Serial and Frappuccinos: My Favorite Gateway Drugs

Last week’s routine maintenance made me think about gateway drugs. Not actual drugs. Though I will just say that I don’t think pot is a gateway drug to anything other than diner breakfast. And even without pot, that was something I wanted after every night out in college!

But no, I’m taking about gateways to other addictions. Like…


The Frappuccino. When I was in high school, Starbucks was on its rise toward “cool.” I’m sure it was already cool in other places, but in upstate NY, we were just starting to get more of them and I was seeing Starbucks cups pop up on TV such that I knew it was a thing I was supposed to want. I actually remember my first trip to Starbucks.

I was on my way to my old public high school to watch my childhood best friend play lacrosse. I had left that high school to attend private school for a variety of reasons and one of them was the social anxiety the place had given me. So I wasn’t super excited to head back there…but I was a supportive friend, so I had every intention of cheering her on. I decided that if I had to go alone (this friend and I didn’t have any overlap in our social circles), I could at least look cool. And that meant bringing a Starbucks coffee with me. It would be something to do while sitting in the stands (drink the coffee) and also be a little bit of confidence in my hand. (Wow, it sucks being a teen, no? I so wish I could go back in time and tell her “You are going to love your adult life—just relax! It all works out for us!” I also wish I could tell her “Someday, you will be able to sit alone anywhere and everywhere because you will always have the whole internet in your hand”…though I’m not sure that’s a reassuring message given my phone addiction.)

OKAY. Enough parentheticals. Back to Starbucks. The only thing standing in between me and peak coolness was…the disgusting taste of coffee. But never fear! There is a coffee milkshake. With whipped cream! And chocolate chips! I promptly ordered the one that I think now is called a Java Chip Frappuccino, but I know it had a different name the first time I had it. And it tastes like…

Coffee! Yuck! Seventeen-year-old me definitely thought frappuccinos were…difficult to drink. Little sips, let the bitterness grow on you, takes me forever to finish it difficult. I’m pretty sure that game was on a Friday afternoon. Because I remember the next week thinking, it would be cool to show up to school with Starbucks in the morning! And so I went again and got a white chocolate mocha (which I believe wins the award for the most sugary drink at Starbucks? Or at least it did back then). And I remember that I ordered it because a celebrity called it her favorite drink in a magazine (I think the celebrity was Katie Holmes. I also think this was A LIE…unless she means favorite drink she is never allowed to have because CALORIES.) That one was hard to drink, too. It tasted really strongly of coffee to me. Which is HILARIOUS now. Because I don’t even taste the coffee in a drink like that anymore! I don’t even put sugar in my coffee anymore. And if there’s no milk, I can drink it black and still enjoy it. But sometimes you need a little sugar to be the gateway to your coffee addiction! (Damn, I love parantheticals…but I would also just like to acknowledge that sugar is even more addicting than caffeine. If you told me no more coffee forever tomorrow, I would be very sad. If you said no more sugar, I would murder you.) And now for my next favorite gateway drug…


Serial. Like many (most?) people, I’m not sure I even knew what “podcast” meant before I discovered Serial. But when one of my smartest, most informed friends suggested I try it out, I was willing to figure out how to do this whole podcast thing. And then I was SO hooked. Like, sad that my commute isn’t longer because I can’t quite get through the whole episode before work, hooked. Or, email my assistant (who I made listen!) and tell her to come directly to my office to discuss this week’s episode before even taking off her coat on Thursday mornings. (Yeah, I’m a weird boss.), hooked.

Even Sesame Street was hooked!
And Serial was totally my gateway to:

Freakonomics, This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, Pod Save America, Tara and Johnny, and so many more.

Including Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Which was my routine maintenance for last week. Because for Christmas, I asked for two tickets to see this podcast taped live. Naturally, I brought the friend who introduced me to podcasts! And it was so much fun. Fun to see the outtakes and the “reactions” and “background” they record for when they’re editing and we don’t laugh properly or applaud at the right time. Fun to see the facial expressions of the speakers and realize that the man whose voice you know so well doesn’t look at all like you thought he would! And also just fun because it’s the kind of thing you never would have done (and probably wouldn’t have been an option!) without the gateway of Serial.

I was going to try to think of more gateway drugs, but this post is already long…so tell me, what’s your favorite gateway drug?


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