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Coffee phenomenon confuses writer

April 8, 1997

Maybe it's because I'm from Miami, where winter is the week we wear pants to school. Maybe it's because I read somewhere that caffeine stunts your growth, a penalty that I, for one, cannot afford. Maybe it's because I've never really needed external substances to boost my energy level. I just don't drink coffee.

This, I've discovered, can become a very complex problem. I am the only person in the entire world (otherwise known as the Brown campus) who does not consume five gallons of coffee every day. This one detail, seemingly insignificant to all you drinkers, greatly affects my life. Think I'm exaggerating? Let's look at the facts.

Freshman year, people try to overlook petty details when making friends. Everyone at Brown is different, we're told, so we befriend our entire unit regardless of personality, interests or drink of choice. By the time we're sophomores, we hang out mostly with people with whom we have the most in common. This is perfectly natural, assuming you drink coffee.

During the last week before spring break, I had serious, life-altering conversations with not one, not two, but three of my closest friends. To try to summarize these conversations would be unfair, unrealistic and unwise. I will do it anyway.

JON: Hey friend o'mine-

OTHER: I don't feel like we're friends anymore. Let me tell you why...

JON: Wow. I didn't realize things were so bad. What can we do about it?

OTHER: We need to go to coffee.

Coffee, it seems, makes everything better. My friends didn't want me to go to coffee because they needed to talk. They talk to me all the time. I needed to go to coffee in order to show my willingness to accept a ritual so vital to their existence. If your friend plays basketball, he's asking you to accept him by inviting you to play.

This is oversimplifying, of course. As any of my friends can tell you, coffee drinking (or lack thereof) is just one of a plethora of faults plaguing my existence. With this in mind, I'm astounded by the fact that going to coffee might actually eliminate so many of my problems. What makes this act so unique, so special?

I watch Friends every Thursday night, so I'm vaguely familiar with the sitting around drinking coffee while talking ritual. If hanging around in a coffee bar all day works for them, it should work for us, too. After all, Friends is just like real life. (At least it's like my life. Don't all your friends look like Courtney Cox?)

One might argue that coffee houses provide an atmosphere quiet enough for talking while still allowing for activity during lulls in conversation. This is, I'm sure, the motivation my friends would cite in asking me to join them. This reason has validity, but it doesn't work for me. Heck, I like awkward silences. I cause them all the time.

Coffee houses provide a comfortable atmosphere, upholding an illusion of privacy in a very public place. Thus, you can have a personal conversation without worrying about others listening in on you. Coffee houses, I've learned, are safe. No matter how upsetting the conversation, no one wants to yell and scream in front of all those quiet, caffeinated people.

Along this same line, one other interesting phenomenon makes coffee bars particularly intriguing to me. Rarely do you see acts of physical violence take place at a coffee bar. By accompanying an angry friend or first date to a coffee bar , your odds of being slapped, bitten, or kicked fall significantly. Your odds of being scalded by hot liquid, however, are likely to increase.

So maybe I'll make the sacrifice and actually go to coffee with my friends. It would make them happy. And maybe I'll even try a cup of coffee, just to fit in with the crowd.

After all, isn't that what college is all about? On second thought, maybe I'll have some milk.

By Jonathan Olin

Courtesy The Brown Daily Herald (Brown University)

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