Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Double Not Latte

"It’s the city that’s always asleep,” my husband said in disbelief. We’d covered the east end straight through to the heart of city center only to be greeted by shuttered store fronts and darkened lobbies.

“It’s Saturday night, for crying out loud,” my husband lamented, “What’s wrong with this place?”

It’s not like we were looking for a wild night on the town. We just wanted a cup of coffee. But just because I happen to live in one of the top 40 metropolitan areas in the United States doesn’t mean it’s possible to get a fresh cup of decent coffee on a whim. Especially after 8 PM.

Not so very long ago, I took a fresh brewed cup of joe as a given. There may have been a time before I could pull up to my local Dunkin' Donut in any vehicle in our family fleet and receive a knowing nod from Bob the Arabic Vendor along with a "large coffee, cream," in his rich Middle Eastern tones, a hand off of a steaming foam cup, and a cheery, “see you tomorrow,” but I don’t remember it.

It was simply The Norm until what came to be known as The December 26th Blackout, when I saw, through the car window on an otherwise routine drive down the main drag, a big black hole where the Pink and Orange Beacon normally illuminated our city with rays of Cheer and Goodwill.

“Something’s wrong, something’s wrong,” I shrieked from the passenger’s seat.

Not one to be rattled, my husband assured me that that I was witnessing nothing more than extended holiday cheer. “Bob’s home for Christmas,” my husband said, in vaguely nervous tones.

“Bob doesn’t celebrate Christmas,” I countered grimly.

In a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable, my husband insisted that we “check it out in the morning,” when things would undoubtedly “look better.”

Far from better, the situation at first light spoke of nothing short of scandal, bankruptcy, or, failing that, Bob’s deportation. Reduced to a shell, the building was little more than a canvas for the word “closed,” scrawled in so much shoe polish across the glass storefront. No sign indicating a new location. No “excuse our mess while we’re remodeling.” No “thank you for your patronage” farewell. Just, simply, nothing.

Fellow coffee aficionados assure me that I did not overact when I curled up into the fetal position and threatened to call to my realtor. A grown man admitted that the closure of his local Dunkin' would reduce him to tears. Friends sent condolences. Others openly suggested the need for a move.

Armed with a couple bags of Dunkin’ beans, my aging home pot, and a plan to “fill in” with fare from secondary establishments, I stoically pressed on. To date, the only jolt this endeavor has yielded is a series of aftershocks which have served to underscore the harsh realities of our city's coffee-deprived state. A passable cup of coffee remains elusive. If you can catch the local shops open, it seems that the daily grind is nothing more than lackluster, overpriced swill. And home brew? That's taken on an inexplicable but definite pallor of rancid distaste.

Now, as it happens the coffee drought coincides nicely with my 10-week tenure at Generic Middle School. It seems that maintaining an iron bladder is a prerequisite to any serious school employ. Evidently, arriving to school coffee in hand is the exclusive domain of the private school teacher. Educators in the public sector keep a strict watch over their fluid intake, as I’m told even a momentary absence in the lavatory could end, best case, in a lawsuit, if not outright tragedy.

Having passed the halfway point, however, I’m anticipating a return to my Actual Life and my Usual Ways. Those ways invariably include 24-hour access to fragrant, freshly brewed coffee. In these hard economic times it should be good news for someone, somewhere that there’s a sleepy metropolitan city with an immediate opening for a new Bob. Serious inquiries taken at the Big Black Hole. Must be available nights and weekends.

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