The Elixir of Life

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Coffee 1

September 29 is National Coffee Day, at least according to the coupon section of the Sunday paper. And I’m going to celebrate it like it every other day of the year.

I am a coffee devotee. That is not to say I am a coffee aficionado, because that would imply that I am a coffee snob, which I’m not. In fact, while I am a loyal supporter of Starbuck’s Vanilla Lattes, I honestly am not a fan of their straight coffee. I’m not a “fan” of coffee, but more of a “fanatic.” I honestly would drink coffee all day if I could (and often do).

I’m not entirely sure when this dedication to coffee started. When I was young, I didn’t even like the smell of coffee. I never drank coffee in high school or even college, in order to pull all-nighters. Coca-Cola was a sufficient amount of caffeine. But somewhere along my life’s journey, I discovered the life-giving properties that coffee – and only coffee – could provide to me.

Like millions of Americans – and likely humans across the globe – I start my day with a cup, a hint of sugar and cut with a good amount of French vanilla creamer. I have to start the day there. I have been known to drop everything to run to a store for any of the ingredients…or even a new coffee maker if necessary. But the coffee consumption doesn’t stop there.

Around 9 or 10 in the morning, depending on when I have meetings scheduled, I run down to the Starbuck’s in my office building for a “Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte with an extra pump of Sugar-Free Vanilla,” my signature drink from Starbuck’s. (I’ve even taught the kids how to say it so that when they stop at Starbuck’s, they can get it right.) During the work week, that will usually get me through the day, at least until I get home, where I immediately heat up a cup of coffee, sit down and drink it. And when I say immediately, I mean before I start making dinner, before I change my clothes, some days before I even say hello to the family. (Those are the really bad days.) And then I proceed to drink the rest of the pot (and sometimes even make another small pot) before hitting the hay. And no, I have NEVER had a hard time falling asleep.

Of course, my “devotion” was worse when I was at home all day. The convenience of having the coffee pot located in a central location fueled my addiction, and our local economy, since I was buying coffee and creamer by the gallon. (I do wonder sometimes if my local grocery store has had to readjust its creamer order since I’ve gone back to work.)

People I work with have always marveled at my love of coffee, but it has made life pretty easy for them when it comes to any kind of gift for me. They know that a Starbuck’s card is the way to win my affection and gratitude, not to mention make me a delight to work with. My family knows that, when in doubt, Mom will love not having to pay cash for her Starbuck’s…which also makes for a much happier house. Even the husband knows that if he’s making me get up early for something, as long as the coffee is made, well…happy wife, happy life.

So here’s to you, Juan Valdez, on National Coffee Day. May you and your cute little burro continue to provide the world with the elixir of life!

 

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Old Habits Die Hard

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Cube Farm 1

Upon my return to “Cubeland,” I am amazed at how quickly I fell back into the routine. It’s amazing how, no matter where I work, the phone is always on the left, I put my stapler in the exact same spot, and I got right back into buying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the candy jar that has been on the corner of my desk at every job for the past 20+ years.

Sure there are challenges. When you enter a new job, there is always a ton of stuff to learn. You need to learn the company’s business strategy, culture and how it “speaks.” You need to get to know your new colleagues, who may be incredibly welcoming and who may see you as a threat. It can make your head swim!

But you also need to learn the simple, stupid, but important things. Where are the bathrooms? Which of the 20,000 passwords and user names do I use to log on to my laptop? Where are the damn pencils??

But even with all the differences and new information to process, it stunned me how much is really the same. While the people are different, you always have the crusty long-time employee, who is willing to help but will also share their views of everything the company does – right and wrong – mostly wrong. You always meet the employee that is just SO EXCITED about EVERYTHING! Then there is the super quiet employee who will help if asked but is also happy to do his or her job without any social interaction and go home at 5pm. And in my experience, all of these personalities are key to the team functioning the way it needs to. (And I think I’ve been every one of these folks at one time or another in my career.)

It takes a good four to six months to get semi-comfortable in a new job…a year to really feel like, “Yup, I got this.” I remind myself of this every time I feel like an idiot because I have no idea how to find the copier paper. But I do always find it, because I am just OCD enough to not be able to leave the machine empty of paper. I don’t want to be THAT guy.

Reflecting on it all after the first two weeks, I feel pretty ok about where I’m at so far. It’s a long way to comfort, but I’m one week closer. And I know where the copier paper is now, and I have Peanut Butter Cups in the jar on my desk. It’s a great way to make friends and make sure that people visit me. After all, old habits do die hard.