Ask for the &$!@%! mug

Ask for the &$!@%! mug

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 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. 

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84 comments

    • Kristin says:

      That is what my first boss out of college said, too! “It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is no, and if you don’t ask, you’re already at no.” It’s been a guiding principle for me.

    • Kathy says:

      My grandmother, who was from the north east of England always said ‘Shy Bairns get Nowt’ which roughly translates to if you don’t ask you won’t get anything. I always think of that phrase when I need a little burst of confidence!

  1. Mimi says:

    One of my Grandmother’s (she was born in the 19th century) favorite sayings from childhood was “Good little girls don’t ask for anything but good little girls don’t get anything.”

  2. Catherine says:

    A variation on the theme is speaking up about a complaint. “You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken” is a lesson I learned in a customer service seminar years ago. Tell the vendor, provider, service person when something is wrong and give them a chance to fix it. Chances are they will be gracious in knowing they can help you AND eliminate the problem from their system/product/procedure.

  3. I love this post. It’s true what you don’t ask for you don’t get. I’ve had problems with that too because I didn’t think I deserved to have what I really wanted. So for years I worked at jobs that were on the periphery of what I wanted, or that I thought I wanted. Finally one day I had this big aha moment and knew that everything in my life, all the decisions I had made had led me to my life’s purpose. And now I’m doing what I never thought I could do, I’m writing. Life is so much better when I just say what I want whether it’s big or small.

  4. Laurie says:

    You had me at coffee, Ann. I love my snowman mugs.(I L-O-V-E anything snowman-related), and my florals are a close second. Since we will be moving from FL to MI in the near future (crazy, I know)I’m wondering how much longer my snowman phase will continue. By mid-winter I think I’ll be ready to break out the florals. Maybe sooner.

  5. Lisa White says:

    For years I was occasionally resentful of my husband; I felt he didn’t love me truly because he wouldn’t pick up my subtle hints of things I would like for him to do. Then I realized he is not clairvoyant and began asking in a clear, concise manner for what I wanted. Eased a lot of tension in our marriage.

  6. What a great post. I need reminding of this sometimes. Back to Biblical principles: Knock and the door will be opened to you; ask and you shall receive. As you say though, context and timing considered.

    • Mary Kay Huck says:

      So I’m sitting in a Barnes & Noble reading this blog post drinking my coffee from a paper cup…ugh! Next time I’m asking!

  7. Chrissie says:

    At Sonic, when they my car turn into their parking lot, without me placing the order, my favorite “water” smeetsme at the curb a Route 44 unsweetened ice tea, w/ extra ice and 4 lemons, on the side. Everyday, sometimes twice in the summer. When my cost is less than 5.00 at a minimum wage establishment I tip 50% because I hate to imagine how hard they work for so little compensation.

  8. Melissa Gerber says:

    Years ago I read an article by a journalist who interviewed Zsa Zsa Gabor. When the journalist arrived for the interview Miss Gabor asked if she (the journalist) had brought her a present. The journalist was flustered and said “no” she hadn’t. Miss Gabor shrugged and said “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” That phrase has become something of a mantra in our house.

  9. Years ago my sister asked me how I got our mom to make chocolate bread pudding every year for my birthday. I told her, “I asked her to make it.” She was dumbfounded, then laughed. After that my sister asked, and our mom made her favorite dessert for her birthday. (This is when we were adults.)

  10. Julie says:

    Yes! Lately I’ve been trying to push myself toward asking for what I need/want. And really, I think it all comes down to just telling the truth! Another commenter wrote about having good manners, which is key when telling the truth. 🙂 I’ve always fallen into that category of Good Southern Girl who’s always trying to please everyone around her. Lately I’ve just been trying to tell people the truth–still workin’ my Southern Charm, but telling the truth.

    COFFEE ALL DAY LONG. Cream and Sugar. Right now, the mug is a green one from the Dollar Tree!

  11. Trisha says:

    I very much relate to silently wondering how others got their coffee in a mug! And I’ve learned to practice asking for things even though it feels weird. I think it’s a good skill. I ask for things sometimes just to make myself practice. You definitely get more when you do 😉

  12. Bethany says:

    This is so great. I’m so very bad at asking for things. I feel like I’m putting everyone out and I try so hard to be low maintenance. You just make it sound so simple!! Thank you for this encouragement!!

  13. Chris says:

    I learned from my late mother-in-law that it is always appropriate to ask for a black dinner napkin when wearing black. She thought it to be a travesty of service if one was not automatically offered to a lady wearing black at a well-dressed table setting by the wait staff. I miss her but remember this interaction well.

  14. S says:

    Yes!! I always hesitate to ask because I don’t want to be seen as high maintenance or stupid (if it is something I think everyone else is knowledgeable about). But….I have recently been traveling for work and I took a chance and asked for a free upgrade for my car rental and most of the time they can accommodate my request and on the rare opportunities they can’t, I still have a car rental, even if it’s one of the smaller cars. It never hurts to ask as long as you don’t act like you are entitled…I am always grateful when my request can be granted!

