Winter in black and whiteWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
It’s heartening to still find myself experiencing new aspects of life at my advanced age of 47 (which rounds up to 50 more accurately than it rounds down to 40).
This winter has provided a relentless series of snowstorms and brutal cold to navigate. In the 10 years I have been driving from Tecumseh to Toledo, I do not recall a winter as challenging to the commuter as this one. Ice, drifting snow and a parade of drivers who apparently have never operated a car during winter have made for far too many white-knuckle rides back and forth.
But for as long as this winter will remain in my memory, there is another discovery that may have a more long-term impact: coffee.
For nearly five decades, I have avoided coffee like I have abstained from cigarettes, alcohol and the rock group Yes —poisons best left to weaker constitutions. But it has been so harshly cold this winter, and with my job and exercise schedule starting at 2 a.m. most weekdays, I have found my eyelids getting heavier far too early in the day than I can afford.
On Jan. 27, wandering from the icy expanse of the 1370 WSPD newsroom to the breakroom to refill my water bottle, I smelled and saw a fresh pot of coffee sitting in its metal cradle. I have enjoyed the occasional frozen-blended frappé, but that’s more like a milkshake, not real coffee. I have never enjoyed hot beverages, not tea, cider or even the blood spurting from fallen enemies’ jugulars. I will never know what compelled me to take a whiter-than-snow Styrofoam cup, set it down, pick up the pot and pour that first hot cup of coffee, but before I could talk myself out of it, I was back at my desk with both hands wrapped around the cup.
I gazed into the round pool of black liquid, raised the squeaky Styrofoam to my lips and took a careful first sip.
It was horrible.
It was scalding and bitter, with a strong aftertaste that coated my teeth and tongue and distorted flavors for the rest of the day.
“How,” I thought, “does a country run on this liquid abomination? No wonder people dilute coffee with caramel and sugar and cream.”
I set the cup down, disgusted, vowing to not repeat that mistake. Ten minutes later, when the cup was empty, I wondered why evolution still filled human bodies with blood when such a magical life-giving elixir existed.
Two days passed before I tried another cup, and that first taste was just as bitter and off-putting as the first. I have been consuming coffee sparingly, wary of anything so simultaneously repulsive and irresistible. I am still careful not to indulge every day, as my impulse is to make up for all those coffee-less years by running an industrial-grade garden hose from the coffee maker to my desk, or maybe to buy one of those hats with two beverage holders and straws attached to it.
There are no significant calories in black coffee; nor is there any nutritional value except for a miniscule amount of magnesium.
While I am carefully moderating my new discovery, it is exciting to have made a new discovery about such a mundane and common element of life.
If a mere cup of coffee can be new and intriguing, I know life still holds many more flavorful jolts.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and news director for 1370 WSPD. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.