to the party. But I guess one way or another, I'm here.