Get Used to Disappointment

Coffee cup

I’m standing in line at Starbucks to buy an expensive coffee drink that I will not enjoy.

I don’t like strong coffee. I don’t like espresso. I don’t like milk in my coffee. I’ll use cream, or half and half, when that is the choice available. But what I really like is corn syrup. Coffee Mate. Powdered Coffee Mate – not the refrigerated liquid, I like my coffee hot. Starbucks coffee is strong and bitter. So my normal way of enjoying coffee at home, with my weak, store-brand coffee and my drip coffee maker and my Coffee Mate, is impossible to find at a Starbucks. 

But here I am in line. There are a number of reasons for this behavior. First, the hotel I’m in is far too fancy too have coffee makers in the guest rooms.

You may not be aware of this fact: at hotels there is an inverse correlation between the price you pay for a room and the number of ‘freebees’ you receive. At the bottom of the scale are the motels like a ‘Best Western’ – for $89 a night, you get an in-room coffee maker, with more than one serving of coffee, free wi-fi, and a continental breakfast.  (Actually, I think Best Westerns always give you ‘hot’ breakfast, scrambled eggs and bacon.)

Conversely, at this fancy $600 a night establishment, what do I get? Nothing. The low-speed wi-fi costs $14.95 a day, breakfast is a minimum of $25 dollars in the restaurant and there is no in-room coffee maker at all!

The second reason I go to Starbucks, despite the plethora of coffee selling establishments in and around this hotel, is because of my ‘ordering’ anxiety.

Starbucks ordering is regimented and safe, I can’t get it wrong. There are helpful signs indicating exactly where to line up, where to order and where to pick up your drink. There is a pattern, a routine to ordering at Starbucks. At the deli across the street, where I’m sure the coffee is probably better and definitely cheaper, people bunch all up to order, there is no clear line, no corralling stanchions. I don’t know when it is my turn. I don’t know when to expect my turn to come. There is no set time to prepare my order. I’m so worried about missing the eye contact of the person behind the counter, my sole indication that it is my turn, that I can’t look around and see what else to buy. The simple process of ordering a small coffee and a bagel turns into a stomach wrenching, sweat inducing, ‘fight or flight’ hormone injecting disaster.

So to the lobby Starbucks I go.

This morning, in the Starbucks in the lobby of this fancy hotel, I will order a tall latte. Even though I don’t like espresso and I don’t like milk in coffee. A latte is weak and it is hot, and it is easy to order. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to cause trouble. I will order the tall latte because it is what I always order. It is an established pattern of behavior that is comfortable and safe.

As I’m standing in the comfortable line however, and this morning the line is comfortably long, I start wondering about this. Why do I do this?

Why am I so afraid to ask for what I want? My boyfriend does it all the time. He orders a large black coffee (he refuses to say vente) and asks for a couple of ice cubes in it. He likes the strong bitter flavor, but he doesn’t want it scalding. And every time the employees accommodate him. He is friendly and polite and gets what he wants. They don’t sigh or roll their eyes at his unreasonable demands.

In fact the only time they get annoyed is with people who either don’t know what they want, or are rude when they ask for something. The easiest customers to serve are the ones who know what they want and understand the limitations of the items available for request.

What do I want? I want weak drip coffee. How could I make the Starbucks coffee weak? Add water to it.  And how do I keep it hot? Add hot water to it.  There, behind the counter, right next to the coffee machine is a hot water dispenser.  I know exactly what I want and it is a perfectly reasonable request.

When my turn comes I say, “I want a tall coffee, half blonde roast and half hot water.”  Without complaint, the barista makes it for me. I pay. I add a bit of cream. It is perfect.  It is the best coffee I’ve ever had at a Starbucks.

An inherently disappointing experience is now enjoyable all because I figured out what I wanted and I asked for it!

I’m soaked in the glory of my own brilliance… for about three seconds. Then I realize I forgot to get a bagel.

Tomorrow Morning

It starts the same way.  I read something amazing, late at night after a glass, or three, of wine, and it changes me.  Ideas and energy and motivation seize my brain. Sometimes the hair on my arms will stand on end, reacting to the electricity surging through my veins. The right words in the right order and the message I’ve been waiting for my whole life is there on the page before me!  I run to the nearest paper and ink and scribble down the transformative thought. Then, I make a list.  A detailed, specific list of all the things I am going to do in the morning that will make my life better, stronger, richer, more exciting, passionate, better organized … etc.

I go to bed, my brain slightly sloshing in alcohol, fully expecting to be BETTER in the morning.

Tomorrow Morning everything will be different!


Tomorrow morning is now.  I left the list by the bedside table, upstairs, so far away from this chair in the kitchen which is so close to that beautiful lifesaver they call a coffee maker. One hand clutches the coffee mug and the other holds my phone where I tease my brain into wakefulness via the game wordfeud.  (Aside – I play against my sisters and my best friend from college and sometimes they pity me and let me win.  Should I tell them I only play in the morning before I turn on the computer because I know myself too well?  You see, if the computer is within reach while I am playing, I will cheat. No, I shouldn’t say that on my blog, which I know they read.  Ok – I’ll delete that line in the morning. )


To Do's
To Do’s (Photo credit: Courtney Dirks)

Repeat.  Different day, different words.

This is it!  The information I’ve been waiting for my whole life, right there in electronic Kindle ink.  This time I make the list in a clever little ‘listy remindy’ app on my phone that will beep at me every twenty minutes, forcing me to acknowledge the list all day long.  It all begins tomorrow morning!

Tomorrow Morning, now, again.  The app beeps at me, interrupting my super successful shuffle/stare/shuffle/stare wordfeud strategy.  I growl and ‘tap to dismiss’ the message about how doing 20 jumping jacks RIGHT NOW, will get my heart pumping, bring more oxygen to my brain and make me better/faster/stronger for hours.

The next time it beeps, I delete the app.


Repeat.  More words, more thoughts, more electricity, you know the routine –  I tape the list to the coffee maker.

Tomorrow Morning. I rinse the list in water then use it as a coffee filter since I’ve run out.  Note to self – add coffee filters to the next list.  (Aside – This will be really funny to people who remember the beginning of the movie, Romancing the Stone.)


Repeating actions and expecting different outcomes – I believe that is the definition of insanity.