The Coffee House
Grounds for Change
by Solveig Haugland
"Another day chock of full of coffee," grumbled Brenda as she stumbled out
of bed. She sat down at her surprisingly large dressing table--the kind with
little drawers all over the place for makeup that Brenda had filled with
leftover computer cords and extra zip drives--and stared gloomily into the
Across town, Lacey was having a similar kind of morning. Even a few minutes
on the back porch with last month's Kansas City Times wasn't cheering her
up. It took her two weeks to work her way through one Sunday paper and even
if she hadn't excelled at differential equations and lambda calculus in college
(and high school), she would have known that at this rate, she would never,
ever catch up. Not at this rate and in this universe, at least.
They met at the JavaRanch Coffee House at 6 AM, as usual. Powered up the
nitrogen cappucino maker, as usual. Ran a browser history searchbot as usual
to clean up the onsite computers in the lab. (The cowboys had their wild
side but they also liked to think that anything they did there was private.)
It was like any other day, except that both Brenda and Lacey had simultaneously
gone over the edge of their coffee house tolerance. Brenda put on her frilly
latte apron upside down and the eyes that peeked out from behind the apron's
eyelet trim were glazed and dangerous and bright red. Lacey walked around
singing "Java Jive" but with alarmingly different words. She also denied
being the one to write on the coffee specials board
but there was little doubt, in Brenda's mind or the minds of the fifteen
frightened cowboys who suddenly remembered they'd left a brisket in the oven,
who was responsible.
"Lacey...here Lacey..." Brenda crept around the empty coffee house, apron
now completely covering her head, which of course made it a little hard to
find Lacey but she didn't really seem to notice.
"Lacey?" Brenda peeked into the bean barrel. Cowboy Pete was still hiding
there but that was normal.
"Lacey?" Nobody was in the broom closet but Steve Ballmer, as usual, still
trying to hook up a Windows server and make it run.
"Lacey?! Where are you!" Brenda even went up to the attic but no one was
there but Scott McNealy and Bill Gates, gazing fondly into each others' eyes.
Brenda rolled hers and headed downstairs.
"Here I am...I think. I think it's me. I might have turned into a giant bean.
Do I seem a little Arabica to you?" Lacey had poured herself a half-and-half
bath (hazelnut flavor) and was using one of the bigger brown sugar lumps
as a loofah. "Could you hand me the chocolate shavings? I think I need a
Brenda realized immediately that Lacey had gone round the bend, or "round
the bean" as they say at the corporate headquarters in Seattle. She drained
the tub, rinsed Lacey off good and proper, dumped her in the car and they
both drove to a tofu bar in Kansas city where they downed nonfat decaf water
and soybeans until they both felt comfortable enough to address what had
"Lacey, we've been making coffee every day for three years straight. We need
a frickin' vacation."
Lacey flinched at the word coffee but nodded. "Can we go somewhere where
there is no...coffee? And where nobody will ask me about output streams?
It ain't just the coffee. It's the Java. I mean, I love it and all, but...sometimes
a girl needs a break. All beans all the time...I mean, a girl can only take
so much getting and setting and brewing!"
Brenda smiled and nodded. And thus began the great Thelma and Louise style
road trip,except that there were no felony assaults and no suicide, though
they did rent a nice red convertible. Brenda and Lacey did everything they
could that was the opposite of what they'd been doing for the last three
They drank Tang and tap water for the first three weeks to flush the toxins
from their systems, or at least to swap toxins.
They went to procedural programming classes and wrote thousands of lines
of brittle, difficult-to-maintain code.
They crept into fine restaurants and substituted volcanic sand for Folger's
They got AOL email accounts and used their birthdays as their passwords, and
attached their signatures in graphics-infested Microsoft Word documents.
And when they were strong enough, they stayed at a Motel 6, poured cups full
of what is charitably called coffee there, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
When they got back, the cowboys were overjoyed and immensely relieved to
see them. Zeke had broken the nitrogen cappucino machine, and there had been
a brief but painful episode wherein shaving cream had gotten mixed up with
the whipped cream. Sid was sleeping in the computer lab to make sure no one
saw his bookmarks. The whole lab was in such a state of disrepair and had
so many viruses that even Bill Gates had been horrified, and he'd skedaddled,
leaving Scott upstairs alone and in tears.
Brenda and Lacey sent the lot of them home, called up a couple of Miss Kitty's
girls who daylighted as maids, and, happy to be home and desperate for a
decent cup of coffee and a stable programming language, sat down in the computer
lab with big cups and big smiles.
Solveig Haugland is an independent trainer
and author near Boulder, Colorado. Her businesses include GetOpenOffice.org for those switching
from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org (www.getopenoffice.org); Techwriter Stuff: The Single Source,
t-shirts and posters for techwriters and those who love them; and of course
Design Patterns, the original reusable solutions to recurring problems.