Heroes

Customers Were Not Prepared For What Their Coffee Shop Refused To Do

The morning coffee. The afternoon coffee. Any coffee. The getting of the day's cup(s) of coffee is basically a sanctified and inviolable ritual. To break its rules would be to upset the very fabric of society, to end order and peace on our city's streets. Right?

Customers Were Not Prepared For What Their Coffee Shop Refused To Do

Because we're really all just this lady:

Blissed out from yoga, trying to get our decaf coffee on.


The kind (or grouchy) coffee person will give it to us with that little paper sleeve without our even asking, and we'll wander out into the noonday sun and drink it slowly, trying not to burn our tongue.

This social experiment aims to snap us out of our automatic apartment-yoga-coffee-office routine.

(Or, y'know, whatever your routine is. My day certainly doesn't start with yoga. What am I, a flexible rooster?)

A coffee shop asks its customers whether they want their beverage "for here or to go," and when someone says they'd like it "to go," the guy behind the counter asks for their to-go cup.

What's that? No to-go cup? Jeez, that's too bad — because they're not offering paper or plastic cups anymore.

Just miles and miles o' mugs.

People are a little bit surprised.

But they take it in stride. At least, these folks did. (Must not have been filmed in New York?)

In the video capturing this little project, most people stall for a minute, unsure of what to do.

Then they say, "OK, for here then." And they just go on living their lives.

It's funny to watch. But what's really great is how little happens.

There's a very good chance that if we changed the behavior of businesses, we awesome individuals could save 160 million cups per day. And I like how easy that sounds.

Want that obligatory holy-cow number again?

That's how many cups we're using every day for our mocha-choca-latta-ya-yas.

But this isn't a lecture from Professor Boringpants. (He's on sabbatical.)

This is an impassioned inquiry into the invisible hands that shape our everyday behavior. We're not here to ask, "Why aren't you a better person who brews a fair-trade coffee at home every morning and carries it in a BPA-free thermos to work?"

No, we're to ask:

Why do thousands of businesses give us 160 million pieces of garbage that we then have to throw in the trash every day?
True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


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