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Is the coffee you were just served really coffee? Or is it decaf? - Mark's Journal
mhaithaca
mhaithaca
Is the coffee you were just served really coffee? Or is it decaf?
I'm stunned and upset at the wholesale deception I've learned about, thanks to @upupandagay and his blog post suggesting that many flight attendants are surreptitiously replacing real coffee with decaf to simplify their lives and keep passengers more docile and manageable. I've already sent a couple of brief Twitter responses and posted a comment via his blog, but I'm fleshing it out to talk about here, as well.

CoffeeI assume most flight attendants, like most waiters and waitresses, have gotten the message that serving caffeinated coffee to someone who asks for decaf could be disastrous; some people react badly to caffeine, either by being unable to sleep that night (like my mom) or with a cardiac event due to high blood pressure or the like. So, you're probably not going to brew all real coffee and pretend some of it's decaf. But are you sure there isn't the potential for problems in the other direction?

The jury's not yet in on the studies that suggest the body will start metabolizing caffeine it thinks is there, whether it's there or not. But, I certainly believe it's possible that a person who drinks decaf when his body is used to caffeinated coffee may be inadvertently doing more than taking in liquid.

Sounds Pavlovian, the idea that the smell of coffee will make your body start hormonally and chemically shifting to process caffeine, but research shows there might be detrimental effects to the health if those processes kick in when there's actually no caffeine present. Until this gets clearer, I'm playing it safe by not drinking decaf, ever. Or, so I thought. Are you slipping me a mickey? Whenever I ask for coffee in the afternoon or evening, especially, or outside the coffee shop or diner context where I can be pretty confident, I always ask, "You're sure this isn't decaf, right?" Are you lying right to my face?

Tony on US AirwaysWould you give out all veggieburgers to passengers who thought they were getting beef? What if one of those people was allergic to soy? You probably didn't ask because it would give away your ruse, and it didn't occur to him to raise the issue because the beef he thought he was getting isn't an issue.

What if one of the people you're giving decaf to is stepping off your plane and into the pilot's seat of a private aircraft for a flight elsewhere? She thought she had caffeine before she climbed into the cockpit, but maybe not! How about the passenger stepping off your plane and into the cab of a long-haul truck that'll be hurtling down the highway overnight?

It's cute to blog about pulling the wool over the eyes of all those passengers who are now docile and easier to manage instead of hyped up, but it's not cute to actually lie about what you're serving passengers, lie about what you're giving someone to put in their body, and mess with people's metabolisms for your personal convenience. Please, please, please don't ever lie to me about what food and beverage you're handing me.
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Comments
bcampbell From: bcampbell Date: October 15th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm more concerned about the COFFEE COMING OUT OF THE PERSON'S FINGER in the picture up there, I need to find this person, NOW.
queenmabwords From: queenmabwords Date: October 15th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for that.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 15th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

That's a spoon, but I like the way you think!
bcampbell From: bcampbell Date: October 15th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aha. I see it, it's the reflection that's trowing me off.

I really like the idea of someone who can magically generate coffee from their fingers, though.
aedifica From: aedifica Date: October 15th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Did you ever see the movie "The Electric Grandmother"? I think it was based on a Ray Bradbury story. Anyway, she can do that with orange juice and I think also coffee.
queenmabwords From: queenmabwords Date: October 15th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the memory!
aedifica From: aedifica Date: October 16th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I just caught myself whistling one of the songs from it. Off to see if Netflix has it!
fabunobo From: fabunobo Date: October 15th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you're overreacting, Mrs. Crawford.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 15th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think until I know the actual health ramifications for sure, I'm going to play it safe, and I don't want anyone lying to me, ever, about whether what they're giving me to eat or drink is what they say it is or what I asked for. "Oops! Sorry! We were out of the virgin punch you asked for so I served you the one with booze in it. That's OK, right?"
fabunobo From: fabunobo Date: October 15th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Many years ago, some nutjob-stalker-serial-killer in a bar asked me if I’d like a beer. Always willing to “go the distance” for free booze, I said, ”Yes!” Brought back from the bar was some beer I’d never heard of. I thought, meh? Booze is booze, right? I took a sip and immediately knew it was non-alcohol beer and I was like, “What the frak?” Well, “frak” didn’t exist then, but I think you get my meaning.
queenmabwords From: queenmabwords Date: October 15th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I use coffee with caffeine as a way to control headaches, this could really put a cramp in my trip.
From: noelove Date: October 15th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I will not lie when I was a barista, I would often make decaf drinks for asshole customers. But never caf for decaf because that would be really mean.
kinnerc From: kinnerc Date: October 15th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
You realize I sometimes have trouble figuring things like this out, but this response is tongue-in-cheek, right?
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 15th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

