Tim Dowling: the coffee machine has one last shock in store | life and style

I’m sitting in the kitchen, staring at my laptop, when the youngest comes in and stands behind me.

“So now the novelty with the coffee machine is,” he says. It’s one of his favorite conversation techniques: start in the middle; let the other guy provide his own introduction.

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“The rubber seal starts to stick out, letting the coffee drip everywhere,” he says.

“Why do you think that is?” I say. This is one of my favorite techniques: when in doubt, speak like a language processing program from the late 1970s.

“Because some people never clean it, and now it’s clogged with coffee grounds,” he says as he removes the water tank from the machine and fills it.

“Please continue,” I said.

“The pressure is so high that it deforms the seal, because some people never clean it.

“Maybe he needs a descaling,” I said.

“It doesn’t need descaling,” he says.

Since before the pandemic, the coffee machine has served four people working from home, producing between 12 and 20 cups of coffee a day. There’s a permanent stain underneath where the dripping coffee etched the countertop. Some mornings he moans and howls and recoils, hot espresso oozing from the screw holes. What I’m saying is: I knew this day would come.

When I return to the kitchen for a late afternoon coffee, I find the machine unplugged and off center. I put it back on top of the stain and plug it in. I press the power button, but nothing happens. When I press harder, holding the button down, I feel a strange sensation, that of electricity running through my fingers and down my arm.

I find the youngest in his room working simultaneously on two computer screens. I have no idea what he does for a living.

“Is there anything I should know about the coffee machine?” ” I say.

“Let people never clean it,” he said without looking up.

“I mean, it just gave me an electric shock,” I said.

“Did it?” he says. “Wow.”

“It’s not ideal,” I say.

“Can we fix it?” he says.

“Usually when I get electrocuted by something, that’s when I stop trying to fix it,” I say.

“Yeah, wise,” he said.

Wise, but not true. I move the machine to another outlet to test it further, letting it electrocute me again and again, thinking: if I get a coffee out of it, it’ll be worth it. Finally, the machine even loses its ability to shock.

The next morning, I have to get up early to finish some work – my alarm clock goes off at 6:40. Dragging myself out of bed, I’m greeted by the sight of myself in a full-length mirror. Today the picture is worse than usual, but the sun is out and a cool breeze blows through the window. As I put on my pants from yesterday, I am overwhelmed by something akin to optimism.

It evaporates as soon as I walk into the kitchen and see the brown spot where the coffee machine was. Another day would be reason enough to go back to bed – I mean, what’s the point?

In the past we had other devices that could produce coffee, but I can’t find them. It is likely that after years of disuse they were quietly phased out. Because some people really like to throw things away. I think: it’s an emergency. I put on some shoes and head for the main street.

Here’s what I would have thought: that all the people walking down the street with lanyards around their necks already have coffees in their hands, maybe even a coffee in each hand. But no one holds a cafe. Of the eight cafes that separate me from the station, none are open at 7:15. I think: how can this be the system?

I walk to the park, turn around and leave. The cafe closest to my house, now open, already has a queue of three. Signs explain the rules: don’t put sugar in your coffee here, do it there. The woman in front keeps turning halfway to look at me; I must be doing something wrong already.

“Then she said, ‘You’re Tim Dowling,'” I told my wife an hour later.

“Are you recognized?” said my wife.

“She took a picture of me for her WhatsApp family,” I said.

“Were you delighted? ” she says.

“I was just like, but my hair,” I said.

“It’s not at its best,” she says.

“I can’t go back today,” I said. “But if you do, mine is a latte.”

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