The old jazz chart “Black Coffee” tells the story of a woman who finds comfort in her daily cup of joe as she faces a lonely world where time seems to pass too slowly. This summer internship has been my first experience with a 9-to-5 schedule, and as a consequence, my coffee intake has skyrocketed from a single cup in the morning to three or four a day. Ella Fitzgerald’s classic tune has become far too relatable! I love my work at the Niskanen Center, but the rigid lifestyle has its downsides.
Traditionally, I’ve been much more accustomed to taking regular breaks throughout the day. At Duke, even if I am doing eight hours’ worth of work, I can stretch it out over twelve with intermittent breaks. I often change study locations, walk through the gardens, visit my friends, or even nap. At my internship, I do not have those options. On one hand, this does force me to condense my work into a smaller net length of time. On the other, this means my productivity is not always its highest. I have found different ways to stay focused. My favorite? Coffee!
The Niskanen Center has three different single-use coffee machines. Any time I feel like I can’t focus, I get up and brew myself a cup of my favorite caffeinated beverage. Our office has a nice little outdoor balcony, and I like to stand outside while I sip my drink, watching the traffic five floors below and recharging so I can work my hardest. It’s surprising how quickly you can get hooked on caffeine with such a routine. Nevertheless, it is a part of the office culture, and I have a few fun stories around coffee as a result.
I am a bit of an early bird, so often I am one of the first people in the office. One day, I arrived at work much earlier than usual, so early that all of the lights were off, except in one office: the president’s. I went to the kitchen to brew my morning coffee as usual, and I found him doing the same. We ended up chatting for a full half hour until others trickled into the office. Before we parted ways to start our actual work, I asked if he was worried about a caffeine addiction. He scoffed and noted he would never need to be without coffee.
There is a bit of irony in working in the climate policy department of an organization which uses several pod-based coffee machines (infamous for their single-use plastic and terrible environmental impacts). I once asked my supervisor about how we can justify our extensive use of single-use plastics in a department which is advocating for action to ameliorate the impacts of climate change. All he could say was that a single institution’s choice would affect nothing long-term, and we were working to change actual federal policies. Bottom line: coffee is worth the costs.
All these coffee machines have me wondering why single-cup machines are so often plastic pod-based. Their preeminence has me researching homemade coffeemakers and kettles, wondering about ways to combine drip coffee machines and sustainability with single cups and the ease of pressing just a button. I might have my own design in the works soon!