One thing I’ve learned over this past week, and that is there ain’t no such thing as a free coffee!
Or to be more precise, that should be qualified as a ‘decent’ free coffee.
On Monday, bustling into the campus during my mid-afternoon lunch break I noticed three portable signboards, each figuring attractive orange posters with white & black interspersed text, century gothic font…
enjoy rich velvety FREE FROTHY café coffee
I peered to my left, across the walkway leading to the Squarehouse courtyard, and there it was, an attractive looking orange stall the size of a large open tent, with a queue of eager persons lining up for their free frothy.
‘Hmph’ I silently ventured to myself, and led on straight ahead.
By Tuesday, my curiosity was piqued enough. Against my better judgement, I decided to forgo my daily regal ritual of an afternoon expresso, allowing myself to be lured by a ‘freebie’ in the form of the aforementioned free frothy café coffee.
The queue was long, comprising mostly of students. In front of me were two men in their fifties, likely lecturers, engaged in vibrant conversation. A couple walking past the line flashed their matching tight, sardonic grimaces in our general direction. A blue mist of paranoia swept silently around me. I almost felt a little grubby to be standing in this queue; similar to the feeling I’ve had of those few occasions I’ve stood in line waiting to purchase lottery tickets for some supersized windfall. At those times I couldn’t help but turn around to gaze at people’s expressions waiting in line. Everyone had that same subtle tightness of expression, with a faint look that some unpleasant odour had been cast under their noses. I wondered if this expression masked some kind of quiet desperation, how desperately did these people – myself included – desired or needed 10 million bucks. I’ve decided since, in answer to my own question, not really…maybe a little bit, but no, not really, not 10 million. Needless to say I rarely purchase lottery tickets these days.
I suppose the obsenity lies, no matter how apparently insignificant, in the whole thing of wanting to get something for free, and giving nothing in return. My karma does not allow for such liberties, I have discovered through the course of my living lifetime.
I tightened my scarf and bowed my attention to my sudoku puzzle, pen whistling in all directions amidst the afternoon wind as I attempted to deduce the missing numbers, twisting a few brain cells in the process.
Three young, attractive, friendly people were servicing the free coffee, each standing behind small boiling-water bowsers. As I advanced in the queue I realised the coffee was actually a major brand promoting ‘boutique’ instant coffee. There were many flavours and ‘styles of coffee’ to choose from. I decided on ‘skinny latte’. Everyone was asked the same question, ‘how’s your day been?’
Finally, standing in the stall to order my free frothy. The bubbly young woman behind my section of the counter asked me ‘how’s your day been?’
‘Good thank you, and yours?’
‘Do you work for N?’
‘No, we’re a public relations team!’
‘And you’re promoting N coffee for the week?’
‘Yes!’ – maintaining her gladness.
‘right’ – I nod solemnly.
After spending a short moment finding the correct box for my preferred flavour the nurse prepared my coffee with almost surgical precision; pouring the contents of the cylindrical sachet into a disposable cup, taking up a plastic stirrer, stirring up the contents in newly poured boiling water, finally disposing of the stirrer within the used sachet and into the correct bin. I felt I was an outpatient visiting a hospital tent. I was handed the coffee.
‘Thank you very much and have a great day’.
The stuff was revolting, tasting like bicarbonate soda with flavoured hints of imitation coffee and notes of curdled milk for good measure. I don’t mind straight-ahead instant coffee occasionally but this stuff was appalling. Fucking lame actually. Made me feel queasy all afternoon. The ‘froth’ was merely a dozen bubbles that hung around on the surface of the beverage for way too long.
My afternoon coffee is my prize for working. It is a personal pact I’ve made with myself, my own daily personal reward for being at the job, my work-a-day indulgence, my treat. I’m leo the lion when it comes to my afternoon coffee. I feel my mane glow and softly shine in the afternoon light as the expresso sates my taste buds, mood, and quite simply, my chronic caffeine addiction. I do wonder if a lot of other people feel the same way. Perhaps that’s why people seem noticeably impatient when standing in line for their coffee.
This ‘free frothy’ was actually not free at all. Its value was such that we should have been paid to drink this stuff! And handsomely too. Standing in line to purchase a lottery ticket potentially gives vaster rewards than standing in line for a free quease. Never again. There ain’t no such thing as a decent, free coffee!
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