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Ruth’s Soapbox

Fear is Not an Excuse

The year just started, and I already have a plate filled with big projects – an online course, another book, and taking the California Bar Exam this summer. The primary guiding rule for all of my projects is “Fear is not an excuse for not making progress.”

Photo by Bob Johnson

Truth be told, the prospect of creating this online course, “Lights, Camera, Lawsuit – The Legal Side of Professional Photography,” scares the bejezus out of me. I’ve never done anything like this before. Creating the materials will be a lot of work, and will include doing my first voiceover. Each of the 22 lessons will be a slide deck with a voiceover presentation. There will be lots of opportunities to screw things up.

Despite my apprehension, I really don’t have much to worry about. I’m going to use Jason Zook’s platform, Teachery, and borrow a format that he used in a course I purchased from him. If I get stuck when it comes to the nuts and bolts of creating the course, I know he’ll be there to help. And I already have people who have expressed interest in buying the course once it’s available.

My goal is to have the course materials completed, edited, and tested by a handful of photographers before releasing it to the public by the end of March. There is much to be done between now and then, and being afraid of making mistakes or launching a dud are not excuses. In the words of the great late Carrie Fisher:

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.

Let’s hope so. Right now, my plan is to keep moving forward, without letting fear about how others will perceive the final product paralyze me. Thanks to the Wall of Pain (aka my wall-size color-coded to-do list), it’s easy to break down this project into manageable chunks. I don’t have to worry about the final product – just whatever’s next on the to-do list.

I’m so grateful I don’t have to work on this project alone. I have an amazing group of photographer-friends who provide feedback when needed, an incredible mastermind group with skills I can call upon to help create and market this course, and a loving community of friends who support my crazy endeavors.

If you have daunting projects on your horizon, I hope you’re keeping the fear monsters at bay.

The Undeniable Recap of 2016

Wow . . . what a fucked up year 2016 has been, especially the last three months. I’m glad I do The Undeniable Recap every year to take a break from the current chaos and see that not everything in the last 366 days is terrifying and depressing. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2016:

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

1. BlogPaws with Rosie.  Rosie and I went to our first pet blogger conference this summer. I led a workshop on copyright and FTC rules for bloggers and we had so much fun meeting all the people and their pets. It’s been heartwarming to see Rosie bounce back from last year’s surgery and get her confidence back.

2. I Shaved my Head.  I decided to go back to my natural hair color, and instead of dealing with growing out my red hair, I just shaved it all off. That was empowering. Not having hair made me want to embody even more how strong women can be. My friends did a photo shoot right after I shaved my head and the images were so powerful.

Two of the Cool Kids on our Couch!

3. Cool Kids Couch. During law school, it seemed like one of the Cool Kids (Class of 2011, 2012, and 2013) was always sitting on the couch outside Room 116. When ASU Law announced they were moving downtown, we approached the school about sponsoring a Cool Kids Couch in the new building – and they let us! It’s up on the 6th floor, and apparently the current law students ripped the plaque off our gift to them. Hopefully they won’t do it again to the replacement plaque.

4. Flagstaff Ropes Course. I needed to get away for a few days last spring, so I booked a long weekend in Flagstaff and went to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. It was so much fun to climb trees and traverse obstacles. It was exactly what I needed; it got me out of my head for an afternoon. I need to do more stuff like this.

5. Photo Shoots. I got to do some amazing photo shoots this year. On a chilly February morning, Peter Shankman and I got up before dawn to do sunrise photo shoot near Canyon Lake. Those images were gorgeous! In May, I did a photo shoot out at The Domes near Casa Grande where I my chest and face were painted and I wore a 25-foot diameter parachute skirt. We got some dynamic shots right at sunset and some beautiful photos after the sun went down with fire breathers in the background.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Phrase of the Year: “Lawyer Perch.”
When I speak at a conference and there is a table and chair at the front of the room for speakers, I like to plop myself down and sit cross-legged on top of the table. At WordCamp Phoenix, someone in the audience declared that this is the “lawyer perch.”  That works for me.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Firsts in 2016
Court appearance as 1st chair
Trail race (and last)
In-home flood (and second one, unfortunately)
Chest binder
Stay at an Airbnb
Interview on KJZZ (local NPR station)
Replaced the smoke detector in my condo by myself
Foods: Coconut creamer, coconut ice cream, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, vegan “butter,” white chocolate peanut butter
Sights: The Domes, 9/11 Memorial, Vaynermedia, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Telepoem Booth
Events: Women in Travel Summit, BlogPaws, Sober morning rave, Junkyard photoshoot, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Celebrity Sightings
Gloria Steinem
Mark Hamill

