When I hear the word percolate, coffee comes to mind, as a percolator was the standard way of making coffee when I was a child. Even though my parents didn’t drink coffee at home, it was the morning beverage of choice for adults in my friend’s homes. In restaurants, it was omnipresent. Back then, a coffee shop meant a restaurant that didn’t serve liquor, did serve lots of coffee, and had a grill with burgers and hash browns sizzling away, and homemade pies forming an enticing dessert display. When we ate out as a family, which was unusual unless we were traveling, Dad would drink coffee in the mornings. Mom didn’t like drinking coffee, although coffee ice cream was her favorite flavor, but none of the bitter brew for her.
I started drinking coffee in high school. I remember going out with a school friend to a nearby restaurant and sharing coffee cake, coffee and conversation. We probably had 3 cups each. I recall the fun that it was, feeling grownup, and being quite surprised at the jitters I got from so much caffeine in my newly stimulated nervous system. I rarely OD on caffeine any more, and for roughly 50 years, it’s been a part of my life, a morning pleasure. Note the morning. In earlier days, I could drink coffee at any hour and not have it keep me awake. Those days are long past. Now, my coffee drinking is done by 10am, although I may have a swallow of my mug’s cold remains after that.
Looking at my not so good old days, medical school and residency. It was an interesting and very intense time in my life, and on the clinical rotations (the last 2 years of med school and all 3 years of residency) one was regularly on call. Most often, this was every 4th night, but it could be every 3rd if we were shorthanded. In any case, once or twice a week, I would be at the hospital overnight, with a shift that could run up to 36 hours in length, and may or may not include any sleep. Coffee became a major food group. Reflecting the 24/7 nature of life in a hospital, coffee was easy to find. Every nursing station or unit office had a pot on brew, as did locker rooms and waiting areas. Important stuff.
A part of the hospital complex where I did my residency was a substance abuse treatment center. As family practice residents, we had a clinical rotation there, learning about the challenges of addiction and its treatment. Many of the hospital’s residents also “moonlighted” at the center, doing the admitting history and physical exams for new patients and being on call for any emergencies that might occur. I worked there 1 or 2 nights a month whenever I wasn’t on an intense clinical rotation. It provided both welcome extra income (ahh, a real vacation) as well as more education, listening to the histories of those we admitted.
During my time at the treatment center, we looked at some of the criteria for an addictive relationship to a substance. Included was daily or frequent need, going out of ones way to obtain said substance, anxiety if there was a perceived shortage, spending money one didn’t have for their substance and withdrawal symptoms if one was without their substance. Bingo. My relationship to caffeine/coffee ticked all the boxes, except for going over budget. At any rate, I took the opportunity to get myself off of caffeine. I succeeded, with only a moderate 3 day headache. I was doing fine, and somewhat proud of myself for this accomplishment.
Then one day, I was walking through the main hospital, and I realized that I had a cup of coffee in my hand. I had no recollection of where I had picked it up, but it was in my hand and I was drinking it. Somewhere, whether the doctors lounge or a nurses station, I had helped myself to a cup. Prior to that experience, when I had heard relapsed alcoholics saying they didn’t know how they came to be drinking again, or in a bar, I had joined the disbelieving and disdainful crowd in poo-pooing such a notion. And here I had just done the same thing. I’ve never recalled where I got that cup of coffee.
However, I did reconsider my plan to abstain. I had proved to myself that I could stop drinking coffee, and now I considered whether I wanted to remain off coffee. I decided no. I like coffee, I don’t drink a lot, I drink alcohol rarely, don’t do drugs, and in general I’m pretty short on vices. So if I want coffee, I’ll have coffee. And I enjoy it! I don’t have a percolator, though. I do the “pour over” version, as its good for one mug at a time. Cheers!
Written for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is P.
Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is Sizzle.