During the madness that is December, I left a yoga class at the YMCA and found an envelope under my windshield wiper. It had “For you” written on the outside. On the inside was a Starbucks gift card.
Most likely, it was a Christmas-themed random act of kindness. After all, who would by a Mormon gal a gift card to a coffee shop? It couldn’t be anyone who knew me very well.
What to do with the card? I’ve had business meetings at Starbucks before, so I knew that I could order hot chocolate or steamed milk. I put the card in my purse, wondering, “What if someone sees me walking around with a Starbucks cup? Will they think I’ve had a change of heart about my religious affiliation?”
Who’s going to know? Who’s going to care? It only matters that I know what’s in my Starbuck’s cup.
But just in case, I used the gift card at the fourth-closest Starbucks from my house.
The barista was completely confused at my wanting to order just milk, vanilla and nutmeg without coffee as the base. In his defense, he was new. His trainer had to tell him that steamed milk was on the menu.
As green barista prepared my non-coffee drink, I admit to myself that I am no purist. I’ve eaten coffee ice cream. “It’s not a hot drink but a cold dessert” I explained to my Mountain-Dew-guzzling husband. He scolded me every time I ate that ice cream during our first year of marriage, sometimes admonishing me, “Live your religion, woman.” I gave up coffee ice cream while pregnant and nursing, and I haven’t been back for 16 years. I won’t drink decaf coffee out of principle, but I’ll drink decaffeinated green tea.
When the university has socials at local restaurants and bars, I order milk as a clear signal that my beverage is non-alcoholic. I’ve lamented that I could never be a contestant on Top Chef because alcohol is so imbedded in chef culture. But I’ve eaten foods cooked with wine, and I’ve eaten rum balls at office Christmas parties. I’ll buy candies that are rum flavored for my kids. It’s just flavoring and not actual alcohol, right?
I’ve wondered how much vanilla added to my steamed milk crosses over into the realm of “that has alcohol in it, dear”? How much raw chocolate chip cookie dough equals the amount of alcohol in a rum ball? How many raw cookies would cause the uncooked vanilla to register on a Breathalyzer test?
Much to the disappointment of my beef-raising relatives, I don’t eat much red meat. I was also called out for this at a banquet held at the university here in Wichita, a place formerly called Cow Town and a stop on the Chisholm Trail. Lou, the head of dining services, came over to my seat and asked why I had only eaten a small portion of my “big-as-my-hand” cut of steak.
All eyes were on me. So much peer pressure to eat large slabs of beef. I wanted to quote, “Eating meat sparingly” to him. But the banquet was held at the local Catholic university, so D&C 89 isn’t a known text. I shrugged, and Lou finally left. I consoled myself about being called out while eating my mocha-chocolate cheesecake.
I might eat meat sparingly, but do I eat enough herbs and fruits in their season? True, I don’t always get the World Health Organization’s “5 a Day” guideline for a healthy amount of produce. And do I eat too much sugar and other forms of glucose? I didn’t drink booze as a college student, but I did eat candy bars for breakfast and binge on dry brownie mix straight out of the box while working late on research papers. Now I have hypoglycemia. In my family, diabetes runs rampant. I have to ask, “Is my broken metabolism a result of nature or nurture?” I definitely feel more faint and weary if I indulge on quick carbs.
I was looking longingly at the bakery selection when I hear the barista call my name. After I got my cup, I left the store to walk to my van.
Midpoint between the door and my van, I heard a voice, “Hey, Karen. Are you drinking coffee?”
The voice came from a car waiting in line at the drive thru. The occupant was Erin, the art teacher from my children’s elementary school. My daughter socializes with her daughter, so Erin knows that I don’t drink coffee. She, however, loves coffee so much that it was the theme for her bridal shower, which my daughter and I attended this past summer. We were the only guests drinking ice water.
I walked over to her car and took the lid off my cup, “Erin, See? It’s steamed milk.” She laughed. We talked a bit about her new blended family—his three kids and her one all under the same roof with the honeymooners. Then I turn and start heading towards my van.
After three steps, I walked back to Erin’s car. “Here. Take my Starbucks card. It’s just too complicated.”