In Memoriam
Kevin Layton
Larry Grucky
Mike Calcutti (he died in 2015, but I didn’t learn about it ‘til 2016)
Alan Rickman
David Bowie
Prince
Anton Yelchin
Gene Wilder
John Glenn
Florence Henderson
Alan Thicke
George Michael
Carrie Fisher
Debbie Reynolds
The 49 Victims of the Orlando Night Club Shooting

Learning to Value Myself

My personal theme for 2017 is Invest – investing in myself, my health, my relationships, and my business. Last week, I was challenged to put this into action a few weeks early when Castle Carter flooded.

Photo by Bob Johnson from the Junkyard Photoshoot 2016 – Love this Picture!

I suck at valuing myself. (Is anyone else in this boat?) I treat everyone else way better than myself and tell myself I can make due with less. When our air conditioner went out for a few days this summer, I sent Rosie the pirate basset hound to “camp” (the kennel) so she’d be comfortable until it was fix while I stayed home.

Earlier this month, my condo flooded. I woke up on a Saturday morning to a lake in my home courtesy of my upstairs neighbor’s water heater that exploded. The floors in my living room and office were destroyed from the water, along with some of the dry wall. It took the dry-out team about 7 hours to remove damaged flooring and walls and set me up with 12 fans and 2 de-humidifiers to dry everything else.

Living with fans and de-humidifiers running full blast 24 hours/day is like living in a wind tunnel. I could barely get any work done with the noise and the heat, and I was sweating buckets every night in my sleep. Friends offered to let Rosie and me stay with them, but I often feel uncomfortable as a guest in someone’s home. And I know my insurance would pay for a hotel, but I didn’t want the hassle of living out of a suitcase, especially with Rosie. A typical dry-out takes 3 days. We could stick it out.

At day 3, the dry-out tech said my home needed 2 extra days and suggested I get a hotel. I was sleeping for crap, not getting work done, feeling agitated from all the noise and disruption (Did I mention I had to cancel my plans to attend ShankMinds Live in New York that week?), I had plans to do a weekend hackathon of work – and I still balked at getting a hotel. In my head, it still seemed like an extreme reaction.

I forced myself act as if I was investing in my best interests. From that perspective, I deserved quality rest and an environment where I could get work done. Fighting back the excuses in my head, I found a nearby hotel that accepted dogs of all sizes, had a desk and a refrigerator in the room (Rosie’s meds need to be refrigerated), and a complementary hot breakfast. The voice in my head said it would be such a pain to pack up our lives for two days. I had Rosie and I packed in 20 minutes – including portioning out each of her meals and bringing her comforter and memory foam bed.

Airlines say put on your oxygen mask first before helping someone else. Those two days in the hotel allowed me the respite I needed from the chaos at home. I slept on a king-size bed in quiet, climate-controlled room, and someone else was in charge of making my breakfast. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, I did about 5 hours of work on the Copyright Law online course I’m teaching for ASU Law next semester. (I’d been procrastinating on that for weeks!)

Rosie and I are home again. The dry-out is complete, and we’re waiting to hear back from insurance so we can proceed with the reconstruction. So far, this experience is giving me the chance to put myself first. I felt guilty checking in to the hotel, but once I settled into the room, that feeling dissipated. I know when I need a break; I just have to be willing to let myself have it.

Baby It’s Cold Out-WTF?!

I love Christmas music. I’m that person who will listen to Christmas music in July just because I like it. Who says it has to be the holiday season to enjoy holiday music?

