Having made coffee for someone the other day for the first time in quite a while, I subsequently learned that (1) the coffee was past its expiration date, (2) I was incorrectly storing it in the freezer instead of the fridge, and (3) the filters I had were the wrong kind (cone-shaped instead of dish-shaped).
The latter seemed particularly absurd, as it didn’t take an engineer to see that what I had didn’t fit the shape of the coffee basket at all. Why I bought these particular filters (five years ago!), and why no one else had ever noted that they were the wrong kind, are mysteries.
At any rate, as I was perusing the coffee selection at the grocery store today, a voice just behind and beside me boomed, “Do you know what kind of coffee is good?” I jumped so hard that I heard myself say something like “Oh! Whoa! Oh!” and stumbled into the very tall man who’d spoken. When I caught my balance I said, “Not really. I’m buying this for someone else.”
The man, whom I now think of as the Coffee Seeker, waved a bag of Eight O’ Clock coffee in my general direction and said, “Is this any good?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t drink coffee myself.”
The Coffee Seeker said he didn’t drink coffee either and was buying it for his mother. He picked up another bag and held it out in front of him. “Is this ground?” he asked.
I reached over cautiously and squeezed the bag, which featured a large background photo of coffee beans. “I don’t think so,” I said. I was starting to feel sympathy pangs for his mother, whom I imagined as bedridden and longing only for an acceptable cup of coffee to help her bear her many burdens.
The Coffee Seeker continued standing there. At a loss, I said, “I’ve heard that Seattle’s Best is pretty good.” As I was saying this, I was scanning the shelves. No Seattle’s Best.
“I know that some people like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,” I added, thus exhausting the last scrap of coffee-related knowledge in my possession. I pointed to the bottom shelf, but he didn’t move.
There was a long pause. He seemed to be harboring the suspicion that I secretly knew something else about coffee that I hadn’t divulged.
As he picked up a different bag, I panicked. “I’m afraid I’m probably the worst possible person to ask about coffee,” I said, with what I hoped was polite but emphatic finality.
The Coffee Seeker weighed this a moment. Then, without a goodbye (I felt we’d forged a sort of bond, but apparently his troubles were too all-consuming for that), he moved several feet down the aisle, to the section with boxes of coffee. (What is that all about, anyway? Does instant coffee now come in tea-type packets instead of jars, and if so, when did that happen?)
“Do you know what boxes of coffee are good?” I heard him ask a male shopper.
“I don’t know,” I heard the man begin. It sounded hopeless. Fearing the Coffee Seeker’s return, I picked up the bag I wanted, found the correct filters immediately (yes!), and decamped.
For all I know, the Coffee Seeker may still be standing in that aisle trying to figure out what to buy.
As for me, I thought I was doing well until I got home and remembered: creamer. Oh crumb. I can just see myself back at the grocery store, scrutinizing the multitudinous types of creamers, dazed and confused, when a voice will boom out at my shoulder, “Do you know what kind of creamer is good?”
I haven’t a clue. Didn’t you ask your mother?