Sometimes, my profession requires me to unwind after a particularly strenous day, and, in my opinion, there’s no better way to do so than an evening at my local. Last Tuesday was one of those days; a 15 hour shift that could only be cured with the prescription of a game of pool and a bag of pork scratchings. Walking home, feeling suitably de-stressed, I chanced upon a couple of figures huddled together in an alleyway, lit only by the faint glow of a distant street-lamp. I pressed myself against a wall, keeping hidden as I listened to their conversation:
‘Hang on. I need to get the right amount.’
‘Come on! I need it!’
Against my better judgement, I crept closer, keeping myself hidden in the shadows, my eyes fixed on a small spoon that suddenly reflected the half-light. Two more poor souls, tortured by cursed addiction. I should’ve turned away, I know. I should’ve minded my own business and gone home to my house and my bed, gone to sleep, got on with my life. But I felt compelled to step in. Compelled to steer these unfortunates toward the help they needed.
‘Finally. Right; give it here.’
I had to act quickly, so, without thinking, made a grab for the spoon. There was a struggle; I took a blow to the face and the groin, the latter sending me to the ground in a groaning heap. The figures bent over me, and, with my eyes swimming with the pain of my attack, I found to my amazement, it was into the faces of two well-dressed middle-aged women I stared.
‘What are you playing at, you fool?’
I explained that I’d only been trying to save them from themselves, and the horrors of addiction. They laughed in response.
‘This isn’t funny,’ I snapped, the throbbing in my testicles making me nauseous, ‘Don’t you know how dangerous what you’re doing is?’
The ladies frowned, and exchanged a perplexed look. I glanced at the spoon, and saw it was a plastic, take-away affair, then at the large paper cups both of them held, almost protectively.
‘We’re only having our coffee,’ they spat, ‘what’s it to you?’
I struggled to my feet, made my apologies, and staggered from the alleyway. Looking back, seeing the women devouring their drinks, like lionesses tearing at a wounded Gazelle, I realised how accurate the sign outside the petrol station across the road was: ‘Coffee Nation’. It sure is.
The above may be slightly fictionalised, and yet, in spite of its drama, it’s not entirely innacurate. Swap night for day, and the alleyway for an office, and you will see England, 9-5 Monday to Friday. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognise the animalistic cravings of those women in the alleyway, stopping at nothing until they get their fix. As I write this, at 7:30 on a Friday morning, sitting at my computer, pretending to be doing what I’m paid for, I hear the endless rattle of spoons in mugs, of kettles boiling, of rabid, foam-mouthed office bods shaking violently as their mugs are delievered to their longing, addict’s lips. OK, once more I stray into fantasy, but the majority is true. People in this country are hopelessly, utterly and wholly obsessed with coffee. If the government banned the drink tomorrow, the recent riots would be a mere warm-up act to the scenes that would ensue. Take a walk down a high street, ANY high street in Engand, and I guarantee you won’t go more than a couple of yards without either a) coming across a coffee shop, or b) a zombified addict walking stiff-armed, with a steaming paper-cup held out in front of them like the Olympic Torch.
On holiday with my in-laws recently (yes, I know), I am not lying when I say my mother-in-law was unable to go more than half an hour without a coffee. Didn’t matter where we were, what we were doing, or who was restraining her with a straight-jacket, she HAD to have her coffee, or else. It made me wonder how much she would pay for one. I came to the conclusion that her bank balance would be blown apart if it came to it, her house re-mortgaged, and her husband donated to the nearest unlicensed laboratory for extensive experimental tests. This time, I actually don’t think I’m exaggerating, either.
And what happened to walking into a pub, going up to the bar, ordering a pint, and withdrawing to your seat, all within the space of a few seconds? I’ll tell you what happened: Coffee is what happened. Now, if you approach a bar that isn’t ten deep with caffeine-craving piranhas, you’re immensely fortunate. Every bar, pub, restaurant, and toilet in England now owns one of those insanely large, impossibly loud coffee machines. And places are jammed with punters ordering their exquisitely complicated-sounding bevarages, day and night, night and day. And to get struck behind someone ordering a super-skinny mocha-latter-chino, with cinammon powder, chocolate flakes, extra froth, and Dodo’s cock, is as painful as sandpaper in the eye.
Forget fossil fuels, water shortages and climate change: the real problem will come if the coffee supply suddenly runs short. It’ll be Dawn of The Dead all over again (with extra sprinkles).