Lately, it seems like every time I turn on the all-Christmas radio station, they’re playing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Musically speaking, this is a beautiful duet – I love the back-and-forth and the layering of the voices. But have you actually listened to the lyrics? They exemplify what’s wrong with how boys and girls are socialized – he refuses to accept when she rebuffs his advances and she’s worried about being slut shamed by her family and community. Here’s what goes through my head every time I hear it.
(M = male; F = female; B = both; my thoughts in italics)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Winter Wonderland by Kristina_Servant from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I really can’t stay
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
(F) I’ve got to go away
(M) Baby it’s cold outside
Dude, she said she was leaving.
(F) This evening has been
(M) Been hoping that you’d drop in
(F) So very nice
(M) I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
Hey! Don’t touch her without consent!

(F) My mother will start to worry
(M) Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
(F) Father will be pacing the floor
(M) Listen to the fireplace roar
(F) So really I’d better scurry
Bah! Be bold woman!
(M) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(F) Maybe just a half a drink more
Arg! Don’t do that!
(M) Put some records on while I pour
You’re a manipulative jerk.

(F) The neighbors might think
Who gives a f*ck what they think?
(M) Baby, it’s bad out there
And why are you calling her “Baby?”
That’s so belittling the way you use it. She has a name, you know.
(F) Say, what’s in this drink?
Did you give her roofies or something?
(M) No cabs to be had out there
Get an Uber.
(F) I wish I knew how
(M) Your eyes are like starlight now
(F) To break this spell
(M) I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Ugh you’re so creepy.

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Christmas Ornament by Tobyotter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

(F) I ought to say no, no, no
Say it or don’t. It’s ok to enjoy intimacy.
(M) Mind if I move in closer?
Thanks for asking…finally.
(F) At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Where’s your integrity? Say what you mean, mean what you say.
(M) What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
Screw his feelings if he doesn’t respect you boundaries.
(F) I really can’t stay
Then leave!
(M) Baby don’t hold out
Eww!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside

(F) I’ve got to get home
Walk out the door!
(M) Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
(F) Say, lend me your coat
(M) It’s up to your knees out there
(F) You’ve really been grand
No he hasn’t! He’s being a dick!
(M) Thrill when you touch my hand
(F) Why don’t you see
(M) How can you do this thing to me?
It’s not all about you!

(F) There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Who cares?
(M) Think of my lifelong sorrow
Really? Since when do your feelings trump hers?
(F) At least there will be plenty implied
(M) If you caught pneumonia and died
And died – Really??
(F) I really can’t stay
Seriously – You. Door. Go!
(M) Get over that hold out
Ew ew eww! Lady – run away from this guy!
(B) Ah, but it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside
(B) Oh, baby, it’s cold outside

Whenever I hear this song, I think of a lesson from security expert Gavin de Becker: A person who doesn’t hear “no” is trying to control you. Perhaps it was sweet song when it was written, reflective of the times, but I still think it’s an indication of a misogynistic culture.

I want to re-write this conversation in a way that works. I can see it going one of two ways:

(F) I should get going.
(M) What’s your hurry, Baby?
(F) I’m tired. I want to go home.
(M) It’s so cold out there.
(F) Of course it is. It’s December. I’ll be fine.
(M) One more drink . . .
(F) No. Quit being a jerk. I’m leaving.

(F) I should get going.
(M) I had fun tonight. You’re welcome to stay.
(F) Thank you. I’d like that. Let me text my family so they’ll know not to expect me until tomorrow.

Proud to Rock a Safety Pin

I’m glad the Safety Pin movement is gaining popularity in the States. After Brexit, people started wearing a safety pin on their clothes as a sign that they were an ally to anyone who might feel oppressed.

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

Proud to be part of Team Safety Pin

With Donald Trump winning the election this week, a lot of groups have voiced fears – LGBTQ, women, Muslims, immigrants, and racial minorities among them. As a response, the Safety Pin movement has come across the pond as a way for people to let others know that they will help if you don’t feel safe.

