This column originally appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on January 2, 2015.
I remember the day I became a coffee drinker.
I stayed home from school with a blazing sore throat. That afternoon, as I laid on my grandmother’s couch in misery, I got an idea.
I went to the kitchen, grabbed one of her green plastic mugs and poured myself a steaming cup of black coffee.
My sore throat was instantly soothed but the relief didn’t last long. I drank another cup and another and another.
Momaw cut me off after I downed a whole pot and started to make another one.
My dad was never much of a coffee fan — his beverage of choice is Pepsi in a can, not a bottle thank you very much — but my mom always seems to have a cup nearby.
I always liked the way it smelled (who doesn’t?) but never understood the appeal of the bitter brew… until that day I stayed home from school. The bitterness didn’t offend my taste buds any more. Now, it held a strange attraction.
My relationship with coffee has changed over the years.
At first, I drank it when I craved it. Then, in college, I drank it to keep me awake through early-morning classes.
I didn’t develop a full-blown dependency on the stuff I began working at the Daily Mail.
The old movies portray journalists as whiskey drinkers and cigarette smokers. That stuff isn’t allowed in the newsroom anymore, but reporters have more than made up for it with their caffeine habits.
But coffee is more than just a morning pick-me-up. It has become one of my central excuses for getting together with people.
As much as I enjoy social media, there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with a friend. But asking someone to lunch feels like a commitment.
Asking someone for coffee, however, feels like a fun errand. It’s something you can slip out of the office to complete without feeling guilty.
And drinking coffee, unlike eating, leaves lots of time for conversation. No need to worry about talking with your mouth full. If there’s a lull in the conversation, just take a swig and continue on.
In 2012, comedian Jerry Seinfeld started a web video series called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
The title says it all. In each episode, Seinfeld picks up his guest in a special car — his most recent two-part episode with Jimmy Fallon featured both a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1994 Land Rover Defender 90 — and takes them to get coffee.
Seinfeld did not begin drinking coffee until middle age but, once he did, discovered something that avowed caffeine addicts already knew.
“Meeting someone for coffee suddenly seemed like a wonderful, compact, accessible and portable social interaction,” he told National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” in 2013. “You don’t even really need a place. But you feel like you’re doing something. That is what coffee is.”
I suspect I will come to rely on these “portable social interactions” more frequently in the coming months.
Today marks my last day at the Charleston Daily Mail. And while I am very excited for my next job, I will really miss all the friends I have made at this newspaper.
When I first arrived in the newsroom back in 2009, it didn’t take me long to realize this newspaper’s staff are more than just co-workers. The Daily Mail is a family.
I have celebrated my co-workers’ marriages and new births, mourned with them, laughed, argued and marveled with them as we watched history unfold before our eyes.
I count every one of the people here as a dear friend and I know they feel the same way about me.
So, now that we will work in separate offices, we will need an excuse to get together. And if I know one thing about newspaper reporters, they won’t pass up a cup of coffee.
The next one’s on me.