Gas station coffee

Confession: I am not a coffee snob.

I think the first time I enjoyed coffee is a story you might enjoy.

I snuck out of my window, on a weeknight in high school. I walked past my parents’ bedroom window, down the long gravel driveway, and hopped in a 1992 Ford Thunderbird Turbo. To quote my father, all the going parts worked but not of the stopping parts, so it was parked at the road with a “For Sale” sign in the windshield.

It was supposed to be my first car, but he believed I would kill myself in it. I was a little sore about it.

So, I drove the car with my fresh license to my friends’ house (who snuck out of their house) and then to my high school boyfriend’s house. And we all loaded up on coffee and went for a joy ride.

I’m sure you were expecting drugs or alcohol, but despite what you know about me thus far, I was a relatively responsible teenager. And while I stayed up late, I still went to school and took it serious. Probably too serious.

But that’s another story.

This fun, adolescent adventure was the first time I had coffee. It was a French Vanilla cappuccino right out of the machine. I now blame my love of gas station coffee on pure nostalgia, even if now I drink my coffee black, weak or strong, hot or cold. Oh, and I think it’s important to mention I love coffee so much I drink decaf recreationally. Personally, I don’t think you’re a coffee lover until you love it with or without the caffeine boost.

But there’s more.

Gas station coffee means something to me. I have all the equipment and the fancy devices to make a perfect cup of coffee at home, but it’s not the same.

When I get gas station coffee, it means I’m going somewhere. I’m in a car, and headed to a destination. That, in and of itself, is exciting. My husband is a musician, so coffee frequently (pre-pandemic) meant a show, and live music, and beer, and friends I wouldn’t otherwise see.

Second, it means we usually aren’t in a rush, and this is the same when I’m alone. If I have time to stop and get a coffee, I am early or on time. Boy, there is just no better feeling than not being late. I’m an anxious person (hence the occasional decaf) which means rushing and being late can cause me to dive into a worse-case scenario mindset. Like, rushing will certainly lead to accidents, forgetting to turn the stove off, leaving your wallet at home, being late or missing something, etc. I probably don’t have to explain the general since of worry to you. You just have to understand its more difficult to talk me down from that mindset.

Oh, but gas station coffee? That means I’m on time or going no where in particular, and those are my favorite feelings. Being on time, makes me feel like I’m not failing this adult nonsense. And going no where in particular makes me feel like I’m taking a vacation from failing the adult nonsense.

I know all the terrible things linked with gas station coffee; one time use containers, questionably sourced coffee beans, and let’s face it, gas stations can be gross.

I know.

Maybe a scalding hot styrofoam cup of gas station coffee (with the good lids) always takes me back to a night when I was more a teenager than I ever let myself be. When I did something edgy (and stupid) and got away with it.

I only ever drove that car that one time under moonlight, with a car full of friends, fueled by sweetened caffeine. Those friendships didn’t last. One of those lives didn’t make it past 2013. However, that night, I was seventeen, I threw my cares out the window, I survived, and grew into the gas-station-coffee-loving-mess I am today, and that’s not so bad.


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