If you don’t feel safe out in public, I would be happy to stand with you, talk with you, walk with you, go with you to the restroom, and be a voice against prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. When I went out on my errands today, I stopped by Target to pick up a package of safety pins – the big ones.

Safety Pin Selfie

Safety Pin Selfie

Anyone who has known me since college might be surprised that I’m joining Team Safety Pin. I love the cause, but I despise putting pins in my clothes . . . I mean really despise. It’s something I almost never do. I’m so adamant about it that I’ve gotten in trouble for not wearing my nametag within groups that require it. Sorry, but not putting a hole in my shirt is more important.

So has the Safety Pin Movement convinced me it’s ok to risk my garments with pinholes? Not exactly. I put safety pins on my Ignite Phoenix zippy sweatshirt and my Scottevest hoodie. Before I go back East next month, I’ll put one of my winter coat. But for my regular shirts, I picked up a set of button magnets. Yes, it works. I have a safety pin magnetically attached to my shirt as I type.

And I support this movement so much, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to take it off when I go through things like airport security. They can wand and pat me down (like they always do) and see that I’m harmless. If I leave the house wearing a safety pin, it’s not coming off. (I’m stubborn like that.)

Now What?

Grandpa Jim says you can do anything for six months. Let’s see if we can do four years.

Keep Looking Forward - Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

Keep Looking Forward – Gorgeous photo by Peter Shankman

This morning I woke up to see that our next President is Donald Trump – a narcissistic, misogynistic, bigoted liar who brags about sexually assaulting women is the next commander in chief. (To all my friends in the military, I’m sorry your new boss is a dick.) The worst part about this is over half the country voted for him. They wanted someone who is prejudice against women, people with disabilities, LGBT people, Latinos, Muslims, African Americans, and immigrants to be in charge.

How the fuck did this happen?

I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than how I felt after Proposition 8 passed in California. Today I learned that I was wrong. I started today completely heartbroken. How is it possible that half the country hates me and many of the people I love? I wanted to give all my friends reassuring hugs and tell them that we’ll get through this. I also had the urge to buy a bulletproof vest and a paintball handgun because the world felt a lot less safe today.

As the initial wave of pain and fear began to subside, I had another thought: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” We’re stuck with this guy for the next four years (1,461 days). How much good can I do in that much time? What about you? If anything, these devastating results infused me with an angry energy that reminded me that I have an obligation to be the best version of myself. I’m not asking for anyone’s approval; I don’t need it. My gut feeling has never lead me astray, and I’m lucky to have amazing friends and mentors around me, to remind me that ignoring the norm is often my job. Sometimes it feels lonely, but I’m not trudging the road alone.

So now what? As the Zen saying goes, “Chop wood and carry water.” Keep doing the next right thing, always mindful that there’s much work to be done. I feel the need to learn more, do more impactful work, and go on more adventures. I won’t become fearless overnight, but I don’t want my ever-present anxiety to be an insurmountable obstacle. More than ever, I am aware that we don’t have the luxury for of waiting for someone else to create change. It must start with each of us – boldly go and be the change.

And at the end of a hard day, if you need an extra boost, check out Uplifting News or do a search for “Restore Faith in Humanity.”

Why the Negativity

I don’t understand why there’s so much negativity on the internet – people being mean for no useful purpose. Some people appear to have blogs and YouTube channels for no reason except to spread gossip and perpetuate issues that they’re not directly involved or impacted. It makes no sense.

Grumpy! by Andy Morffew from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Grumpy! by Andy Morffew from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Yesterday, I was tired when I got home from Tucson Comic-Con: 2 hours of speaking and close to 4 hours of driving. My plans for the evening were pretty mundane – catch up on YouTube videos and do my prep cooking for the week ahead. The last video I watched before heading to the kitchen was “Insane Circus Tricks” about a circus school where Cirque de Soleil performers and Joe Average people train. As a former gymnast, I was delighted. I have no plans to join a gym again, but I’d train at a circus school in a heartbeat. (I’d want to learn how to do handstand and balance work on those blocks.)

I posted a comment, “I want a cirque school in Phoenix!”
Within minutes another user responded, “[B]ut did you actually go to school for spelling?”

