Food & Drink

Chew on This!

A few weeks ago, I drove to Apex to check out a new coffeehouse called The Wake Zone Espresso. When I got there, however, there was a line out the door. Turns out I'd arrived during their grand opening special, when regular size lattes and mochas were going for the bargain price of one dollar. I'm not big on standing in line, so I decided to return another day.

That's just what I did, and I found Wake Zone to be a cheery place with a distinctive Caribbean motif. They served a pretty good cup of coffee, too, brewed with beans from a roaster called Crimson Cup in Ohio. But that first experience set off a chain of questions in my mind -- about coffeehouses specifically, and about bargains and standing in line in general.

For starters, why can't I get a coffee drink -- or even a plain old cup of coffee, for that matter -- in a reasonable size? By my estimation, the typical coffee shop offers roughly a million variations on the caffeinated beverage theme. None of those variations comes in a traditional 6-ounce or 8-ounce cup. Most of the time, that's all I want. And it's certainly all I need.

Another question: What kind of person stands in line, sometimes for half an hour or more, to save a couple of bucks on a latte, or to get a free ice cream cone at Ben & Jerry's? In many cases, I'd wager that the savings are more than offset by the cost of the gasoline used to get there. Or maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe the festive mood of a grand opening and the thrill of getting a bargain are themselves of sufficient value -- let's call it "entertainment value" -- to justify the time and expense.

I suppose that explanation would answer another question, too: Why do people wait for an hour or more to get a table at a restaurant -- usually a chain restaurant like Cheesecake Factory or Outback Steakhouse? They must actually enjoy being shoehorned into a bar and nursing overpriced drinks until their pager goes off.

Sorry if I sound a little crabby today. Must be all that caffeine.