Hi. My name is Marshall and I’m an addict. My addiction is legal, widely available, but apparently it’s also mindboggling.

I speak, of course, of coffee. What’s mindboggling about coffee you ask? Let me explain.

A few months back I figured out that after abusing my gastrointestinal system at every opportunity for the first 30+ years of my life, now in my 40’s, I find that coffee gives me anxiety. Like many desk jockeys, I require the black blood of the earth to function, so I was suitably upset when this discovery was made. After a little more experimentation though, I realized it was not caffeine that caused this, but rather the acid in the beverage.

Drawing on my days as a barista, I recalled that cold brew, which is made by steeping course ground coffee overnight, has lower acidity and that I might have an out. I do, however, prefer to have my coffee hot.

The solution is simple. I order cold press coffee, heated. This is where the confusion sets in.

Starbucks and other commercial bean pushers do offer cold brew on their menus. When I ask for cold coffee to be heated, the answers are varied:

  • “I can’t do that.”
  • “I’ll do this just the one time.”
  • “Do you want it in a hot cup?”
  • “Isn’t that just our regular coffee?”

…but only a couple of times in the twenty or so samples I have of this order have I simply gotten a “Okay, coming right up”. (Of a particular note, thank you Starbucks of Statesville, NC for not making this a hassle. You will be remembered.)

The worst of these experiences, aside from the manager outside of DC who made me feel like I was bothering him, was going to Atlanta and having a location of the chain where I learned how to tell a latte from a macchiato, Caribou Coffee, and got the blank stares and the “I need to ask my manager” experience. Pulling shots at one of their stores taught me this trick; having to explain it to them was like finding out that your mother had forgotten how to bake. They made it for me, though they left about two feet of room for cream in the cup, and while it was still better than the burnt bean juice I get from most java joints, it was garnished with a dollop of disappointment and a solemn reminder that the training I received is simply no longer of value in the corporate world (I got a week of education on coffee before I ever so much as touched a steam wand).

Even as I write this, I recognize that this is such a first world problem. Bombs go off and distant lands and kill children. Disease threatens to wipe staple crops from the face of the earth. Trump is making a sideshow of the American political process. Surely I have better things to bitch about than my order at the cafe, right?

The answers is yes, of course, but I think there is a bigger issue besides my drug dealer not realizing that if they push steam through cold liquid, it will become warm. It’s that we’re training the common sense out of people in favor expediency, profit and speed. It’s the same thinking that makes us continue to choose between a pair of sub-standard options rather than seek an actually preferable third. It’s the same thinking that has reduced so much pop music to a line or two of repeated drivel with a riff thrown in from a banjo or xylophone or something. It’s the insidious conformity that insists that stepping outside of the box never actually accomplishes anything positive, only complicates the system.

Maybe I’m just being cranky. Maybe there is no greater lesson to the the fact that somebody being undervalued at $8 an hour plus tips has procedure drilled into them so much that a simple request is received like I’m asking them to reverse engineer the moon landing with a pocket calculator and a measuring tape. But I can’t help that this is the smallest of symptoms of larger problems that lead to people being accepting that things like suicide bombings are standard procedure and that a choice between Trump and Cruz isn’t more than deciding which testicle you’d like stomped on. It strikes me as the tiny bump that turns out to be connected to the cancer.

Cold fluid. Add heat.

Does not exactly require Neil deGrasse Tyson to build a CGI model, does it?

So why does it?