Op-Ed|Seeing My Own Shadow


(featured image: R.B. Shea, snowbound jackass)

Have you noticed lately, that people you encounter in your daily life are looking a tad twitchy? Notice that funny little gleam in their eye, a little bit of stumble in their swagger? Do you find that people are easily agitated and struggle to maintain their composure, when faced with the simplest challenges and minor stresses?

It’s now officially March, and the Sault is facing a full-on outbreak of Spring Fever. The fact that there is a massive amount of snow on the ground doesn’t help. The mercury dipped down to minus 30 on Thursday morning – that just adds insult to injury. Where is our reward for surviving another brutal Northern winter? Where is the light, at the end of the tunnel, which we fondly refer to as the ‘sun’?

I’m not claiming to be above it all. No, I’m also afflicted. Can’t seem to concentrate. Don’t seem motivated by much. Been sniffing the ground, looking for a good story to write, but I find myself wandering back to the Environment Canada website, seeking hope in a forecast. I involuntarily rise out of my chair, stare out the window, and wish very bad things on all that snow I see. I am adrift on a frigid white sea of contemplation, and there are no bare patches of earth, where I can tether myself to the ground.

I would like to revisit the scandal at the APH, but the news cycle has blown over. Nobody is talking about Rootenberg or Barker right now. The Ministry just got started their investigation, and it looks like it will be at least a month until there is any news on that front. I would like to talk about the City Budget some more, but it seems like members of Council are frustrated with being rushed and in the dark about the details, so I don’t see how a meaningful discussion with the public is even possible right now.

In fitful bursts and sputters, like a car running out of gas, I venture out into the world wide web, seeking something to sink my mind teeth into. The terrorists still want to kill us. Everyone is still fighting over global warming. Cars are still smashing into each other all over the city. Pipes are still bursting. Oil prices are still too low, gas prices are still too high. The monotony of it all; it is all-consuming.

But then I found a little nugget. Something close to my heart. Something at the very fiber of my being. Something on the environmental front. A subject so very Canadian, it ranks right up there with beer and hockey. Let’s talk about coffee!

It seems that John Sylvan, the guy who invented the little K-Cups for the Keurig coffee system, is feeling regret over his creativity. He sold his company in 1997 for $50,000, and since then, the Keurig craze has exploded on the world stage. I don’t think he could have imagined what would happen, but as of 2014, there were enough empty K-Cups floating around to circle the entire globe a dozen times.

That’s a problem, because the vast majority of these little cups are made of plastic. Some are officially considered biodegradable, but most are not. Keurig has committed to making every K-Cup environmentally friendly by 2020, but how many little cups will that add up to, before the tidal wave subsides? It has become a verified phenomenon in Canadian households, almost a ‘right of passage’ for suburban dwellers to have one of these machines proudly displayed on their kitchen counters. In fact, you can be considered ‘uncool’ if you don’t have one of these things. So, how many destructive little plastic thingies will invade the earth, before this craze blows over?

I am proud to say that I have never punctured a K-Cup in my kitchen. You won’t ever see one of those infernal machines on my counter. It’s not because I’m an environmental activist. In fact, I’m one of those people who still buys styrofoam plates, because I hate doing dishes; hate it just that much. Someday I will probably get spray painted by an environmental radical in the parking lot of a Walmart, for my wicked ways. So, I can’t claim to have known that K-Cups were evil, so why did I avoid them? Well because I am cheap!

You heard me – I’m cheap. I often blame it on being part Scottish, but I don’t think that’s a full explanation. Perhaps it was due to maternal influences – my Mom is notorious for never paying full price for anything, ever. Maybe it happened when I became an adult, and had to start paying my own way in the world. Regardless of the origins, and whether or not it will someday lead to expensive therapy sessions, I cannot tolerate the idea of paying more than fifty cents a cup, to drink coffee in my own house! I couldn’t enjoy it. I would be seething with hostility, even if the brew was dark and delicious. No, I wouldn’t get on the K-cup train, and I will openly discourage anyone I meet, from buying a ticket.

Coffee was on sale this week, for $6.99. That’s for two pounds of Maxwell House, which used in a quality machine, makes a pretty fair cup of coffee. I have a Hamilton Beach Brew Station that I received as a gift about a month ago and we have grown very close in the short time we have been together. I put roughly an ounce of coffee in the filter and set my machine on the ‘dark’ setting and within a few minutes there are 12 cups of coffee (which actually means 6) waiting in the reservoir, for me to press the magic button on the front, and get my fix. It’s simply delicious! And it keeps it warm for up to four hours, and it never gets burnt or bitter. It’s mystical, and more than that, highly economical!

Lots of websites will tell you to put a big pile of coffee in your machine, like a tablespoon per cup. When you buy the little packets of Tim Horton’s coffee, there’s a full two ounces in there. I think they’re all nuts. If I use a whole packet of the Tim’s in one pot of coffee I’d have to peel myself off the ceiling. It’s too much! No, I get about 32 pots of coffee out of every 2 pound can I buy, which adds up to about 200 real cups of coffee for $6.99. A quick click on my calculator reveals that this adds up to about three and a half cents a cup!

Now, let’s switch over to the Keurig system. How much does it cost you per cup, to enjoy that stuff at home? Well, a quick visit to the Walmart website reveals that you can get 16 or 18 K-Cups for anywhere from $12-$16. Best case scenario? You’re paying roughly sixty cents a cup! How do you live with yourself, knowing this?

Oh, I know. You’re going to try and argue that you get specialty blends, high quality coffee for your hard-earned money. You don’t want to drink my yucky Maxwell House. I get it. Fair enough. Let’s go back to my Brew Station then, and put something really fancy in it, shall we?

A 2 pound can of Tim Horton’s fine grind will run you roughly $17. That’s good quality stuff! If a can of that will make 200 cups in my machine, the cost comes in at eight and a half cents a cup! For Tim Horton’s, and no waiting in the drive-thru! But let’s take it one step further, and go really high-end. Let’s buy a half pound of Starbucks brew for $12, and throw that into my machine. It will make roughly 50 cups of coffee, at twenty four cents a cup! That’s still less than half the price of any K-cup you can buy!

So please, someone tell me why I should get on board with the K-Cup craze? My Brew Station is sitting ready right now, waiting for me to press the magic button for instant gratification, so don’t talk to me about convenience. Don’t talk to me about flavor, because I’ve already addressed that issue. And please don’t mistake me for one of those penny-pinching freaks who would rather drink swill than cough up a fair price for a fair brew. I go to Timmies once in a while, and pay $1.70 for a medium regular, for the same reason some people will pay $6 for a bottle of beer in a bar – it’s a social experience! But if anyone thinks I’m going to pay $6 a bottle for beer in my own living room, because it is ‘fashionable’, they are out of their minds!

So, why are you sitting at home, paying coffee shop prices for a cup of brew?

Let’s talk about it, and distract ourselves from looking out that window, pining for Spring. The weather forecast is calling for positive numbers, higher than zero, by Tuesday! Die, snowflakes, die! We will get through this, the end is near. We just have to keep it together a little while longer, try not to freak out. I’ve seen my own shadow, and it frightened me a little, but I think I just might make it. That twitchy look in my eye, that odd little gleam, will cleverly be concealed by the shades I intend to wear, while I chill out in the coming sunshine.

To heck with St Paddy’s Day and the Easter Bunny. I’m writing a letter to Juan Valdez, and will ask him how the crop is looking this year. Green beer and chocolate comas can’t hold a candle to my magical beans.



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