I’m drinking my coffee from a garden hose again. My life has come full circle. Or, at least the coffee portion of it has.
When I was in my 20’s I worked for big baby-people. Big, rich, baby-people. These baby-people were produce wholesalers on Chicago’s historic South Water Market. They sold produce to restaurants and grocery stores all over Chicagoland.
Chicagoland is a theme park where you get taxed into poverty and then shot to death.
When your business is to sell perishable items to other businesses, then you have to be open early. Two in the morning early.
That’s unbearably early for normal people. But these rich baby-people employed Teamsters. And Teamsters don’t really care what time of the day you’re paying them to stand around. Just as long as they have somewhere to stand and eat.
Thank Hoffa there were two catering trucks parked along the dry dock to feed the Teamsters at all of our strange, unwholesome hours. We called these trucks “Roach Coaches.” We called what they served “Food.”
All day long, there’d be tons of Teamsters clambering all over these trucks. By the end of the day, which was about 1pm, they’d be picked clean. Completely draining multiple tanks of coffee.
I don’t know how many tanks of coffee Danny brewed during the day. Danny was the owner/operator of the Roach Coach I used to go to every day. He was the owner/operator right up until the day a truck ran over his head and made him not alive. I don’t know how many tanks he made, but I resisted them all until I started working the food give-away.
The founder of the business and inseminator of the woman who would birth generations of the rich baby-people I worked for, was also an opportunistically generous man. He founded or co-founded the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which gives food to the needy and political clout to big rich baby-people who own businesses. He also donated warehouse space and two workers to give free government food to local charities.
I was one of the workers he donated.
Three times a month—the 2nd Tuesday, and the 4th Tuesday and Wednesday—I’d have to head over to 108 South Water Market and pile bags of rice, flour, and corn meal on the dock alongside cans of tomatoes and whatever else was on the list for the charities to pick up. It was all very heavy, but I have tattoos on my arms so it’s cool.
The 2nd Tuesday of the month would be a busy day. We’d stock the warehouse at 5am and empty it by noon. Everything would be gone, I’d sweep the floor, and my tattoos would be a little more intimidating.
But the last Tuesday of the month was an entirely different story. When you give charities two days to pick up their free food, almost NONE show up on that first day. We’d set up the warehouse and wait. And while waiting around doing nothing is standard operating procedure for a Teamster, it was maddening for me. I’d do my best to look like it didn’t bother me, this lollygagging on the clock, but I wasn’t a very good Teamster. I hated it.
To pass the time, I’d feed government rice to the pigeons. I heard later that rice is no good for pigeons because it causes bloating from gas and pigeons can’t pass gas. So it kills them. I don’t know how the gas kills them, it’s just something I heard and didn’t bother researching. Though it is now my understanding that I unknowingly killed hundreds of pigeons, turning them into painful little feathered gas-balloons because I was bored out of my mind.
Occasionally, the pigeons wouldn’t even live to become gas-balloons because I would feed them at the edge of the dock. Where trucks backed in. Sometimes backing in over feeding pigeons that were just too slow or distracted to move out of the way in time.
Other than watching Pigeon vs Truck Tire, there wasn’t much else to do.
One 4th Tuesday, the fatigue became too much and I decided to give this “coffee” a try. I had heard rumors that this magical elixir contained a mysterious god-element called “caffeine” which gave one Teamster the awareness of 10 Teamsters—which is equivalent to the awareness of one regular person just waking up from a nap. Luckily for me, the rich baby-people paid me lots of bank so I had the $0.50 for the big Styrofoam cup of awake.
Being my first taste, I wanted to go easy. I took it with cream and sugar. The cream was only a little curdled and for some reason, the sugar never dissolved. But it did the trick. I stood there, wide awake, doing absolutely nothing.
That was my first cup and I liked it. I began getting it every 4th Tuesday. Then every day. Because that’s how addictions work.
That shit was shit.
You’ll hear connoisseurs talk about “earthy undertones” or a “nutty aftertaste” when they sample fine coffees. Though none have tried to capture the nuances of Roach Coach coffee. I’d imagine they’d say something like: “You can really taste the garden hose.” Unfortunately, I’ll never get a gourmand’s assessment, because not even Anthony Bourdain would wash down a goat’s testicle from some far away land with roach coach coffee.
Trust me, the garden hose was undeniably there. Metallic. Plastic. Bitter. The taste of it getting stronger with each weaker brew that Danny made. I remember standing there drinking coffee, wondering why I couldn’t do nothing as spectacularly as my Teamster brothers, and tasting just a hint of brass and summertime and dirt. Later, when I looked at Danny’s truck I saw that there was a section of garden hose connecting the tank where Danny poured in the filthy water and the basket of tired, stale, reused coffee grounds. I called it the flavor tunnel and then repressed that memory until this blog post.
My standards for coffee and employers have risen since my South Water Market days. I began brewing at home with Folgers grounds and then moving on to grinding my own beans. Now I have a Technivorm Moccamaster. Oh you never heard of it? It’s only the best goddamned brewing machine available until the aliens arrive and share with us their brewing technology. Those selfish assholes.
But now my kitchen is being completely repaired. And even the best coffee machines need water. And you need plumbing to have water. So without a sink, I’ve been forced to fill up my carafe with water from my garden hose.
I can’t taste the hose like I did from Danny’s Roach Coach coffee.
Which would be an awesome tagline for my new company that I just thought up: Jeff’s Roach Coach Coffee: Taste the hose. Stay tuned for the Kickstarter on it.
Apparently brass-flavoring isn’t the worst thing about garden hose coffee.
All those summers you ran around slurping from hoses, you weren’t just getting deliciously taboo refreshment, you were ingesting streams of lead and plastic. This is something I’ve learned only after my horrified coworker, (Ruta, of Swap Meat fame) sent me a bunch of links.
Here they are:
Now that I know that drinking water from a garden hose is something like a suicide attempt, I do it even more. I slurp loudly. Looking over the brim of my mug. Directly at Jill.