No. I don't want anyone lying to me, ever, about whether what they're giving me to eat or drink is what they say it is or what I asked for. Someone who admits doing so, after the fact, should be fired for it.
From: mantoothcornell Date: October 15th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I worked at a dinner theatre, all the coffee was decaf. It was just easier than having two different coffeemakers/pots. Of course I would tell people if they asked, but most didn't notice/care.
emaline412 From: emaline412 Date: October 15th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, I'm with you. and I don't think it's cute that he blogged about it.
(Deleted comment)
seity1 From: seity1 Date: October 15th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm more concerned with the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee then the fact its decaffeinated. I'd rather have nothing than decaf anything.
ruhe From: ruhe Date: October 16th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Which is why I only do swiss-water decaf...
marwen42 From: marwen42 Date: October 15th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very very very agreed! I've used the anti-jet-lag diet to help me out on my overseas trips, and that included a specific necessity for caffeine at a certain time during the flight. I would be peeved if three prior days of diet modification was wasted due to decaf coffee.
marco235 From: marco235 Date: October 15th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those of us who can actually taste a difference between caf and decaf will notice. And then there will be a lovely conversation with the gate attendant upon arrival, with further escalation if necessary.
kaitl From: kaitl Date: October 16th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)
It appears the article from the upupandagay blog has been deleted... interesting

I'm a person who cannot have caffeine after about 2pm or I will not sleep that night.

I agree that people have a right to know what they are or are not ingesting...
perisoft From: perisoft Date: October 16th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
How about the passenger stepping off your plane and into the cab of a long-haul truck that'll be hurtling down the highway overnight?

Other arguments aside, if a trucker is relying on his in-flight coffee to avoid an accident, the lack of caffeine is the least of his problems.

That reasoning is an odd kind of ends-justify-the-means twist; you could use the same logic to determine that denying a line of coke to a guy you meet on the street is immoral since he might need the energy to drive all night to rescue a puppy.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 16th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

I don't have a presumed business relationship with the random guy I meet on the street, and I have no obligation to him. My strong feeling is that a person serving me food or drink has an obligation to be honest about what's being served to me. I'd much rather someone say "Sorry, all I have is decaf" than deceive me into thinking I'm ingesting something I'm not.
From: ext_210625 Date: October 17th, 2009 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting thoughts, thought I'm not sure about the health risks as, even you said, they're still putting together the data reguarding digesting caffine that you THINK you're receiving. Most the coffee boarded is decaf anyway,we dont have a choice in what is boarded.

Sometimes, I do mention that its decaf, a lot of time, I don't even remember to say it is. I brew what I'm given, and when asked for coffee, yes I have it.

p.s. the post wasn't deleted, it crashed for a bit. haha!
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 17th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

You brew what you're given, or you trade away the real coffee for decaf when catering shows up?

Look, if the airline makes a corporate decision to only serve decaf, fine, that's not your fault, but it's still your responsibility not to lie about what food and drink you're serving to passengers. Meantime, if you're deciding what to stock, or you're deciding what to brew, it's still your responsibility not to lie about what food and drink you're serving to passengers.

Thanks for chiming in. :-)
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: October 17th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
It never ever occurs to me that people are lying about what's in food or drink served to me. Yikes.
brazenredhead From: brazenredhead Date: October 17th, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to serve people decaf, but only when we were out of regular and I knew they couldn't / wouldn't wait the extra 5 minutes for the real stuff. Then, when the real stuff finished brewing, I'd refill with that.

Honestly? I'm ok with that. I'll never do the other way around-- I had a friend in high school who was allergic to caffeine-- but it saved me SO much time and trouble when there was a delay in brewing.

Only having decaf? That's another story. Suck it up and tell people.

P.S. Decaf is usually only 97% decaffeinated by trade; it's hard to get all the stuff out completely. So, technically they're still getting caffeine. Just not as much as they think... ;-)
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: October 17th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

I get the convenience factor, I really do, but please let me make the decision. If I can have the decaf right now or the coffee in five minutes, I'll wait the five minutes, every single time.
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