Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bizarre Morning Ritual

In another installment of “Mozzadrella’s Midwestern Manners” I have to note and lament a certain behavior I’ve noticed since venturing Eastward. I find it counterintuitive and gratuitous, bordering on the excessively meticulous.

I am talking about the ritual of carrying to-go coffee in a bag.

Both self-contained and effortlessly portable, paper coffee cups elegantly mesh form and function! Why on earth would someone destabilize a vessel of hot liquid by placing it in a permeable paper sack with little material integrity?

Now the American tic of walking with a hot beverage is a practice I do appreciate—when living abroad, I found it irritating to forcefully “savor” my coffee while seated and immobile. But when asked: “Do you want a bag for that?” as I’m served deli coffee, I can’t restrain my unsightly grimace.

My hypochondriacal nature could interpret this habit as a shielding from others, or preserving the leisurely experience of drinking coffee by waiting to enjoy until arriving at your final destination. Neither rationalization satisfies. Do native New Yorkers have a sense of the reasoning behind this distinct custom?

Image credit: katerw


tom said...

When I first moved to New York I had the same problem...but I was on the other side of the counter working at Whole Foods serving coffee to the masses...the masses of NYC that apparently wanted coffee in a bag. I thought it was the one of the strangest things.

But I know find my self sticking my coffee in a bag every morning on my way to work...not your normal way though...I use an air tight tumbler and a tote bag. I guess it is the same thing, but at least it is stable.

ravi said...

my theory is that this practice stems from the bad ole days, when most new yorkers would get their coffee from bodegas or street vendors in those crap paper cuts with flimsy lids. see the iconic greek variety: http://www.flickr.com/photos/presta/334950357/

anyhow, it must've been a necessity to put the coffee in a paper bag to prevent spillage. now, with the marvels of better packaging, cups have become sturdier and new yorkers no longer need the bag. but bad habits are hard to kill.

better it be paper than styrofoam, that's all i have to say.

Anonymous said...

It's because those little cups do nothing to prevent delicate, white collar hands against the intense liquid heat within. A bag, while not very green (or attractive) makes carrying those cups much easier.

Once a critic, I changed my ways after several unfortunate spills. Just ask me about the crotch scalding of 2001.