So now we get to The Great Coffee Crisis of 2017. In Part 1, I had introduced you to the lovely ladies who were so instrumental in driving me mental. Yes, these ladies created the crisis, consigned me to the consomme and a fate worse than death – instant coffee. They watched in stony silence as I was reduced to a drooling, slobbering, drowsy semi-comatose le mort vivant over a period of 3 weeks. Telle est la femme, comment? C’est la vie, ooh la la, tiens! Tres comatose! Yes, well, almost.
Hey listen, I survived 2.5 weeks in La Belle France ( the real one, not the fake one they have up here in Canada ) on my ability to speak Franglaise like a badly educated peach tree. I practiced before going. I spent about 15 whole minutes in front of the mirror holding up 2 fingers and mouthing “oon cafay no aar. oon cafay olay. We must have coffee!”. Actually, I didn’t, being rather more pre-occupied about baby-pink shorts, to take or not, decision of. I’m sure you understand by now that coffee plays no mean part in keeping me from being a mean and nasty person. Oh ok! Meaner and nastier. Happy?
Well, anyway, back to the crisis. (Digression Alert #1: Why do you let me digress so much? Really! You need to exercise greater control. Which, I realize, as I write this, is hard to do, because you get to see this only after I have digressed handsomely in all directions. )
Well, in mid-winter of 2016-2017, viz, January, I was deserted by My Beloved Bangalan, probably the most beauteous of all the ladies in my household. So for a period of 3 whole months, I was left to my own devices amongst whom exists the boxy Syntia, with whom you became acquainted in Part 1. Usually Syntia is the epitome of efficiency. Her main idiosyncrasy is a distaste for oily beans, such as Starbucks seems to manufacture. She can also sometimes get into a “mood”. When in such a mood she starts showing orange error messages on her little screen. Most of these messages are of the nature “Decalcify me NOW!”, or “For god’s sake, change the filter!!”. Sometimes she wants me to take apart her inner unit and give it a bath followed by an oily application to the joints.
In late January, she thew up a bunch of errors and then proceeded to go on strike. I took the inner brew circuit out and gave it a lovely bath and let it air dry for a day. However, when I tried fitting it back again, Syntia refused pointblank to allow the brew circuit back in. I pushed, prodded, patted, peered, posed and peeked. Syntia refused to accept the brewing mechanism.
Brow furrowed, I turned to Mlle Presse and pressed her into action. She was willing enough. Until, 2 weeks in, I ran out of coffee powder. Then I realized that Mlle Presse is a bit too big for a single person and thus guzzling coffee powder in a rather wasteful manner. Also, she was slow and ponderous and needed support staff in the form of The Whistling Frenchman. She expected, nay, demanded, that The Whistling Frenchman did his whistling act before she was ready to initiate her work. All in all, a lot of fuss and a lot of waste.
Time, therefore, to whip out the shapely Italian, the steamy one. La Signorina Caffettiera a Filtro was rescued from the confines of the cupboard and put to work. I paired her with Illy, the swarthy Swiss; he providing the flavour, she providing the steam. It worked well that first day. The Swiss’ flavour is among the best in the coffee business and La Signorina is efficient when she puts her mind to it.
The next day, however, I realized that I had to strip La Signorina down and give her a bath before she could perform her pas de deaux with Illy. Resignedly, I did and was rewarded with another great cup of coffee, thickly dark with a strong flavour. The third day and every day after, I went through the ritual of stripping and showering her. It quickly became tiresome.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or rather, the GO Transit Station, things were getting even more annoying. Usually, My Beloved Bangalan drives me to the station dropping me 3 metres from the transit card reader at the top of the tunnel to the platform. Normally, this is performed even as the train pulls into the station and a steady walk down the stairs, through the tunnel and up the stairs to the platform gets me to the train just before it comes to a halt, the door turned towards my hand. However, remember I told you that She Who was not in town. This meant that I had to drive myself to the station, find a parking slot, then zip up the jacket, push the toque on my head lower, pick up my bag, lock the door and start the long 800 metre walk to the card reader at the top of the stairs.
This was now early February, the coldest month of the winter in the Tundra, where I live. Temperatures are pretty cavalier about getting into the negative teens. The walk from the car to the train usually meant watery eyes and a pronounced sniff. Added to this was a move to a different workplace. So far, my workplace had been a shortish 5 minute walk up the street from the station. But in February, it was decided to move the whole team out near the CN Tower, the needle that shapes the Toronto skyline. Let me draw you a map.
Notice the duration. 11 minutes. Remember also that you have to walk down the platform at Union, then down a precariously steep set of stairs just to get to the concourse. Note also that, while an extensive underground PATH system exists, it is of no earthly use to a commuter bent on getting to office efficiently. This means that the only way to get to work is walk for 11 or 12 minutes. In temperatures hovering in the negative 10s or single digits. Along slippery, icy, slushy sidewalks. Amongst other commuters, some going the other way. Carrying a bag.
That’s when I discovered that my winter boots were split wide open.
< to be continued >