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One Small Change

26 Days Without Caffeine

Daquella manera / flickr

I’m working from Starbucks today. After 26 caffeine-free days I want to test my resolve in the very belly of the beast, like an AA graduate at his first happy hour. It is a cold, gray morning—a perfect day to wrap oneself in the blanket of a coffeehouse. And sure enough, upon opening the door, I’m embraced by the oh-so-comfortable smell of brewed coffee. Like the scent of a mother’s cooking or a lover’s hair, it welcomes me home. There’s also the delightful whirl of fresh beans being ground. And frothing is at such a fever pitch it sounds like an Airbus taking off. Everywhere there are happy, caffeinated people.

I am buoyed up to the counter.

“Do you have any teas without caffeine?” I ask quietly, head down, not wanting to draw attention to my sorry self.

The young woman behind the counter looks at me as if I have just asked whether there are any cigarettes back in the sacristy. She fumbles around beneath the cash register and eventually produces a ring of assorted herbal tea packets. There’s Wild Sweet Orange, Passion, Calm, Refresh, Sweet Cinnamon and African Red Bush. The guy behind me shuffles his feet impatiently. After a few moments of consideration I point to the African Red Bush because it sounds the most masculine. She raises an eyebrow, then volunteers an idea:


It’s been so long since I’ve been in a coffeehouse, since I’ve been around caffeinated people, that I’ve forgotten how quickly they speak. For a moment I do not comprehend; my mind sprinting to catch up. Is she asking me about somebody named Rooibos? Didn’t he used to play for the Lakers? But then I notice a placard for the new tea lattes, and it all clicks. The guy behind me clears his throat.

“No, the regular African Red Bush will be fine, a Grande please.”

I collect my cup, pay the $1.96 (cheap compared to coffee), settle into a plush chair and open my laptop. It is so damn pleasant in here. Soft jazz. Wifi. People getting stuff done. Other people coming and going with smiles on their faces, expectant, because they are near their drug and in moments they will feel better. I am an outsider here. I sip my tea. It tastes like hot water with an organic cotton bag in it. What is an African Red Bush anyway? A tumbleweed?

After a while, the Starbucks girl who filled my order goes on break. She comes over to sit in the chair next to me and check her messages. She smells darkly of fresh roast. She looks up, smiles and begins chatting, explaininghowsheonlyhasanhourleftonhershiftandthataftershegetsoffsheisgoingtoakickboxingclass. She’s young and sparkling, and I’m thinking how cool it would be to date a Starbucks girl. I bet she could slip me all the free caramel macchiatos and vanilla lattes I could handle. Maybe she could even get me one of those industrial espresso machines at a discount. I bet her skin tastes like….

Wait a minute. Not only am I married, but how far will I prostitute myself (and another) to satisfy my coffee obsession?

What’s wrong with me?

I refocus. I take another sip of organic cotton water. On the back of my cup is a message:

The Way I See It #76: The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

I’m sorry. Maybe it’s just me, but does that make any sense? Perhaps if I read it again, really fast? Along with my buzz have I also lost the ability to understand this culture and its supposedly hip, pseudo-philosophy?

Part of me hopes so….

It’s been a few hours now since I’ve settled in, and I still haven’t cracked. My drink is long gone, but I am standing strong. The temptation still beckons, but its voice is weaker. Although I hate sitting here sipping herbal tea, I hate it proudly—and there is some robust satisfaction in that.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Beverages, Pressure, Caffeine