  15. Nikki says:

    Wow, you have a lot of people pleasing introverted readers 😃. Following the Gretchen Rubin Four Tendancies model, I am a HUGE questioner, with upholder tendancies. In job interviews, I ask as many questions as I answer. It needs to be a good fit for ME, not just them. As a vegetarian, I have limited ordering options in many places, so again, questions. When buying a new car, I asked for a second key fob. I’m currently single, so if I want to share a meal with a friend, I ask. And believe me, I can go through as many as 5-6 people before someone is available. Can it get discouraging, yes. And many friends don’t reciprocate the ‘ask.’ So as a frequent ‘asker,’ we love it when you initiate!! I live in the south currently, but am from the Midwest. It floors me how rarely ladies speak up around here. I test introvert too (maybe more ambivset as I get older), but I think ask vs. not ask has MUCH more to do with upbringing/culture and confidence.

  16. Mary in Tennessee says:

    I’m always willing to ask. As you do it more and more the great results will stick with you and the “no’s” will be forgotten.

    One of my best ones was asking the clerk at the Statue of Liberty ticket window if she could ask the other clerks and double check after she told us they were sold out. They came up with the four tickets we needed!
    In an LA restaurant I asked to be seated at an outside table close to the sidewalk and we got to watch people arriving for the Grammy pre-show.
    My kids are grown now but they will occasionally ask me to make an important phone call for them!

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness, it NEVER would have occurred to me to ask to double check on the sold out Statue of Liberty seats! Also pre-Grammy restaurant seating sounds very cool.

  17. J. Hall says:

    My parents always told me, “If you don’t ask you’ll never know!” This was their advice pertaining to everything from school to child-rearing. I tried hard on many occasions to “just ask”, but I always felt uncomfortable doing so, maybe I thought I didn’t deserve what I was asking for. Interestingly, I told my children the same thing my parents told me when they were wondering or wanting. Even more interesting is the fact that BOTH of them DID ask on as many opportunities they encountered. Our daughter has her Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy and our son is a successful Mergers and Acquisitions attorney. They worked very hard for their accomplishments and always politely asked…. and received. Could their Mother take her own advice?? I’m still squeamish. BTW, I take my coffee with half and half and sugar.

  18. Debbie says:

    I’m 67 and a singer…gave up original dream to have children, husband and home, and don’t get me wrong… I love all of them, however, I need to …want to …be considered and included in all things musical at our new church. I’m not and as a newer “kid” on the block, do I have the right to ask? Fear clouds my opportunity…I love your blog and appreciate this message spurring me on to address this concern in my life.

  19. Pam says:

    Lovely post – and so very true…. Took me a long time to realize you have to ask for what you want and need in relationships too. How many times are we unhappy or resentful because we aren’t getting what we want or need? A good reminder on many levels! Thank you.

  20. Cheryl Weaver says:

    I drink decaf with Splenda and cream. Trying to learn to drink it without cream. I love to make cards and want to make them with people. ‘Everyone’ has tutorials and classes on line. I want face-to-face. Yes I am an extrovert so I spent an hour and a half leaving phone messages and writing emails to try to fulfill this desire of mine.

  21. Heather says:

    I learned this lesson from my husband. He always asks and usually gets what he asks for. For example, if we are in a establishment with a television and he doesn’t like the content, he asks for them to change it. (Usually in an effort to watch whatever baseball game he wanted to see that night). They always happily switch channels. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to ask!

  22. Mary says:

    I think this discussion is great. I have a difficult time asking for what I need or want. I have learned. I think it is learned behavior. Some people find it easier than others. I am surrounded by them. With my situation in mind, I believe there is a fine line between asking for what you want and feeling entitled to have your way. As I have explained to many people, there isn’t a right way to fold a towel, bout there may be your way.

  23. Anne I believed we have discussed this before: that people are either Askers or Guessers. http://99u.com/workbook/21895/are-you-an-asker-or-a-guesser

    I think I’ve also mentioned that my hubby is the same MBTI type as you – which might explain why I like you so much. 😉

    HOWEVER.. if there was ONE thing I could change about my sweet hubby, it would be this: I wish he was comfortable with asking me for things. I’ve tried to explain it this way: when he tiptoes around asking, it’s as if he doesn’t trust me or believe that I’m happy to serve him. So for example, I know he has a hard time dropping of his clothes at the dry cleaners during business hours, and I’m happy to do it… but he just can’t bring himself to ask me. Which makes me think, “Am I such an evil B that I would bite his head off or something?” – I’ve done many such errands for him in the past, why can’t he just trust that I am happy to do nice things for him?

  24. The mug makes a huge difference. Period.

    In fact, I was out of the country and asked to purchase a mug from the coffee shop…they don’t sell them like in America…but they gave me one ❤.

  25. Jane Kline says:

    As a young girl I was very shy, I remember my father always telling me if I went to the ice cream stand ( soft serve) on the corner and just stood there all day I would never get any ice cream….I just had to ask! I was going to get it it’s what keeps them in business:) for years grown up I had to remind my self they were going to say yes or go out of business…It helped bring me out of that scary spot inside.

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