I like to do my part. And lately, part of my “part” has been to use an insulated mug when I buy my morning coffee. It’s a small step, I know, but this time of year known for possibly the most passive-aggressive statement ever (“It’s the thought that counts”), I guess it’s the least I can do to help out.
Mind you, I don’t buy coffee every morning. I used to, but over the past couple of years, it’s become more of an occasional “treat” for me rather than part of my daily routine. That said, so I’m prepared such special days – and in an effort to “do the least I can” to prevent unnecessary waste – I’ve been keeping the aforementioned insulated mug in my car, so it can be ready for duty when the mood strikes me.
And this method works well most of the time. But there are several occasions when it doesn’t. The first is when the mug owner forgets to occasionally clean the mug, or when the mug owner forgets – for a long period of time – that coffee remains in the mug. In either, the mug must be taken out of service until proper cleaning can take place.
The second – and more subtle – reason this system fails is after outside temperatures start falling, and the car – and subsequently, the mug – has not had sufficient opportunity to heat up to a point where it will keep newly-poured coffee hot.
One recent, cold morning, I found myself in just such a situation. My insulated mug had spent the night in the car as overnight temperatures fell well below freezing. And while my car rests comfortably (by vehicle standards, anyway) in our garage, it is an unheated structure, and as such, the mug cooled down overnight well below acceptable levels for it to properly perform under hot-beverage conditions.
As I pulled out of the garage to go wherever I was headed, I decided it was a “treat-worthy” day, and I knew I’d stop midway to treat myself to a hot cup of gourmet coffee, which I would enjoy in my favorite (did I mentioned it’s my favorite? It is) insulated mug. As I drove the mile or so to my preferred coffee establishment, trying to warm up myself, I realized that my mug would also be cold, and therefore, not at all prepared to deliver on its insulated promise at that point in time.
Arriving at a stop light, an idea struck me. “I can heat this up myself.”
So, I grabbed the mug and removed its lid, putting my mouth into it, my cheeks sealing the edges (since the opening of the mug is substantially larger than my mouth), and began to breath into it, confident that my 97.9-degree breath (that’s not a typo; I’ve never been quite normal when it comes to body temperature) directly into the mug, as though I were trying to revive it (which in some ways I guess I was).
One long, slow breath led to another. And then another. With every breath, I could feel the insulated mug heating up … coming back to life.
And then, after four or five long breaths into the mug, I paused and looked to my right, noticing the driver of a large pickup truck next to me, watching me as he sipped from an insulated mug of his own. I could read his eyes. They were saying, “What the hell is that guy doing? And why?”
Still looking at one another, I pulled the mug away from my mouth and placed it into the cup holder between the seats, as though I’d been caught doing something illegal or, worse yet, immoral.
Then, not knowing my next move, I simply gave him a feeble nod and smile, as though nothing was at all out of the ordinary, but also cementing some unspoken agreement that said, “This never happened, OK?”
Seconds later, the light turned green, and as we both hit the gas, he simply tipped his mug in my direction and took off.
But I still had work to do, and I wasn’t going to let a little embarrassment stop me from having a nice, hot cup of coffee that morning. As I drove the remaining half-mile to the coffee shop, I huffed, and I puffed until I had that insulated mug prepped and ready for whatever came its way.
By writing this, I know I’ve violated the unspoken vow I made with the driver of that pickup, but I can’t believe he didn’t tell someone about it as well. I know I would have had I seen someone administering mouth-to-mouth to a coffee mug in broad daylight.
Was I embarrassed? Not really. It takes quite a bit more than that to embarrass me these days. I just wish I knew what was going through that guy’s head, and what he saw (or thought he saw). Then, I wish I could hear his side of this story because that’s the fun part.
Who knows? Maybe he’s had occasion to resuscitate his mug, too, and his parting gesture simply said, “I’m with you brother. Here’s to hot coffee.”
But probably not.
But nonetheless, on that morning, I could humbly yet proudly say I kept some garbage out of a landfill, and maybe, just maybe, I gave a stranger a laugh and a story of his own to tell at work, at the corner bar or at his Thanksgiving table this week.
And if you could see me right now, you’d see me tipping my mug in your direction, saying, “Here’s to hot coffee, and stories we can tell others.”
© 2019 David R. Haznaw