There’s a person at work whose name I don’t know, but whose wishes I try to respect. We seem to be on roughly the same caffeination schedule and I couldn’t help but take note of her mug, which has printed upon it the levels at which her coffee intake levels allow her to participate in society in a useful fashion. I am grateful to her for letting her needs be known in such a public way and I find myself moving extra-gingerly around her, speaking as softly as I can if I must speak at all. It feel polite. It feels in the best interest of my own safety.

I kid, but also kinda not. People enter the day with wildly different degrees of enthusiasm and capability and adjust as the day draws on, and coffee consumption is an intrinsic, accepted part of that. There’s a reason “OK, but first coffee” is such a ubiquitous t-shirt saying, J. S. Bach wrote a comic opera about coffee addiction (the title Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht translates to “Be still, stop chattering”), and no one in the entire run of Gilmore Girls actually slapped Lorelai across the face when she bellowed and whined for coffee (though surely several characters seriously weighed the merits). Life’s gears aren’t properly primed until after enough coffee’s been had, but how softly should the rest of the world tiptoe until then?

During a recent stay at an Edinburgh hotel, my husband, our friends and I went down to the dining room to indulge in its justifiably-famous Scottish breakfast. Haggis, tattie scones, streaky bacon, blood pudding, and truly excellent pastries abounded and we all should have been over the moon. Instead, we gestured awkwardly at each other and pantomimed our plans for the day. Not only were the few other guests munching their sausages in silence, or at loudest, a low whisper—there was no music on in the room to provide a little bit of cover noise for fork clanking. What was likely intended as a soothing measure (or I dunno—maybe someone forgot to plug in the iPod) made the whole meal deeply awkward and we gobbled down our rashers as quickly as we could and got the heck out.

There’s got to be a middle ground between raw, naked silence and jabbering chaos in the morning, but until such time as we’re all wandering around with personal environmental calibration devices strapped to our heads, we’re just gonna have to deal with the vagaries and indignities of the world around us. Or at least let the rest of the world know when they may stir. With that, here are a few items that might help you get the idea across without having to utter a single syllable.

Now You May Speak Coffee Mug

Transparency is key in morning negotiations.
Now You May Speak Coffee Mug, $11.95, Signals

Stop Talking Coffee Mug

Subtlety is sometimes less than effective in the morning.
Stop Talking Coffee Mug, $11.99 small and $14.95 large, Etsy

I Can't Stop Drinking the Coffee Mug

"I can't stop drinking the coffee, I stop drinking the coffee, I stop doing the standing and walking and the words putting into sentence doing." Again, how did Lorelai Gilmore not get permanently booted from every coffee place in Stars Hollow?
I Can't Stop Drinking the Coffee Mug, $15.99, Look Human

But First, Coffee Shirt

Wear your heart's desire on your sleeve—or possibly your chest.
But First, Coffee Shirt, $12.99, Target