As Winter quarter began at Western Washington University, a thick gray cloud decided to grace us with its presence. For those of you that came to visit Washington (or the campus) between April and August and thought, I have to live here because it’s so damn pretty, my apologizes. You were surely swayed by the 150 different shades of green, stunning ocean and mountain views, and a beacon of sunlight that only exists consistently for five months of the year. For the other seven months, shiny happy weather disappears into a great big wet cloud of muck – with the occasional tease of a day or two, when it’s suddenly sunny again, only to resort back to wetness literally the second you make outdoor plans. I swear sometimes that the weather is out to get me and enjoys ruining my festivities.
That being said, it’s no wonder that we drink so much coffee around here.
Today I was standing in the Atrium, a place on campus with a few food options and the world’s longest Starbucks line outside of Pikes Place Market. After about ten minutes of standing, inching forward, then standing again, I ordered a tall chai soy latte, only to learn that they were out of chai! I took it is a sign that I should probably not be spending $3-something on a beverage today and instead just got a panini to tie me over through my next class. I’ll do the economically savvy thing when I get home – meaning brew my own coffee and choose from amongst three different creamer options – the poor woman’s latte. (In hindsight – I should have gotten a normal latte – two lecture classes in a row nearly knocked me out).
When waiting for my panini I was watching the door. People were rushing to get inside away from the wind and rain. Some had faces of pure annoyance, others were trying to shield their hair/makeup from getting ruined, and a select few were completely indifferent, walking in the rain as if it was 75′ outside – those are true Washingtonians. When you live where it’s dreary – unless you’re one of the weirdos who avoid coffee just to try to rock the status quo – a Cup of Joe is more than just a means to wake up, it’s a culture.
Coffee culture is hard to explain to those who aren’t surrounded by it, but trust me, I notice when I am no longer in it. Or in your case, when there is now a coffee shop literally every two blocks and a drive through shop in 90% of parking lots, and nearly everyone says, “You wanna meet for coffee sometime/later?” – you’ll know when you’re standing in coffee culture. Coffee is a way to be social outside of the cold weather, it warms your body, and brings a sense of normalcy to your day. In short, it makes you happy even during the most annoying or frustrating of times.
The true testament to the beauty of coffee was when I was watching people as they were walking out of the Atrium today, clutching their steaming drink for warmth and comfort. Almost every person paused for a moment at the door, got their hood or jacket situated, sipped their coffee, took a deep breath, and braved the outdoors – you might even say they had slight pep to their step.