Cultural Wake-up Call

Coffee.

Specifically, Starbucks or other gourmet-styled java.

That was the new cultural reality illuminated in the dawn after we were invaded from the South by G’night Irene and the remnants of Lee.

After the onslaught of Hurricane Irene, especially, people all around Baltimore drove across city or county lines—with winds still gusting to 40 m.p.h. and residual rains blurring their windshields—searching for the safe haven of a cuppa joe or a venti Red Eye.

Two Baltimore Sun reporters noted the aura of desperation, with Liz Bowie chronicling the hunt for caffeine in a short vignette about iced coffee drinker Lowery Adams: “The morning for her and her father had been a series of coffee dead-ends, relieved shortly before 11 a.m. when they found satisfaction in Mt. Washington. ‘He got his coffee,’ she said. ‘He was much more manageable after that.’”

As a society newly accustomed to the Starbucks-every-few-blocks phenomenon, the haunting nature of addiction hit nearly as hard as the storm for those bleary-eyed aficionados willing to risk their lives for a fix . Whole bean coffee could not be made in the tens of thousands of homes without electricity. (Who would slum it with Nescafe?). So, at the few open coffee shops with power, people lined up out the door and down the block.

A neighbor told me about one woman who drove across roads with downed trees and wires, from outside-the-beltway Hunt Valley to a café in Towson.

Standing in line, she said. “There’s something in that caramel macchiato I need.”

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