Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.
These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.
All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.
Challenge 6: “Coffee”
This story is an accident. This adventure, nonintentional. The following post is meant to be read as a dramatic comedy. Enjoy.
The other day, I had my annual checkup and – since my doctor’s office is closer to my apartment than my job – I was working from home. I had it all planned out. I would work in the morning, head to the noon appointment, and stop at CVS on my way home. Stop at six CVS stores to be exact. Everyone in my office was playing divide and conquer with every CVS in the five boroughs, visiting the location and thanking the manager and their employees for their support of our Go Red for Women Campaign and Heart Month and distributing red dress pins. There were six locations in my cluster, but that sure sounded better than going into deep Brooklyn.
With my red shirt hidden beneath my winter coat (my go-to dress code when doing anything American Heart Association | American Stroke Association related), I pinned my own red dress pin to my New Yorker bag and headed out the door.
Because I had to fast before the noon doctor’s appointment, I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before, and while I fully recognize that that isn’t a long time, I am not a breakfast skipper. I thrive off oatmeal with banana. Compound the fact that I couldn’t eat with the fact that I was working from home and you’ve got a full-blown recipe for disaster. I sat at my kitchen table, staring at all the fruit I couldn’t consume.
Nevertheless, I made it through the doctor's visit, treated myself to a quick lunch at a salad shop, and felt ready to take on the world again. Well, ready-ish. I hadn’t realized how cold it was to be traipsing across the Upper West Side. Hat-less, scarf-less, and too foolish to put on my gloves, this was good as it was going to be.
Stepping out into winter and walking the few blocks to my first store was what triggered the idea. I decided that after a certain store, if I felt too cold, I would treat myself to a hot tea or hot chocolate to carry with me on the rest of my journey.
The first drop off went well. I met the manager and she seemed really happy to talk to someone from the Association. We chatted briefly and I went on my way.
The second store was a similar story and after I had completed my task, I got on the train and set off for my third location. By now, this was cake. I was feeling extra confident in my pin drop off skills.
I got off the train and went to the third store. The wind was starting to slice across my ears. As I walked the remaining blocks to my fourth store I thought of the $5 Starbucks gift card in my bag. I’d be saving it for an occasion like this. I told myself if I passed one, I would pop in. Of course, I was on Broadway in the Upper West Side. I looked up and the green mermaid was smiling back at me.
I tucked into the empty store. Hot chocolate was appealing - and such a treat! But then something came over me that to this day I cannot understand.
I looked at the menu and thought “what if I get something else?”
Now it’s important to pause here for some important background information on me as a person. I don’t drink coffee. I don’t drink soda. I live and die by water. If I’m feeling adventure, I’ll water down some apple juice or a bit of a sports drink after a hot summer run. But that’s it. Milk. Water. Herbal tea.
What led me to go up to the cashier and say “Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino in your smallest size, please” will forever be a mystery to me.
I don’t even know what a Frappuccino is.
I’m watching the barista make my drink and the drink of the person behind me. I see a drink that looks cold. But that can’t be mine, right? The whole point of this was to get something warm to carry me through my last three drop offs.
Then I see the barista pull out whipped cream. It should also be noted that I hate whipped cream. I’m about to say “wait; no whipped cream,” but she’s putting whipped cream in the cold drink and I definitely ordered a hot drink… right?
She hands me the cold whipped cream tarnished drink and I can only imagine my look of pure horror. This is not what I planned.
I say thank you and carry my ice into the elements. I have to play it cool. I have to act like I’ve been there before. I have to act like I totally was going for a very cold drink on this very cold day.
I take a modest sip. It’s cold. It’s cold and it’s sweet and I am not happy about the whipped cream. Still, I used that entire gift card and I am going to enjoy it.
Then, I remember why I’m bouncing around the Upper West Side to begin with. I’m going into stores and introducing myself as an employee of the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association, an organization that has food and beverage guidelines for meetings. I’m thanking them for their support of our women’s health initiatives and I’m giving them our red dress pins. I’m also holding a cup of probably 17x the daily recommended sugar intake, smothered in whipped cream.
I’m walking to the next store and trying to inhale enough of the drink to make the whipped cream blend in. Maybe I can pass it off as a casual iced coffee or something. Another thing that’s important to note about me - I know nothing about coffee.
I rip the sticker from the cup - the one that reads “double chocolaty bad employee of a major health org” and notice the front of my cup says Teavana. I convince myself I am drinking some type of weird tea as my shaking palm is now covering the gloating mermaid on the other side.
I walk into my fourth store. I cannot feel my hands. I find the manager and complete my spiel. They don’t even notice my drink.
I am walking to my fifth store now. I think I’m cramping up. It is not that good. The first sip was fine, I guess, but now I’m convinced I may die.
My stomach hurts. I finally realize I don’t have to finish this. I think about that one time I tried to eat a Twinkie. I only ate half of it. It was exceptionally gross. But I’m older and wiser and apparently not wiser at all but obviously similar levels of stubborn. This sugary drink feels like a weird badge of honor now.
I’ve mixed and stirred enough of the whipped cream down into the drink so that it now looks like some weird Oreo concoction in my cup. Another thing that’s important to note about me – the only thing I hate more than whipped cream is Oreos.
I’m power walking to my next store, my ears are frozen. My lips are frozen. I cannot fathom how I am going to speak.
I toss the empty cup in a trash. I’m getting more concerned about my hands. They are very cold.
I walk into the fifth store. My stomach does not feel good.
I spend five minutes pacing the aisles pretending to be interested in Valentine’s Day candy so my hands will function enough to hand the manager the red dress pins.
I succeed and walk to the train. I have one store left at the north most tip of Manhattan. I’m speed walking because I’m cold, but I also cannot tell that my legs are moving. It might be because I’m going downhill. It also might be because I just drank poison.
I get to the subway station and wonder what would happen if I threw up on the train. I’m beginning to think I made a terrible mistake.
I get on the train and start to type a note into my phone. Could this be a good blog? This misery could turn into some of my best work.
It’s a one-minute walk from the train station to my last store. I pass a Dunkin Donuts and a bakery with an open door that remind me of all the things I loved when times were simpler. Pre Frappuccino.
I wanted to do a challenge project this year. I wanted to try new things. Perhaps, in small ways, that’s why it’s changing my attitude, subconsciously encouraging me to try new foods. That said, the drink was a really bad decision and I will never, under any circumstances, do that again.