Really?!

Why would someone leave a comment like that? Did he/she have nothing to do a Saturday night besides troll the internet, looking for opportunities to tear others down? Now, I’m not as pure as driven snow. Sometimes I judge people who make grammar and spelling mistakes – in my head! It doesn’t improve or add anything to the conversation to say it publicly. This person’s life must be really sad if this is what adds value to their life. I hope he/she finds a way to channel this energy towards a meaningful project.

By the way, I didn’t spell it wrong. The school is called Cirque School.

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time! by frankieleon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time! by frankieleon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Calling out a person or situation that’s wrong serves a purpose if it raises awareness of the issue so it can be addressed. You can’t fix a problem unless you know what it is. Bitching and being negative for negativity’s sake may feel validating in the moment, but if there isn’t a larger issue you’re addressing, please keep it to yourself. Drown out the purposeless negativity with positive messages and meaningful work. Don’t give the negative nellies the attention they obviously crave. Put your time and energy towards people and things that deserve it.

One lesson I learned from working with children is “My self-esteem is not dependent on your opinion of me.” While other’s negativity near me is annoying, it doesn’t impact my day. If they’re that negative towards a stranger, they obviously have more serious issues to address in their life. I wish them well and continue with my work.

Make High School Dress Codes Gender-Neutral

I had the pleasure to seeing Gloria Steinem speak in Phoenix last month. Geez, this woman is inspiring and knowledgeable about gender inequality. She re-invigorated me to keep pushing for equality for all genders. I would love to see our society get to the point where a person’s character and acts matter more than which bathroom they use.

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal back in 1954. That’s over 50 years ago! And yet, we still see substantial inequality throughout social norms and even formal rules – for all genders.

This inequality is pervasive in our culture, even in something as simple as clothing. Thing about quality and variety of clothes available in the men’s and women’s sections and what a person is expected to wear at certain occasions. What messages are conveyed with different looks? In general, men’s clothing is designed to show a person as powerful and intelligent whereas women’s clothing is much more focused on portraying the wearer as pretty rather than capable. Why are these norms so drastically different?

Looking at gender norms and clothing made me thing about dress codes and question why some institutions and companies have different uniforms and dress codes for different genders. When I see this in schools and industries, I have concerns that the organization has problems with sexism.

Google allegedly has the simplest (and best) dress code: “You must wear clothes.” This tells me the company cares more about your job performance than how you look, and they have confidence that their employees are responsible enough to dress appropriately for their job tasks.

I don’t endorse the Google dress code for every situation, particularly not for high school where students act more impulsively, in part due to their still-developing brains. I do, however, endorse a gender-neutral dress code, particularly after seeing how ridiculous dress codes are for females at some high schools:

These are my recommendations for a gender-neutral high school dress code. It’s more restrictive in regards to images and verbiage on garments, but that’s mainly to make the rule easy to understand and enforce. The main rule is to come to school in clothes that are clean, tidy, with no rips or stains. Here are the details:

NO: Pajamas; Workout wear (exception for socks/sneakers); Visible undergarments; Verbiage or images on tops (exception for small logos or t-shirts/sweatshirts from a legitimate school); Hats or hoods in the building (exception for religious wear); Visible cleavage – chest or butt; Excessively baggy or tight garments; See-through garments; Sleeveless or backless tops

Shoes: Must be worn, closed toe, closed heel, socks must be worn except for open top shoes (flats, heels, etc.)

Pants, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem can’t drag on the floor

Shorts, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem must reach tips of fingers when standing with hands at sides

Shirts, Sweaters, and Sweatshirts: No midriff shown when raising arms above head; Entire shoulder must be covered

Hair: Must be clean and reasonably styled (meaning you at least ran a comb through it, purposely messy styles are ok)

This dress code may be more challenging for students who wear women’s clothing because more garments are designed and created that violate these rules. For those who want to express themselves with these garments, they can – on their own time.

The next time you’re confronted with a dress code with different expectations for men and women, ask yourself what these expectations say about how that situation views the roles of different genders. If you see inequality, I hope you’ll challenge it.

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.