# Chronic Coffee Oscillation Problem

Okay, so for the longest time I’ve been diagnosed by my coworkers as being chronically incapable of carrying a cup of coffee to my desk or around the office without spilling anything and thereby causing the cleaning staff grief and naturally my coworkers amusement. This happens despite my absolute best attempts to keep the coffee cup level and to walk as smoothly as possible. Short of moving at a snail’s pace, this always happens.

However, I think I have a rational explanation for this.

I’ve determined, through trial and error, much spilled coffee, and many paper towels that it is not, in fact, clumsiness that is at the heart of this problem.

The real problem is that, given the general dimensions of a coffee cup, my height, and my walking speed that I have exactly and precisely the right gait to set up a Standing Wave in my coffee within the confines of the cup.

It doesn’t seem to matter which coffee cup I use until I get into Truly Great coffee cups of impressive size, but I attribute this to my gait being right in the middle of the respective measurements necessary for this effect over a wide assortment of vessesl of basically similar shape.

Therefore, much like the Tacoma Narrows bridge, a relatively minor disturbance builds up to tremendous levels cumulatively until All Hell Breaks Loose.

I just thought I had to share my astounding and truly meaningful revelation.

Anybody else have this problem?

About 90% of the time I’m drinking coffee (not any other beverage) - I will manage to spill at least some of it. But unlike your dillemma, I beleive that mine is caused by a combination of clumsiness and, well… not having my coffee.

These are valid points to consider, and yet for my case I shall valiantly (if pointlessly) attempt to find less obvious reasons for my affliction.

This is why I only drink coffee from mugs with lids (travel mugs). I was pretty sure I was just an idiot who couldn’t be trusted with a open cup of coffee. I see you’ve successfully shifted the blame to physics. That’s going to be my excuse from now on.
[Scotty]
But Capt, you cannot change the laws of physics!
[/scotty]

I managed to survive some 15 years as a waitress and bartender, and never spilled coffee or any other food or beverage item on anyone. However, I can not make it from the kitchen to my computer each morning without my dog following me, licking up the drippies.

I should probably buy a tray for home use, huh?

I tend to walk fairly quickly but never spill coffee if I’m carrying a cup. The trick is to keep your wrist and elbow relaxed and supple to let the cup “float” so that the oscillations from your walking are dampened out. On the other hand, I have been known to absentmindedly reach for my cup and try to take a sip with the rim about an inch away from my lips. If I didn’t have a bushy beard, I’d need a bib.

I love travel mugs.

Thank you so much…I thought I was the only person this happens to. Maybe I should grow a bushy beard, too. That way I could make some extra money, I guess:

“Watch the Bearded Lady try to have her coffee and miss - an hilarious spectacle for a small price!”

If they want an encore, I’ll do the trick where I look at my watch while holding a full cup of coffee. Or the one where I do that “Beats me!” gesture, throwing the contents of my mug over my shoulder.

This doesn’t even work for me, I distinctly remember getting a travel mug for this very purpose, and one day, on the way to work, I placed it on the nice FLAT, sturdy dash of my car (it was one of those wide-base mugs with rubber at the bottom so it wouldn’t slip), all this AFTER I HAD STOPPED AT A RED LIGHT. I swear to god, not half a second after the mug was firmly gripping the dash with it’s handy rubber base, the damn thing jumped on me and pushed it’s lid off in mid air. The whole exchange was something like this:

Me: Mmmm… fresh coffee in my handy wide-base no-slip mug that I can now safely drink from on my way to work. But best not to tempt fate! I will hold this mug firmly in my hot little hands until I reach a safe stopping point. Ah! A red light. How convenient. places mug securely on dash
Mug/Coffee Junta: MUHAHAHA! THE FOOL! Units 2 & 3, fire rockets! Unit 1, unhinge the lid and prepare for reentry!
Me: AHHHHHHHH!!! I JUST WASHED THESE PANTS! HOT! HOT!

It was the last time I used a travel mug.

Bwahahaha. Such wonderful coffee related stories. I have to vote for a good sealed travel mug too – preferably one with one of those sealing-orifices (like, a slider panel, or a spring loaded retracted panel or something) so that I can put the cup down sealed. I quite regularly take coffee on any mildly extended trip.

Otherwise, I’d probably end up in a HOT! HOT! PANTS! related incident like TeleTronOne here.

One might ask the very obvious question of why I don’t get a self-sealing travel coffee mug for work, and the answer is that they don’t bloody well fit under the coffee maker spout, and people keep borrowing my Mug By Proxy I use to do the transfer.

But I’m still firmly going to blame physics. I’ve put a lot of effort into collecting evidence. So nyeah.

I’m dying of laughter over here…only because it sounds like SDMB is doing “Embarrassing episodes that have actually happened in panache’s life Part I.”

My absolute favorite is getting the coffee from a drive through window and taking the extra time and care to not pull out until the coffee level is at least 2 inches from the rim. Whether this means sloshing some out the window or scorching the roof of your mouth hardly matters- the point is you worked at it…only to find that through some capillary coffee-lid osmosis crap physics rule, the coffee is actually being drawn up the sides of the cup, underneath the to-go lid and beading up to slowly drip all over your hand. You’re of course trying to prevent the scalding coffee from going to HOT! HOT! HOT! pants stage, so you end up trying to lick it off your hand. Yeah, that looks cool!

Hmmm. I definitely second the travel-mug-with-a-lid idea.

I was once approaching a Tim Hortons, and noticed a car pulling out of the parking lot with a Tim Horton’s coffee cup perched stylishly on the roof. As it would be a terrible thing to waste the precious liquid of Tim Horton’s, I valiantly dashed across the street (I did look both ways first) to alert the driver of his less than optimal coffee-transportation solution. They seemed quite confused as to why this freak was running at them waving like a maniac…

And like moes lotion, I was once at a session mesmerised by the musicians, and quite forgot that I had recently drained my pint and ordered a new one. It turns out if you take a full pint mug and tip it to the level required to drink from an empty pint mug, bad things happen…

If you must walk with a cup of coffee in your hand, stick a spoon in it. The spoon will prevent standing waves as it interrupts the dispersion pattern. If you don’t have a spoon, try a pencil.

I might be rehashing a bit but the main problem is that while you are walking your upper body is moving which is creating the waves inside the cup. The easiest way to rpevent this is to minimize the movement of your upper body when you walk…it’s actually quite easy to do and is something I’'ve been doing for years as a marcher. Simply, when you walk, roll-step and maintain good posture, it will decrease the movement during your steps, and when your feet land will greatly reduce the shock of contact with the ground…this always works for me btw.

OR, you can contrive a tiny rolling cart and lay down some extra shock absorbent track between the coffee machine and your desk…this or place the coffee in an IV drip near your desk…Gives a whole new meaning to the term “plugging in” in the morning!

I’ve been trying to work out the logistics to this approach for years. So far all I’ve gotten is a bunch of scars and several additional pairs of ruined pants.

However, ThinkGeek might have a less painful solution

I keep a Thermos®, the kind with the pump in the top so you don’t even have to pour, on my desk. Eliminates the problem.

Doctor: “How did this eye injury happen?”

Me: “Coffee.”