On the way to work last week I saw two guys standing outside in sweatshirts and vests, drinking coffee out of paper cups with sleeves. They were talking it over. It looked to me like they would have it all worked out by the time the coffee was gone.

Coffee is many things.

It is a good starter.

It brings people together:

A welcome.

An introduction.


Time for a break — that break is important. It marks the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

It gives that time to scope out how the next operation is going to go: what is first, what is the priority, who will do what.

Coffee marks the time of day.

Some have one; some have many.

I can have one any time.

Coffee is mandatory.

At the grand opening there must be coffee. At a diner, coffee to start.

Is there any coffee?

Who made the coffee?

Who made THIS coffee?

You call this coffee?

I can remember a time I did not drink coffee and felt left out. I knew I was missing something. It looked like a good time. The most grand expression of this was Ye Olde Coffee Shop at 410-412 Main St. in Rockland.

In the heyday of the place, the local news media gathered for coffee in the morning. The Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, Courier-Gazette and WRKD newsies, all competitors, dropped their swords for some good conversation. I am sure it was a part of their day they looked forward to.

Also there was what I called The Big Table, near the back of the room. There the who’s who of businesses took their break together. I used to like to go and watch and listen. At one time my father had sat at The Big Table when he sold insurance.

One day, near the end of this era, I was sitting near The Big Table. It may have been obvious that I was interested. Ted Andrus looked over at me and asked, “Would you like to sit with us?”

I had arrived!

I was not even drinking coffee back then, but I was literally sitting at The Big Table.

When I worked in factories, the coffee break shut the whole operation down. This created a feeling of togetherness and sharing time over coffee.

In Spruce Head, the break came after intense activity like packing up and loading the truck for Boston. The truck took off, the door came down and it was time for coffee; really bad coffee from a crappy coffee maker. Then we planned out the rest of the day.

I became a real coffee drinker under the tutelage of the wonderful Patrick Reilley and his Rock City Coffee. I moved through the stages: moving forward to black coffee and ditching the cream and sugar, then to black coffee with a shot of espresso.

From there I tripped out on coffee with Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda. He offered me a cafe cubano with strong espresso and a small glass of ice water as a chaser. What followed was a moment of acceleration comparable to driving a 702-horsepower pickup truck with Neal Shepard.

I am the coffee maker for The Courier-Gazette. The page you are reading runs on my coffee.

May I pour you a cup?

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Mixed media image by Glenn Billington