Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Coffee sucks!
By Bob Zettler
February 2, 2016

In 1974 I was stationed at Brooks AFB in San Antonio, Texas and assigned to the Research Section as a Physiological Training Specialist. Now the Viet Nam War had basically ended and several in my unit had previously served (we called them “Lifers”) but not seen any “action.”  Our enlisted head was a reformed alcoholic who performed mechanical repair on the side for many of his superiors and was a quiet sort.  Then there was Maloney, someone I came to despise by the time I left there.  He was a drunk, loudmouth who openly cheated on his wife and I had no respect for him.  And there was Bentley who had been a Canadian and self-professed former hippie but had chosen to be a “lifer” and was a pretty good egg.  Then there was Schultz who was a really nice guy but wouldn’t take any guff from Maloney or others – he got shipped to Okinawa eventually for rocking the apple cart.  My boss was Juan who had NEVER left Texas and while patient with upstarts like me – I was the first ever Airman/Airman First-Class that had ever been assigned to this unit as all others had been Sergeant or above – was in over his head organizationally.

Yes, I was rebellious after just living in the East Bay of California for a year and having fun.  In retrospective, I thought I was too smart for my own good.  And one thing that rubbed me raw was being ordered around…smart move to enter the Service.  Hell, even my Dad cautioned me against going in but that’s another story as this one is about coffee.

Yes, coffee!  That beverage many require in the mornings to even get moving and for our unit that was truly the case for everyone but me!  I was a soda kind of guy and had been raised on that and Hot Tea – my mother was British – so coffee was alien to me even though my father drank it at home and when out to eat.

So here I am in a unit where coffee was so important that they had rigged up one of those 20-cup percolator coffee pots with a timer so there would be coffee ready as they straggled into the office each morning.  Each of us was required to take turns to get the coffee pot ready for the next morning on the night before by filling it with water and placing the appropriate amount of coffee grounds in the strainer.  The timer was a 24-hour timer so we were ready for the Tuesday-Friday “grind” and someone would be required to come in early every Monday to ensure the coffee was made for that day – no three day timers back then!

As I had a custom to rebelling against being told what to do (hmm, wonder where my children get that characteristic?), didn’t drink coffee and was already having issues with my “superiors”, a fiendish plot began to develop.  I decide to sabotage the coffee!  No, not with poison but with things like nuts and bolts, salt and other non-lethal crap around the research building I worked in.  It tickled me that first time they tasted my brand of coffee as I expected to have to clean up the floors covered with sprayed coffee but it would be worth it! 

I especially focused on Maloney as he took the first sip to try and clear his head from the previous night of debauchery cheating on his wife and getting drunk.  And I waited, and waited and waited but no one sprayed their coffee on the floors or desks!  I kept at it over the next four days and tried varying combinations of non-lethal “extras” but no one rejected my brews and in fact started to prefer my budding Barista talents to the others!

This just wasn’t fair!  And, no, I did not urinate in the pot of coffee (at least I don’t recall doing so) and finally gave in to sample it myself a couple of times whereupon I spit it out till I learned the benefit of using tons of cream and sugar just like I did with my Tea.  Curses, foiled again!

Now, its 40 years later and I mentioned this story to a man working temporarily in the office and he floors me!  It turns out that a trick restaurants use to making bitter coffee more palatable is to add a pinch of salt as it seems to take the bite out of it.  So here I have been carrying this burden and failure around with me for FORTY YEARS and finally discover that by dumb luck, fate or divine intervention I had discovered unbeknownst to me that my devious efforts to corrupt the delivery of coffee had been thwarted to the opposite end of the spectrum.

It sucks not being able to be a bad person even when you try to be!

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