Easy to shop for.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 December 2016

Some years ago my mother told me, “You’re hard to shop for.” Which is baloney: I’m easy to shop for. Just get me coffee. Everybody who knows me, knows I love coffee.

“Forget Jesus; think about the economy!” Pierre Bourgeault

They don’t always know I also love tea. Nor that I drink about as much tea as coffee. They assume the big giant travel mugs I carry around always contain coffee—even when there’s an obvious teabag string dangling from the lid. Even when it rattles ’cause I’ve got ice and water in it; they just assume it’s iced coffee.

The big giant mugs? Yeah. I’m an American. I like big mugs and I cannot lie. My largest holds 54 ounces—and yes, that’s about 1.5 liters of coffee. And I used to have a 96-ounce mug—yep, it held nearly three liters, a carafe and a half. But the most I ever filled it was halfway, if that. Not because I’d never drink 96 ounces of coffee, but because, despite the insulation, the coffee would be cold by the time I drank a quarter of it. I may drink a lot, but I don’t drink it that quickly. Best to go with 30 ounces at a time.

Of course, the 96-ouncer put fear into the souls of everyone who saw it. “You can’t possibly drink that much coffee,” was the usual reaction.

Sure I can. So could they. The typical coffeemaker carafe holds 64 ounces. My last office job, I’d drink two carafes a day. (One regular, one decaf.) So, nearly four liters of coffee. And I’ve known serious caffeine addicts who’d drink five carafes a day: 320 ounces, or 9.5 liters. I agree that’s a bothersome amount. Yet people think me nuts if I get two refills of black coffee at Starbucks.

Depending on who did the study, the average American coffee drinker downs 2.6 or 3.4 cups a day. The studies don’t say how big these cups are. I don’t believe they’re talking about the measuring-cup size of 8 ounces, but the average American coffee mug size of 12 to 20 ounces. (The 12-ounce size is what restaurants call a “medium” and Starbucks a “tall.” Starbucks does have an 8-ounce size—a “small”—but doesn’t bother to put it on the menu, ’cause come on, we’re Americans.) So my two refills likely fall within the average American’s coffee consumption.

But if you want nuts, people regularly buy, and drink, a 64-ounce Double Gulp from 7-Eleven. That’s two liters of soda, y’know. That’s a whole lot of corn syrup and—if you’re buying cola or Mountain Dew—a lot of caffeine. But swap the cola for coffee, and people leap to the conclusion the tremendous intake is gonna cause every blood vessel in my head to burst simultaneously, in a Scanners-level explosion which’ll shower everyone in the vicinity with blood and brain matter. Whenever they see my 54-ounce mug, they instinctively back away.

I do have to down the stuff in my 54-ounce mug quickly, though. Y’see, it’s not dishwasher-safe, but I tend to ignore those warnings and wash ’em in the dishwasher anyway. Well, the insulation swelled and began to burst out of the seam on the side, and give the cup a bit of a tilt. When it was finally about 20 degrees off, I had enough and took the mug apart, removed most of the insulation from the bottom, and put it back together. So it gets cold quicker than it used to. Works great otherwise.

Anyway, you get the idea. People know I drink coffee, and lots of it, and usually figure I drink it black. I do. I also drink it every other way. And I’m no coffee snob; I’ll drink 7-Eleven coffee. I’ll drink McDonald’s coffee (which still isn’t as good as McDonald’s insists it is). I’ll tolerate the flavored stuff, which is often how manufacturers try to disguise bad coffee (if I want flavoring I’ll add it myself, thanks). I’ll even tolerate Folger’s… but not for long. Folger’s, as I once told one of my pastors, is the kind of coffee people serve because they don’t personally drink coffee, so they buy the cheapest stuff available and have no idea it’s dreck. But it’s coffee, and I love coffee.

Despite knowing all this, somehow people can’t figure out I’d really like coffee for Christmas.

Gift-giving, selfishness, and projection.

A lot of the problem is the fact choosing a gift, ultimately, is not about the recipient. It’s about the giver.

Seriously. Some people bother to get us what we ask for, but most of the time, people don’t care about that so much as giving us something that’ll make us remember, “Oh, you got that for me.” They want the gift to remind us of them. Which is kinda selfish of them, but we can easily forgive it when we kinda got what we asked for.

So when I ask for coffee, these folks don’t think, “Leslie wants coffee. I’ll get him coffee.” They think, “Oh, everybody gets him coffee. How’m I gonna stand out in the crowd?… I know; I’ll get him a sweater.”

I don’t wear sweaters.

I don’t. I used to have several. All were gifts from people who thought, “Y’know what I never see Leslie wear? Sweaters. He must not have any sweaters. I’ll get him one. He’ll appreciate it.” No I won’t. I always find ’em uncomfortable. I don’t even wear ’em ironically, for ugly sweater parties. I just give ’em to the Salvation Army.

People also figure, “I’ll get him a movie,” ignoring the fact I already have all the movies I care to own. Or “I’ll buy him some music”—and I already bought the music I wanted.

Or “He’s Christian; I’ll get him a devotional.” Namely one of the devotionals on sale at the Christian bookstore—or which come as a free gift when you spend $50; don’t think I don’t know about ’em. Devotionals might be just fine for most Christians, but I’ve been reading devotionals for 40 years and they’re no longer gonna present me with any new insights or revelations. I’ve moved past them. As is true of most mature Christians and bible scholars.

Or “He needs a new iBook”—okay, I wouldn’t complain about an iBook. But I’m not holding my breath.

And often they figure, “I wouldn’t want that. I can’t believe he’d want that. I’m not getting him that. I’m getting what I’d want if I were him.” Whether they think this so they can justify buying me clothes I don’t want, or whether they honestly do think they’re looking out for my best interests in the long run, it doesn’t matter. It means that saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” condemns them. Their thoughts were selfish.

Now yeah, if they wanna be remembered, the easiest tactic to take is to not get me the one simple, common, easily available thing I requested.

But if they wanna be appreciated (and not regifted), I’d still recommend the coffee.

Card form is good too.

Will I take Starbucks cards? Of course I will.

Back in 1998 I first had the brilliant idea to ask for nothing for Christmas but Starbucks cards. This way, after Christmas, I’d consolidate all these individual cards into one super giant mega-Starbucks card. One so mighty, I could theoretically purchase industrial espresso machines. (But there’s no point; I’m already pleased with my espresso maker.) One which’d at least provide me coffee all year long.

I knew at the time it probably wouldn’t happen. And it didn’t. My friends and family simply wouldn’t get on board with the idea. They got me the usual shirts, CDs, books, and so forth. One of ’em passive-aggressively got me a Java City card, knowing I’d definitely appreciate the coffee, but still couldn’t contribute it to the mega-Starbucks card of my twitchy caffeinated dreams.

Again, it’s projection: “I can’t believe he really wants the mega-Starbucks card.” They assumed I was just being facetiously silly; I was just saying so for laughs. But I was dead serious.

Oh well. One of these years I’ll get myself some better friends.

I’m only hard to shop for if you insist on ignoring my Christmas list.