Not For Me
Off The Wall, November 18, 2010

It was a rainy Thursday as is the case many times when a group of us gather to motor down to Pittsburgh to feed the homeless. Part of a ministry we have had going for some time at Holy Family Church, anywhere from eight to 18 people usually pack ourselves into one van and two SUV-type vehicles and head down St. Route 22 to the big city.

While serving drinks, which by the way is my duty, a homeless gent was receiving coffee from one of the Church’s parishioners when I turned to him and asked, “How can you drink that stuff black?

Now, you have to understand that ever since I was introduced to that stimulant I guess back in college, I always had to have something in it to take the bitterness out of it and make it more agreeable to my taste buds. I can’t remember if I ever added sugar, but cream in some form was always a must.

I have gone from milk, to two-percent milk, to Half and Half, dairy creamer, ending up with Coffee Mate. Those were my additives throughout the year.

So, I finally had to confront somebody who regularly drank coffee without putting something in it and see how he could muster that taste. So when I asked the fellow walking away with his cup of brew, how he could drink it that way, he was very up front to tell me it took him a little time to get used to it, but now would have it no other way.

One of the helpers who came down in a van from Indiana chauffeured by Rev. Tim Kruthaupt, parochial vicar of Church of the Resurrection in Clymer, told me she learned drinking black coffee from her mother. Her mother taught her and her mother’s taught her to drink it straight, and on down through the ancestors’ ages past.

Now, my mother drank the coffee first thing in the morn. I have often mentioned that tidbit of information in past columns. But I don’t recall if she drank in black, as the saying goes, or put a tab of sugar and cream to change the flavor. But just because she drank hers a particular way, did not influence my habits.

A coffee drinker for years, I usually stopped at two cups, lately just one with Coffee Mate in the morning. A couple of months ago, I quit for about a month, but missed the morning “taste of goodness,” so I resumed.

Recently while enjoying the presence of others in a doctor’s waiting room, I happened to stir up a conversation with a senior nearby who was waiting for his wife. We got on the subject of drinking coffee. You can imagine right off the bat what I asked. “How do you like it, black or with cream or sugar?” His answer – “Black.” “How can you stand it that way?” I said. “It took me two weeks to wrench it down, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I smiled, thinking to myself, I could never do that. It would be too painful for me.

Guess what? One rainy morning, I decided to give it a go and try my hot, morning “get-me-going, kick-in-the-can-coffee-bean-flavored fluid without adding my favorite powder. I couldn’t believe it, I actually enjoyed it as much.

When I visit restaurants with my friends and family, I am going to try to carry on this tradition. So when the waitress comes up to me and asks, “Do you want creamers with your coffee, my answer will be, “Not for me!”

Somehow, I can’t believe I’m saying that. After drinking close to 32,580 cups of coffee over 46 years, I now have figured out – plus or minus a few days due to change of habit, I have dumped the dark brown ( not black, by the way) substance down my esophagus to the pits of stomach to be registered in my brain. That's’ actually how our body works. It’s our lower sanctum that relays messages up yonder that governs our motivational drives.

Can’t you just hear the stomach yelling to the Mr. B (that’s letter is Brain’s nickname), after been flooded with a cup of coffee, “Hey Mr. B, you better tell the feet awalkin’. It’s “buzz time again, and we have to get this gal on the road so she’s not late for work.”

I’m not inferring it’s not only women who reach for the pot. It’s a task equally divided among the genders.

So, if you happen to see me out and about and you are so kind as to ask if I want coffee, please, may it be known, from now on, no cream please, I’ll drink it straight, thank you.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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