…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Sunday, June 04, 2006


In my last entry I freely admitted that I suck for failing to discuss with my EEG tech, “Misty,” the immediate dangers of greenhouse gasses, despite Al Gore’s well-reasoned entreaties to help spread the word. Then Friday morning I bore witness to the awfulness that is this billboard at fourfour.

I want to be part of the solution. Really, I do. Which is why I now realize I can no longer keep silent about a social ill that has recently seeped into my consciousness: Insulair™ Coffee Cups To Go!

OK, this just pisses me off. I understand that we’re a go-go society, that we have meetings to catch and deadlines to meet, that the habit of drinking a cup of coffee while skimming the morning paper died when I Love Lucy went off the air. I get it.

I also came to understand long ago that coffee mugs don’t travel well. This when my mother, apparently after years of psychic torture, let slip a whiff of displeasure at my father’s habit of microwaving a cup of Yuban instant for the road then driving to their destination at a steady crawl of 10 miles an hour to avoid spillage. One night as Dad watched the carousel turn round and round, waiting for the ding of doneness, my mother hissed at me through gritted teeth, “He knows we’re late for bowling.”

Finally, I understand all too well that a daily Starbucks stop can get pricey. I’ve lately been weighing the financial pros and cons of taking mass transit to work. I save $70 per month in payroll parking deductions, plus another $40 or more in gas for my relatively fuel-efficient coupe. But subtract $52 for my monthly Metro pass and another $50 in Starbucks expenses (because I can’t bring food or drink on the bus and the coffee brewed at my workplace is soul-destroyingly weak) and I’m saving a grand total of eight bucks. Plus that whole ozone thingy, which brings me back to my point.

Travel mugs, people! They’re nice. They keep our coffee warmer longer. Hell, I’ve been known to drink from mine all morning, break for lunch, and revisit it afterward—only to find my coffee still retaining heat! (My partner thinks I'm courting bacterial distress since I drink my brew with milk, but so far, so good.)

I can understand why folks who buy their morning fix at the coffee house might balk at the idea of carrying a travel mug to and from work—though Starbucks’ll hit you with a 10-cent cup-saver discount if you do! But thinking back to the days when I wasn’t considered too damaged to drive and was decanting a home brew strong enough to slough my stomach lining, I can’t imagine a circumstance under which I would have wanted faux café cups—unless maybe I knew my property was being eyed for the next city landfill and I naïvely thought there were sweet, sweet profits to be made.

Given that most regular readers of my blog are far better people than I when it comes to thinking globally, I know I’m hitting the wrong demographic here, just as Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is likely to be seen overwhelmingly by greenish Democratics for whom the 2000 election decision was at least as bitter a defeat as it was for Gore himself. But what surprises me most about faux café cups is that it’s not just the environmentally insensitive big-box stores selling these things: I saw Insulair™ 10-packs this week at Whole Foods, right next to the Planet green cleaning products.

Before we start a letter-writing campaign to ask Whole Foods to stop carrying Insulair™ Coffee Cups To Go! let’s give the product literature a chance to make its case:

“Drink Through Dome Lid provides leak-resistant secure fit.”

My Cup™ has a secure lid too, vacuum-sealed even. (On a copyediting note, they could afford a hyphen in “leak-resistant” but not “Drink Through”?)

“Triple Wall Cup for extra strength and sturdiness to-go.”

My Cup™ is sturdy, so sturdy that it doesn’t have to be thrown away after one use. (“To-go” doesn’t even need a hyphen here and they still deprived “Triple Wall” of one.)

“Channels of Air provide insulation to keep drinks hot and protect hands.”

I’ve never known air to keep anything hot.

“Paper Construction creates a true coffee house experience, and it's disposable.”

Well, I’m all for disposable coffee house experiences, but I think we’re putting a lot of pressure on these cups if we’re looking to them to provide plushy seats and pretentious patrons too. They do come with Wi-Fi, right?

“Tapered Base easily fits into car cup holders.”

This is listed under “patented features.” Does My Cup™ know it’s in violation of a patent?

