It’s a common scenario across the land.
A loose group of bleary eyed strangers, gathering in silence, awaiting their hit.
Nothing in common, other than their need for a chemical upper to sharpen their senses.
The grinding of the raw product, the metallic clatter of the dispenser allocating the portions, the billowing vapour from heating to achieve the right chemical extraction. All part of the ritual.
Each stranger in turn, called up to collect their bespoke stimulant.
Money changes hands and a spring is added to the step as the day instantly seems more bearable.
I’m part of this scene – it’s my only vice. I don’t drink beer and I don’t own a pair of thongs.
It started when I was teenager with a cup of instant Nescafe at a friend’s house. Milky with enough sugar to make the spoon stand upright. My friends Mum said that’s how everyone had theirs so I yielded to the pressure.
The years passed by and I was getting steadily hooked. Social occasions were enhanced by joining in with the other dependants. There was sense of belonging due to the shared need.
My first job after finishing school came with a supply of International Roast. A large tin sat in the staff room kitchen, beckoning all to gather and partake. This was a time when smoking was still permitted indoors and the smoking staff members would hog the staff room, driving us health conscious addicts to slurp and run. When the tin was near empty, a new one miraculously appeared to ensure supply wasn’t interrupted.
The next job came with Moccona freeze dried instant and permission to partake at my desk. Could it get much better than this? The job was stressful and frantic, but to be able to savour the flavour and get an energy boost was just what was needed to keep up the pace.
After a few years I strayed.
Moccona was losing its effect so I went looking for something with an edge – and I found Coke.
We had a supply at work for catering for customers. I could sneak one every now and again, carefully avoiding detection from the customer service staff and my boss. A surreptitious session out of sight then quickly back to work, carefully disposing of the empty evidence.
But I couldn’t take much more. Getting busted in the act, the guilt, the expanding waistline. I cut back but I was left with a hollow feeling inside.
Then my life changed.
Espresso arrived and the hollow feeling was gone.
Moccona now a memory, replaced with the full flavour of the bean. A beautiful espresso machine was installed at my work and due reverence was paid. No more instant for us.
Espresso in all its forms had invaded the nation, and a grateful population was saved.
Not just the preserve of migrants anymore, cafés sprung up across the landscape. Cappuccinos appeared at shopping centre and lattes were available in the suburbs. The urn, drip filter, plunger and kettle had had their day.
I was in heaven. A cappuccino in the morning just like a European had me feeling very cosmopolitan. The offer of an instant had me regressing to an earlier less enlightened time and was met with a polite “no thank you.”
Again the years rolled on and the café culture spread far and wide. Australians were buying over 2 billion take away espressos and I was helping with that number.
Should I try to dial down the caffeine? Maybe I’ll sleep a little better.
A short experiment with decaffeinated had me pining for the real stuff before too long. It was back to the triple shot cappuccino, and who needs sleep anyway?
I now have an espresso machine at home, although I can be seen most mornings downtown amongst the silent strangers waiting expectantly for our daily dose.
So be kind to us addicts. We are creating jobs and fuelling the economy, as well as ourselves.
By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.