Servers keep asking, he keeps shunning coffee

From Luther’s Dorr Step

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve gotten a quizzical look from a waitress or waiter when I answered “No” when asked if I wanted coffee while I waited for my food.

Then I could buy at least part of a ticket for a Super Bowl seat.

Just recently, in fact, I told my waitress that I wanted water instead of coffee.

She just shook her head and walked away, probably wondering from what galaxy my space ship had landed.

It made me think of those days a couple decades ago when some eateries started charging for water (some still do, I guess).

I had a wise old sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., tell me 50 years ago that if I could make it through “this man’s Army” without starting cigarettes or coffee, I’d be doing a good thing.

He was a Norwegian  from Redwood Falls, Minn., and I took his advice to heart, although a lot of my friends – either because of boredom, or having no money, or both – got hooked on coffee and cigarettes.

The cigarettes were cheap at the PX and extra coffee was always available in the mess hall.

I never had a hankering for cigarettes, my father having quit after his first six children were born, and then him passing on the evils associated with tobacco.

But I loved the smell of coffee and always wished I liked the taste. I tried a sip in my teens, my 20s, my 30s and my 40s before giving up. I just didn’t like it.

And now, in these days of flavored coffee that sets you back about $4, I’m glad I never started. And I’m unable to figure out how some high school students can afford that every day.

What I’ve also been unable to figure out through the years are those looks I’ve gotten from waiters and waitresses.

And it seems to make things worse when you ask for a glass of water instead of a cup of coffee.

Traditions die hard, I guess. When our family moved to this area from southern Minnesota nearly 60 years ago, my father had an occasional cup of coffee.

Then, as he visited parishioners from two congregations in this area that were primarily of Norwegian and Swedish descent, he began to drink more coffee.

And, as he told me years later after having put on an extra 30 pounds, the hospitality that went with it – whether it was 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon – also demanded that he partake of the rolls, cookies, cake or pie, whatever the hostess in that farmhouse put out with the coffee.

(Some of those Norwegians are still around today and, for some of them, six or eight cups of coffee a day is no big thing. And some of their kids have continued the tradition.)

My father was hesitant to blame the coffee, telling me he should have shown more will power, but it was clear that having a cup of coffee, sometimes three or four times a day as part of his calling in life, had played a big part in him putting on those extra pounds.

He also lamented that being a pastor for a rural congregation, and not being able to walk from place to place like he had at his previous church in town, helped put on those extra pounds. But that’s another story.

I truly wish I had learned to like coffee through the years. I love breakfasts that include scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, none of which are particularly good for you, at least on a regular basis. But I just don’t like it, nor have I developed a liking for cans of pop on a regular basis. I have one friend who makes fun of coffee drinkers but consumes about two cases of pop a week.

It’s too late in life to start drinking coffee so I’m just hoping for a little more understanding from the waiters and waitresses who give me the funny looks when I decline coffee and ask for water.

It’s really not un-American. Or is it?