“No cup sleeve to get in the way!”

I never knew cup sleeves to be a pox on humanity. At any rate, My Cup™ doesn’t have or need one either.

Only one reason remains why coffee drinkers may prefer the Insulair™ Coffee Cups To Go! to My Cup™: infantilization. The classic paper-and-plastic assemblage we’ve been sucking on since the dawn of the latter coffee house boom of the ’90s has become as comforting to us as a mother’s teat, a bona fide adult sippy cup. No wonder we can’t let go.

Step away from the seductive Drink Through Dome Lid. Liberate yourselves from the culture of disposability. The young sippy-cup sippers of the world thank you in advance for your efforts.

Whew! That really took a load off my conscience. Now back to my regularly scheduled programming of tiresome self-obsession.


Blogger sporksforall said...

If I give you $2.00 a day and also promise to knock any "coffee cup to go" out of anyone's hand should I see such an abomination, would it make you feel better? Also, just so you know, I've twice gotten iced coffee in my hot travel cup to save the plastic. Yea me.

7:45 PM  
Blogger treecup said...

Ok, you know from a decade or more of friendship that I'm so rarely a preachy vegetarian it'd be hard to guess I'm a vegetarian unless you actually watch me eating, right? But as long as you're on a save the ozone kick at the moment, and an alert your friends and neighbors kick, I can hardly be blamed for offering up one little tidbit of encouragement to come back to the fold, can I?:

"The typical US diet, about 28 per cent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories, say the researchers, who presented their results at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week.

"By comparison, the difference in annual emissions between driving a typical saloon car and a hybrid car, which runs off a rechargeable battery and gasoline, is just over 1 tonne. If you don't want to go vegan, choosing less-processed animal products and poultry instead of red meat can help reduce the greenhouse load."

8:51 AM  
Blogger scout said...

No, you can't be blamed at all. In fact, I'd be inclined to praise you. I'm not sure I could go vegan, but not a week goes by that I don't think about returning to the loving embrace of vegetarianism. And I'm not sure But whatever would I do with my Showime rotisserie? is a good enough excuse to chase the inclination from my head.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous hopskipjump said...

I checked out Why do they pictorily compare Insulair with a thermos when they never make a written case against the poor thermos? However, one advantage, of course, is that companies can emblazon their logo on the Insulair. Most humorus claim: the inside seam of the Insulair is sealed so "paper fibers can't mix with a drink and alter it's taste and aroma." According to their graph, Insulair keeps your drink warm for 15 minutes longer than a regular paper cup would. Big deal. You can buy Insulair at retailers where you might as well buy a thermos. (They also make the Ecosmart cup which contains some recycled paper. Again, big deal.)

My father designed Sweetheart paper cups. They were normal coffee cup size (small). They used to come with little handles to keep your hands cool. In them days you ate and drank in special rooms called the dining room or lunch room. Grownups didn't carry sippy cups. The last time I was in a "coffee house" I had coffee in a china cup and saucer along with an olive and cream cheese sandwhich. Back then the Thermos was for long road trips, construction workers, picnics, and football games. I guess things have changed since the middle of the last century.

10:19 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

This post is fabulous, not only for content but for the writing.

People at my office can't even be bothered to wash a coffee mug so we must keep disposables on hand. It's maddening.


8:28 PM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Hmm, some new blood around these parts.
Not ever having been one of the "coffee generation"--although who can't get behind a product that both calms you down and perks you up, right?--I have found myself ablaze in wonderment at the industrial catering to those who are. When the number of cup holders in a car is more important than its fuel efficiency (which, judging by American advertising practices, it is to the consumer), we should all be very afraid. Since this level of coffee consciousness/obsessiveness has taken hold (beginning in the 80s, by my humble calculations based on nothing in particular) of the American public, we have elected 3 Republicans and 1 Centricat and sold our souls, land, and jobs to Asia. Coincidence? I think not.

12:32 PM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

What about all the extraneous capital letters in the Drink Through Dome Lid? And the fact that you can only drink through a dome if someone has punched a hole in it....

12:25 PM  

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