On The Morning I Couldn’t Get To The Milk



A lonely pot of coffee looking for love ❤


In the scheme of things, the fact there was no milk in the refrigerator that Friday morning was minor.

And yet, it was just after 5 a.m. I’d been up too late and had a million things to do, among them cooking for Shabbos and getting my act together to teach a few hours later. Before I could do anything, before I could even begin to contemplate safely wielding a knife to cut potatoes for the cholent – really to function as an adult at all – I needed a cup of coffee.

I filled the French press with grinds, put up the kettle, and took out the milk, only to discover there was hardly a teaspoon of it in the container. The last person to drink milk left behind just enough to be able to argue that the container was not, in fact, empty.

Yes, I know who the perpetrator was. And no, it was not his first infraction.

On any other Friday morning, I would’ve gone to retrieve one of the extra half-gallons we keep on hand in the basement refrigerator. (Teenaged boys tend to drink a lot of it and I can’t keep running to the store and wow, what a blessing to be able to buy in abundance.) Minutes later, a steaming cup of coffee with a gorgeous layer of foamy milk on top would prove my reward for not waking the offender to demand he go get it for me.

That morning was not a typical morning, however. One son had friends staying over in the basement guest area, which denied me access to the refrigerator that houses the spare milk.

You might be wondering why I didn’t just drink the coffee black at that point. It’s true I’ve enjoyed intoxicating, milkless cups in Jerusalem and the Balkans, and once, a marvelous little espresso at a gas station outside Florence. But alas, my suburban New Jersey kitchen is not a café in Sofia or Sarajevo. Here, I drink an enormous latte. I needed milk.

In the meantime, I located a nearly empty bottle of Diet Coke. (If you’re seeing a theme here, you are correct.)  It was flat as a mesa, but the caffeine would keep me going until I could pick up a cup of coffee at the nearest shop on the way to work.

When I began self-serving Dark Roast into a tall paper cup, the pump on the urn sputtered. Dark Roast was empty. I called out “Excuse me!” to the woman womanning the coffee area. She kindly offered to brew me a new pot, but it would have taken time I didn’t have.

After I poured out the dregs from my cup, I began the ritual from scratch, this time choosing House Blend. And would you believe it? It happened again. Again I called over the woman in the coffee area, who was joined by a second woman. They both offered to brew me another pot, though by then I had even less time.

I settled on something called Mild Roast, whose name alone boded poorly on a morning I needed a jolt in a cup. That the Mild Roast urn was full left me with little faith in its contents.

I thanked the women and they both apologized on behalf of the establishment. I assured them it was fine, that my day would proceed, Dark Roast or House Blend or not, that I might be a little hazy and perhaps a bit edgy, but it was all fine in the scheme of things. Not the end of the world. We laughed about the oversized importance of coffee in our lives. I bid them a good day.

As I walked towards the cashier, one of the women called out to me, “I wish all of our customers were like you.”

Now, I’m nothing special, so my mind began to imagine all the uncomfortable scenarios those women must face in their line of work to make them say something like that to me. I’d only been polite. I didn’t shout, yell, complain, or demand to speak with the manager. I made the best of a poorly caffeinated situation. And I accepted the consequences of not planning ahead. I should have remembered to bring an extra container of milk upstairs the night before, knowing the teenagers could’ve slept until noon.

The funny thing is that although that cup of coffee may not have had the strength I needed to get through the day, I was glad for it in the end and grateful for the reminders that came with it. Patience, compromise, and kindness are assets, honeyed manners that catch more bees than gruffness ever will.

Turns out Mild Roast was the best cup of the day.

4 thoughts on “On The Morning I Couldn’t Get To The Milk

  • I enjoyed your post today.. nice to reflect on seemingly quick exchanges with strangers..
    Talk about “stopping to smell the roses coffee” : )

    Hope you have a wonderful Purim ..
    Are you a theme person? I am thinking.. yes..

    Judy Citer
    Pension Consultant
    201-345-4682 Direct

    Intac Actuarial Services, Inc.

    Insist on a CEFEX certified firm. Learn why it matters.

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  • I love this piece, Merri! A beautifully written and entertaining reminder about keeping things in perspective. Something I personally could use more of these days so I am especially thankful for the timeliness of this piece 🙂

    I also think that patience, kindness and compromise are their own kind of super powers. I love your work, Merri. Thank you for sharing it! ❤️


    • Thanks so much for this, Allison. A lot of the time writing enables me to reflect on things that happen…things I know are important in the moment, but can’t fully wrap my head around. So so glad this resonated, and thanks for all your kind words. ❤


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