by Neil S. Plakcy
The pandemic changed things for people around the world in large and small ways. For me the change was small, and yet meaningful. It broke me of my Starbucks habit.
Back in the late 1990s, I was working as a web developer for a company in what I’d call a restaurant desert. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on lunch, or eat too much, so I began driving three miles up US 1 a couple of times a week at lunchtime. I’d get a big Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, settle myself in a comfy chair, and read through my lunch hour.
After that company shut down, I changed careers and became a college professor. Occasionally, when all my classes were finished, my papers graded, and any meetings completed, I’d be able to leave work an hour or so early and I’d stop at a Starbucks on my way home. A Strawberry Crème Frappuccino became a reward for a long day, and once again, I had the chance to sit comfortably and read for a while.
Then I began to focus more on my career as a novelist. It’s hard work to sit at a computer every day and hope the words flow, push when they don’t. I discovered that if I left for school an hour early, I could stop at the Starbucks near my house, get a grande raspberry mocha to fortify myself for the day, and set up my laptop and write for an hour.
I can get a lot done in a dedicated hour a day. Over forty mystery and romance novels came out of that time. I became increasingly addicted to that writing time—on weekends and during summer vacations I upped my time to two to three hours. The baristas came to know my name and my order. My Starbucks rewards had turned into a habit, an expensive one I justified because I was making money on those books I was writing.
Then the pandemic hit, and almost overnight my routine was destroyed. My local Starbucks shut down for a while, and when it reopened it was for drive-through only. So I had to make a meaningful change—I became my own barista.
I had a small, cheap cappuccino maker, which broke down quickly after regular use. So I had to shop for, and find a new one. I went online to experiment with different kinds of ground coffee, finally settling on two different flavors. I alternate between Raspberry Chocolate, my old favorite, and Coconut Rum, a particularly Floridian flavor. When I measure the ground beans every morning, I am rewarded with those rich aromas.
When my husband put the plastic foaming arm in the dishwasher and it melted, I chose to buy a separate machine for foaming. I experimented with the proper ratio of heated milk to coffee to foam. Then I realized that when I was spooning the froth out, I was scraping the bottom with my spoon, so I hunted until I found a tiny rubber spatula to use.
I successfully converted my writing process to working at my kitchen table, with my golden retrievers sprawled around behind my chair. Now that my local Starbucks is back in full operation, I’ve come full circle, using one of their drinks as a special treat. A reward, perhaps, for surviving the pandemic, and a reminder how lucky I am that all Covid-19 brought me was some inconvenience.
For a free copy of The Next One Will Kill You, the first of Neil’s Miami-based FBI investigations, click here. Neil’s website, chock full of information about mystery, romance, and adventure novels, is at www.mahubooks.com.
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