I was in a local coffee shop last week, the shop that used to be my regular.
I was there so often, and it was such a part of my routine, that I assumed then that it would always be that way. Stopping in again made me realize how much things had changed.
A couple of years ago, three days a week, I dropped my youngest off at kindergarten and headed straight to the coffee shop. It wasn’t my favorite—that was sadly in the opposite direction—but a good one, and it was mine.
On every visit, my barista served up my decaf americano, extra room, in a paper cup. I would sit down and open my laptop, ready to write. (Back then, I was drafting Reading People.) But I couldn’t help but notice that other customers with similar routines had pretty ceramic mugs, not paper.
Everything tastes better in a pretty mug, so I wondered by what magic the other customers got theirs, and how I could get one. I kept my thoughts to myself. (Introvert, obviously.)
After weeks (months?) of this, I was stirring cream into my coffee at the counter one day when a man came up next to me holding the biggest cup of coffee I’d ever seen. I told him as much, and asked how he’d managed to get a cup of coffee that big.
His answer: I asked for it.
He explained: it was a gloomy day, the kind that encourages coffee drinkers to pour an extra cup or three. So he’d walked up to the counter and said, “I’d like the biggest cup of coffee you have, and I’d like it in a mug.”
The barista disappeared into the back of the store and returned a minute later bearing a ceramic vessel that put Starbucks’ venti to shame.
This was a revelation, albeit one that made me feel like an idiot. I’d been wanting to know how to get a mug, and here was the answer: ask for it.
It’s okay to want things! It’s okay to ask for them! Who knew?
That man and his giant mug made a big impression on me back then. A piece of pottery isn’t a life or death thing. But there are times when it’s crucial to ask for what you want, and if I hesitated to order my coffee the way I wanted, could I trust myself to speak up when it mattered? (I mean, coffee is important, but work with me.)
There have been very few paper cups in my life since then. (After asking for a mug three or four times, the baristas saw me coming and brewed up my new-and-improved regular order: decaf americano, extra room, biggish mug.) But my broader mindset also shifted that day.
It’s okay to want things. It’s okay to ask for them.
Of course there are exceptions: context is important; timing is everything. And sometimes I feel kind of demanding, asking for certain things, or for things to be a certain way. But in many, many situations, what I want isn’t fussy or hard or special. People are happy to accommodate, but they have to know how.
This coffee shop isn’t my regular anymore, but some of the baristas still recognize me, and last week they brewed up my old regular order, without me having to ask for it. Whenever I stop in, I always think of the guy with the giant mug, and the tangible reminder that it tastes so much better this way. And all I have to do is ask.
What do you want, and what do you ask for? Tell us all about it (and maybe how you take your coffee?) in comments.