Do you know how much I love paper cups?
Sometimes I wonder if my love for coffee has more to do with the cups they come in rather than the coffee itself. I have a habit of collecting paper cups(properly washed, of course) only to have them thrown away by someone else.
In my previous job, located in the middle of a busy shopping belt, I frequently buy coffee for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner from one of the many cafes dotting the area. Of all the coffee houses, I frequented Starbucks the most, not because they had the best coffee, but because it was located nearest to my office. Every Christmas season, my cubicle will see the addition of another red Starbucks Holiday Cup. I kept one every year since I first started working there. I’d even find a good use for them – potpourri holders.
I loved looking at them. It’s amazing how many times I’d been inspired to do something creative just by looking at the paper cups lined up on top of my monitor. Once I wrote a story about a sad coffee bean. Another time I designed a book cover based on the color scheme of the cups, just for fun. The cleaning lady at the office would make sure she put the cups back in their exact location when she was done wiping the top of my monitor, something I greatly appreciate. The people I worked with were aware of my love for paper cups, some even offering their cups for me to keep. But paper cup-collecting is a very personal thing for me. I like to get to know the cup myself before welcoming it into my life.
One day, out of the blue, I find my cups missing from their usual location. I tried to locate the missing cups in the pantry but was met by a stranger from the cleaning company. He said the old cleaning lady was sick, so he’s taking over for the day. I asked him if he’d seen my potpourri-filled paper cups. He said he’d thrown them away because he thought they were filled with “mouldy things”. The next day, the regular cleaning lady resumed work and the first thing she did when she saw me was to apologize for the loss of my cups.
My most prized possession was a set of slender, unusually-sized cups(too big for an espresso, more like a generous demitasse). I bought them for a few bucks from a shop selling odds and ends near my house. They came in a pack of about 10 pieces and each one of them was beautiful. The base color was off-white. I’m not sure whether this was on purpose or because the paper had slightly yellowed with age, but it made a nice canvas for the main element – an exquisitely-rendered watercolor painting of different flowers. It stayed in my kitchen drawer for probably 7 years before I decided to use one for a special occasion (I got a pack of fancy tea as a birthday present), then another, and yet another, until only three cups were left. After that I decided I don’t want to be using them anymore as they were too precious to me. A few months ago, I find them gone. My mother had thrown them away, without my knowledge. She said that the cups looked too old to be useful.
Each time my cherished collection was thrown away I’d feel a little sad, but only for a minute. No matter how sentimental I feel about something, I accept that most material things in life are disposable.
I love paper cups a lot, but I treasure relationships with people more.
PS: Sticking a “Do Not Throw” message helps. :)