Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Real "Mr. Bean"



Ever wonder how Starbucks became the behemoth company it is today? I attribute their success to one man, my late ex-husband Tony...Lucas' dad. Yes, his coffee addiction built every one of those Starbucks stores you see, one Venti Cafe Americano at a time. (He didn't even buy the Mochafrappacaramellolatte crap...just your basic cup o' joe. But he did also buy truckloads of ground coffee to make at home.)

This was a typical day for Tony. We'd wake up and if I started to chat with him as he rose from the bed, he would back out of the room as he answered me. The coffee pot was beaming him downstairs, and he had no physical control over it. Then, as I'd be getting ready for work, putting on my makeup in our tiny bathroom with no counter space, he'd arrive at the doorway with MY cup of coffee. The expression on his face and the gentle way he cradled the cup would have made any observer believe he was bringing me manna from heaven. Sounds nice, right? Call me ungrateful, but there was no place to PUT the cup, and while I enjoy coffee it doesn't have quite the same euphoric effect on me.

He would proceed to have at least two more cups (one of which he would take into the bathroom with the newspaper and a cigarette. YUCK! Who does that??), while a second pot was brewing. Before leaving for work, he'd pour that pot into a large thermos (10 cup) and off he'd go.

That thermos took him through the morning. At lunchtime, he'd go to Starbucks for a few Venti Cafe Americanos. They knew him by name. At more than one location.

This all sounds very silly, but it was a serious addiction. If he did NOT have coffee for a few hours he'd fall asleep. No matter where he was, or what he was doing. When Lucas was an infant, I went out to the store one afternoon for about an hour. When I pulled into the driveway, I heard my infant SCREAMING inside the house. I ran in and found the baby in his little seat, two feet away from a sleeping Tony who was in a slumped position on the sofa. It took me no less that 10 minutes to rouse him. As always, when I did manage to wake him, he swore he was not sleeping.

I avoided leaving him home alone with Lucas as much as possible. When I did have leave him, I would suggest that he not sit on the couch at all. Then, when Luke was 4, I came home (again from a 15 minute trip to the store) to find Tony passed out and little Lucas sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by 4 empty yogurt containers, several empty bags of chips, and eight little applesauce cups. Tony did not hear me enter the house, and I was tempted to take Lucas and then call ... asking how everything was going and if I could talk to my little boy. (Thinking I might be able to scare him into different behavior) Of course this plan would not have worked, because the phone wouldn't have awakened him.

He took Lucas to the movies once and when they arrived home, my son told me that "a lady had to help me wake Daddy up". Thank god the "lady" wasn't a hair-dye wielding child-napper. And so much for father-son movie dates.

At dinnertime, he HAD to have a glass of wine or a beer. But if he hadn't started a pot of coffee prior to dinner, therefore having to wait for it after the meal, he would often fall asleep right in his chair. It was not unusual for us to clear the table and go off to our evening activities, leaving him right there. He'd usually come-to around 9PM.

I often suggested that he needed to go to a sleep clinic, that he might have sleep apnea, but he adamantly denied a problem. However, one evening we went to a local children's carnival with the kids. While there, Lucas spotted a little playground area with a $1 entry fee. I was out of cash at that point and Tony only had one dollar in his pocket. However, the coffee demons were beckoning him. As he lied and told Lucas he didn't have enough money, I rolled up my sleeve and slapped my forearm: the universal sign for "You are a junkie, you asshole." (Sorry to speak ill of the dead, but this was beyond anything I could fathom.)

It probably became scariest for me after we separated, because I was terrified that he would inadvertenly start a fire in his apartment when Lucas was there. (All of our plastic kitchen utensils, like ladles etc., had been disfigured from being left on the stove near an open flame.) I also knew that a smoke alarm would not have broken through his 'coma'. I told all of this to the court but they did not limit his custody rights. Thankfully, no harm came to Lucas (he was also thoroughly trained as to how to check the kitchen constantly and how to call 911.)

Only because Lucas was not with him, I find this final story the funniest of all. He drove his car onto the Bridgeport Ferry in CT which goes to Long Island. It's a $90 trip with your vehicle, and takes about one and a half hours to get across the Sound. His sister was expecting him at her house in the Hamptons that afternoon. Hours and hours went by and she did not see him. She called me, but I had no idea what happened.

As it turned out, he was reading on the top deck of the boat and fell asleep, head hanging into the open book. He fell asleep and made THREE ROUND TRIPS. His neck was severely sunburned, but what really burned him was that he was charged for all three trips!! As with most other things, he took no responsibility and blamed the crew for not waking him up. (They may have attempted, as I had so many times, and given up.)

Bottom line is that he was a self-medicater. Many people accept drugs and alcohol as the addictive substances that people abuse to balance their own brain chemistry, but I can tell you first-hand that coffee can be just as bad. I hated having our lives controlled by chemicals. While I like to have my coffee in the morning, some days I'll purposely skip it just to assure myself that I can.