I used to tell people that my last cup of coffee was consumed on October 16, 1981, and I didn’t finish it. I can’t say that anymore.
My mother raised me to be polite, and for more than thirty years I have been politely declining all offers of coffee. “I love the aroma,” I would say, “but I don’t care for the taste.” In a similar fashion I would decline offers of a cup of tea. I have nothing against tea, other than the fact that it is tea.
Oh, I have had tea occasionally. A few times a year we go for dim sum with friends who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong many years ago. On those occasions I put myself in their hands in the matter of food and drink. I think it is green tea that is put in front of me. I drink it, but I drink even more ice water with the meal.
A couple of times a year I will drink a cup of hot chocolate. That usually happens when I am trapped in a coffee shop with someone who has insisted that is where we should get together and the place doesn’t serve soft drinks. There are worse drinks than hot chocolate – coffee and tea.
There are times though that you can’t say no. Much as you want to. It’s that politeness thing that my mother taught me.
Actually, it is more than that. There are times, such as when interacting with people of a different culture, when you can’t say no. You just have to drink the tea; to do otherwise would be extremely rude. Saying no isn’t an option, not if you want to be polite.
I was thrust into that situation in northern Iraq. So I drank the tea. I didn’t see any way out of it. It was very hot and very sweet, lots of sugar had been added to it. I gather that is how Iraqis like it. I didn’t die. Although I can’t say I enjoyed the experience.
Just I was mentally congratulating myself for having survived the ordeal, my hostess brought out the coffee and placed a cup in front of me.
I remember my last cup of the stuff. I was on strike, walking a picket line in the rain. Everyone was cold and wet and someone brought coffee to the picketers. I didn’t like coffee back then, but I thought it might help with the chill. It didn’t. I drank maybe a quarter of a cup before I poured it on the ground. I hadn’t touched the stuff since, not even a sip.
Now there was coffee before me, and there seemed no way around it – I was going to have to drink it. To refuse such hospitality would be culturally insensitive.
So, after almost 34 years of abstinence I took a sip. I wondered if this was the beginning of a whole new relationship for my taste buds. I drank it all.
I know that coffee can be good, bad or mediocre. Not having anything to compare the taste to, I later asked the friends who were with me what quality this stuff had been. They assured me it was good.
I thought that was the case. It tasted like I imagine good coffee tastes. Sort of like burnt rubber. Not that I’ve ever actually tasted burnt rubber, but I can imagine.
I wish I could say that would be my last coffee. Someday though I may find myself in a similar situation and have to stomach the sludge again. Hopefully not soon!
(I should note that my wife likes coffee and drinks it most days. Proof I guess that opposites do attract. Since she frequently reads these posts first thing in the morning I should also wish her Happy Anniversary! We were married 31 years ago today. The time has just flown by – and I am looking forward to the next 31 years and all the adventures they will bring.)