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People who complain about Starbucks’ prices don’t get that you’re not just paying for the coffee. You’re paying for the privilege of not having to talk to coworkers at the office coffee maker.

To be clear: I dig my colleagues. Especially the ones reading this blog right now. What I do not dig is being grilled about my reproductive choices while trying to get a beverage. Having hauled fanny into the office one day this week for a meeting that was then inexplicably canceled, I was out of breath, out of patience and out of time to stop for my regular $5 latte. That forced me to the Cremora Gulag  — the office break room, where I was at the mercy of the slowest hot water dispenser in the United States while settling for a cup of tea.

One of my colleagues walked in and for reasons unclear as it was 9:17 a.m. and there was no precedent in our previous six total minutes of interaction over the span of five years that would have made what was coming appropriate, barked, “When are you going to have that second baby?”

Now, my gut reaction was to slam my half-full Darjeeling down and bark back, “Are you frakking kidding me?!” But instead I gave a tight-lipped smile and through gritted teeth said, “Oh, well, um, not sure about that.” While the water dripped, dripped, dripped, the colleague pressed on, intently concerned about expansion plans for our family. Growing flustered I threw out a piece of information that she in no way deserved but that I hoped would end whatever was happening: “Actually we might be done.”

No, no, no. This wouldn’t do. Because I did not ask, she explained why, throwing in a “you moron” headshake as punctuation. It seems that when I or my spouse am dying of cancer some day, it will be unfair to our daughter to not have left her with a sibling to help cope with the experience.

She had no way of knowing that with the cancer admonishment, she’d rocketed into Seriously, You Need to Stop Talking Right Now Territory. But at that moment, the very droplet of water fell into the cup that marked the minimum height for it to have become a cup, and not a shot, of tea. I jammed the hot water handle into the upright position and gave a tense chuckle and a “Well we’ll see…” while racing for the door.

Lesson learned. There is always time for Starbucks. Because the consistently surly and incompetent barista at my location usually doesn’t even care about the contents of my cup, much less my uterus.

Photo: R.E.

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