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The usual caffeine infusion comes from my Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker.

Unsophisticated, cheap, and reliable

I fill a stainless steel thermos along with a stainless steel mug. I drink it black. It’s a simple calorie-free jolt. The beans I grind myself. Columbia beans from Costco do the job. They used to come in a 3 lbs. bag for 12 bucks. Remember those day? Well, now I pick up a two pound bag with the same leopard logo for the same price. Avoid that Kirkland brand Rowanda red bag of beans—bad stuff.

Time kept on ticking and I wasn’t paying attention. Being deeply ensconced in conversation with wife and child sometimes serves as a time warp. Before I knew it, work beckoned and I couldn’t sit around waiting for the drip-drip to reach demarcation line 10 on the decanter. I guess I could have nuked some water and broke out the French press, but such innovative thinking comes rarely before I have caffeine flowing through my veins. Hedonism over prudence and economy won out and I opted to splurge at Starbucks.

I chided myself for being weak. The rational part of my mind made an attempt to focus on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee as an economically sound alternative to Starbucks. Nevertheless, a venti mocha seemed to overpower my will to economize. Yes, I would ask for whipped cream on the top.

Delicious, delightful, damn expensive!

If this picture seems fuzzy and undefined, allow me to add some perspective as far as time is concerned. My current vocation requires my presence at night, so I basically pattern my sleep like the vampires that predated Stephanie Meyer’s novels. I do manage to get some waking hours in the light of day, but for the most part I’m romping around in the dark. I awake when the kids come home from school. So there’s lots of family time, just not much day time.

Getting back to the fancy coffee, I opted for the store over at Wells and North Avenue. It’s one of those larger Starbucks that’s open 24 hours in Chicago. You have the usual retinue students, Old Town dwellers, geeks, bust-outs, and homeless populating the lounge area. The computer notebooks are opened and illuminating the faces of the coffee sippers. I’d see a few serious souls frenetically picking away at the keyboard while most others were casually surfing the web. The computer provides some companionship for those without a companion. Times have really changed with the technology and socializing have certainly evolved or degraded depending on how you look at it. So I take all that in while waiting in line for the drink.

Don’t discount the whole process of making a premium drink. The steaming of the milk, the pressurized boiling water making its way through the ground brown powder and subsequently flowing into a small cappuccino cup, and that swirl of whipped cream on top. The end product is no doubt a treat.

The price turned out to be $4.97 with tax. I convinced myself to pay with plastic; it somehow made the whole transaction less painful as if taking out a five in cold cash would have made any difference. I’m neither poor nor rich, but $4.97 seemed too much for a not-so-simple but simple enough beverage. Just putting the numbers together made me cringe with guilt. For example, two venti mochas and an extra two bucks would have purchase a two pound bag of Colombian beans at Costco—That’s three to four weeks of coffee brewing provisions!

Those thoughts went through my head while sipping the delicious beverage. I know people drink Starbucks every day and pay those kind of prices for the beverage. I just can’t do it. I felt guilty for not prepping my thermos, for forgoing the Dunkin’ Donuts alternative, and succumbing to the decadent allure of Starbucks’ delightful coffee concoctions. I tried minimizing the angst by rationalizing my worth as a human being and justifying that I deserve to treat myself every now and then. However, the economic synapses started firing in my head and I thought about how I could have spend only an extra fifty cents and scored a foot-long over at Subway! Ruminations of more hefty sustenance for my dollar compared to an overpriced beverage now entered my consciousness.

The venti mocha made my mouth happy and woke me up at the same time. Nevertheless, monetary computations continued to nag at me while I walked back to the car. Granted, I wasn’t suffering from a profound sense of guilt. Perhaps the anxiety was more along the lines of the vexation one feels after mistakenly gassing the car with premium instead of regular. No harm or loss is suffered in this instance; you just ended up spending more for a higher-grade product and a dull sensation of dread. In my case, I get the vexation after consciously acquiring the higher-grade liquid.

This mindless maundering may leave one with the impression that I shun the finer delights of life and opt for a spartan existence that is bereft and wanting. Such a conclusion would only affirm that the reader managed to peruse more than three paragraphs or quite possibly had a slow browser/internet connection and continued reading because the link clicked to escape my written dribble wouldn’t load. Whatever the case may be, rest assured that my only motive is to simply rant about expensive beverages that I’d consume more often if they weren’t so pricy. In the meantime, I’ll dream about my Mukka Latte maker that perished after about a years worth of use.  Maybe I’ll summon enough courage to buy another one.

A wonderful innovation for stove top cappuccino.