Memoirs of a Coffee Drinker
Greetings, Gradspotters. Today’s lesson will focus on success, something that we all strive for in our own unique ways. Let’s start with a simple question exercise: Raise your hand if you drink coffee.
Thank you. The rest of you can leave now. You will never be successful. (If you’ve got a medical condition you can stay, but only for legal reasons.)
Ok, I’m not Tony Robbins, so let me dispense with the shock tactics. But I want to take a moment to talk about café in the workplace. In certain offices, coffee can be like the cigarette of beverages—there is a definite “work hard, play hard” mystique that is fostered by consuming unhealthy amounts of caffeine. Like smoking, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee also has a bonding element to it, but coffee one-ups cancer sticks by being at once “hardcore” and also socially acceptable. While it’s a faux pas to say, “Guess how many ciggies I ripped during my lunch break?” or “Last night I drank eight sambucas and ralphed on my Crocs!”, it’s perfectly reasonable to hold up a Venti brew, wink at a co-worker, and mouth the words, “Fourth cup.”
When I was an intern on a weekly radio show, coffee was a major facilitator of my experience because it helped me rise up the social (if not professional) ladder of the office. There were several very serious coffee drinkers on the staff, most notably the host of the show, who would drink a minimum of four 16 ouncers a day. Because I used to roll with Dunkin Donuts’ 24-oz. “The Great One” during my college years, I was prepared to drink stupid amounts of coffee just to make the day go by, but this man was on another level!
Anyway, my love of coffee soon became my defining characteristic in the office, along with the fact that people thought I had a lot of sneakers. I would regale co-workers with tales of the touching relationship I forged with the Portuguese staff at a certain D&D in Boston, and we would chat about the pros and cons of various local roasts. Since coffee-fetcher was one of my unofficial ‘tern duties, it made it easier that I myself was a known coffee drinker because I could ask frequently without looking like a formidable brown-noser. People knew that if I offered to make a coffee run I’d probably be grabbing a cup as well. This, in turn, had a cashback effect—they knew I didn’t get paid, so they would usually give me their credit card and say, “Get yourself one while you’re at it.”
Often I would walk into my boss’s office to see if he wanted coffee. Sometimes he would shake his head and I would keep standing in his doorway with a mischievous grin on my face and say, “C’mon! It’s been tough day.” He would crack and say, “Ok, why not,” thus allowing me to achieve a subtle psychological victory. It’s like Larry David and Leon Black were talking about on Curb Your Enthusiasm—you’ve got to “topsy-turvy” the guy in charge in order to balance out the power dynamics. Coffee-drinking may be one of the few forums where it is appropriate to peer pressure your superiors, so take advantage of it.
When I left the show and moved to an online internship in New York, I found myself in an office where no one drank coffee. I was totally lost. There was one dude who drank a prodigious amount of Dr. Pepper, but other than that people seemed to be on water. I still drank my fair share of coffee, but my caffeine habits were more surreptitious and less self-congratulatory. When co-workers walked by me at the Keurig coffee machine they wouldn’t chuckle and say, “Having another coffee, GRITZ?” They would just keep on going.
Needless to say, I did not receive full-time offers at either of these places. But I have a feeling that if I’m ever going head-to-head against a candidate for a radio job, someone in the room might pipe up with the X-factor that will seal the deal for me: “You know, Karl’s got some great communication skills and a favorable GPA, but Gritz can drink as much coffee as it takes to get the job done. Karl gets a headache after tall latte. I think this case is closed.”
And that, buddies, is the difference between me and you.