Buena Vista must be the only town in Colorado without a Starbucks. That’s not to say there isn’t an overpriced coffee house around…there’s a hipster shop down on Main Street roasting several exotic Ethiopian blends that will put hair on a cue-ball and set you back seven bucks a cup. Look, I’m all about free-range beans and domestic, biodegradable containers made with fibers from re-purposed yak wool, but not today. It’s three hours back to Fort Collins and I just need some caffeine. The Loaf ‘n Jug should do fine.
It takes me a moment to locate the “Coffee Corner,” tucked away as it is behind racks of Cheetos and magazines adorned with pouty-lipped vixens. Oops, that’s not for coffee…I think I just grabbed a slurpee cup. I can’t return it to the dispenser, either…there must be some sort of safeguard mechanism that won’t let me push it back where it came from because, you know, I might spit in it and then leave it for the next guy. Guess I’ll just hide it behind this case of sweet rolls that have been here since the Reagan administration.
Ah, there are the coffee cups. Let’s see…small, medium and Lake Powell. Jesus, my kidneys would stage a work stoppage if I drank all that. A medium will be fine. Wait…how can it cost only 15 cents more for what amounts to a bathtub’s worth of joe? This is why America is the greatest country in the world. Large it is…my kidneys will just have to man-up.
Now, which of these giant dispensers actually doles out coffee? The first one looks encouraging, with several large buttons, one that advertises Dark Roast. But as I lean in a little closer I see, in ridiculously tiny letters, the word “cappuccino” just as I give it a push. Dammit! The machine starts to growl and spew foam, even as I’m jerking my hand back like I’ve touched a live wire. Thankfully, it stops after only a few spurts. I toss my soiled cup in the trash and grab another one while mumbling several more choice expletives. The lady next to me smiles the way you’d smile at a person you’re trying to talk off a ledge.
The next machine is another dead end, offering only flavorings – French Vanilla, Hazelnut and some sort of Caramel concoction dripping from hoses as big around as my thumb. I think I read somewhere that these “creams” are only one molecule removed from the composition of plastic. Oh beautiful for spacious skies…
Finally, I come across the coffee pots, hiding down past the cream dispenser. Wow…one hundred percent Columbian, Breakfast Blend, Kona Supreme, Hazelnut, Donut Shop, Decaf. Two pots of each steaming away. But there’s no telling how long any of these have been cooking down. I pick up the Columbian and give it a dubious sniff as the clerk behind the counter eyes me with roughly the same regard.
Either the coffee is scorched or someone used this pot for a urinal. I set it back on the burner and reach for the Hazelnut, as if it makes a difference what I pick at this point. It’s a safe bet that everything tastes like the Columbian smells. All I can do is doctor it up with a bit of that Hazelnut cream from the prior dispenser. The first dose oozes into the blackness without any discernible effect.
As Hans Gruber said in Die Hard, hit it again.
Finally, the color starts to change, if ever so slightly. A stir stick would come in handy right about now, but they’re nowhere to be seen – perhaps under lock and key to protect me from a tragic self-impaling. Rather than use my finger, I swish the cup quickly and then take a sip – molten motor oil with a hint of…bark, maybe? So once more with the cream. But, of course, I put too much coffee in to begin with, and now I have to take a couple of gulps in order to make room. The clerk, meanwhile, hasn’t taken his eyes off me.
A few more shots and the contents have turned a muddy brown, and smell like the Nutella factory. After spending several minutes trying in vain to force a slurpee lid onto the cup (“Son of a…”), I realize my error, snap the proper lid in place and head for the register. I interrupt the clerk, who appears to be posting pictures of me on his facebook page under “Douchebag Customer of the Day,” and a buck seventy later I’m out the door.
By the time I reach the car, though, the cream has made that molecular leap…the coffee is undrinkable, like swigging window cleaner, albeit with a slightly nutty aftertaste. I have a moment where I consider heading back into town for some 7 dollar java. Screw it…let’s see what they’re brewing down at the Shell station.
Photo compliments of coloradoguy.com