Coffee and Whiskey, Please

Sometimes, people can be a little pretentious about their coffee. Fortunately, I have a strategy for dealing with situations like these.

28 November 2023

I’ve been sober now for six months. I’m not an alcoholic, that’s merely how long I’ve been sober. Generally, I drink two bottles of whiskey a year and consider even that excessive. But this year, my daughter wanted to attend the school camp, and the other decided she wanted to learn the cello. Frankly, I blame their school for overselling the merits of camping and musical instruments. And while I count myself fortunate that Hattie didn’t want to learn the violin, I still think this situation is a dirty trick to play on a man. Reminds me of that Chinese saying, ‘If you quarrel with your neighbors, buy their children drums’. We all know that if the Chinese had invented the cello, the proverb would mention that instrument instead.

But my point is, when I looked at my budget, my semiannual bottle of whisky was in a column labeled Postponed For Now.

So what I did next was put on my shoes and head off down the drive-way, but here my wife stopped me with questions. In summary, she didn’t think the situation warranted a conversation with the school’s principal.

“Look,” I said to her, reasonably, “this cello business is too much. I’ll just tell them I’m an alcoholic or something, and that I need money for whiskey, or else — I don’t know — delirium tremens will ensue.”

(I’m not entirely certain what delirium tremens means, but I came across the phrase in an old novel and think it sounded suitably dramatic.)

“They won’t judge me. Alcoholism is a serious ailment. They’ll be understanding and supportive, probably.” I thought about it a bit, and added, “You know, maybe the school principal can chip in. Perhaps he can go around all the classrooms and take up a collection for me. They know I’m a writer, don’t they? Local schools are always bleating about supporting the Arts. Which reminds me, I should check if I can write off whiskey as a tax-deductible office expense.”

Then my wife started talking. I’ll spare you most of it, because obviously I didn’t agree with a word. I just nodded and told her she was right, then headed back to the house. Unwittingly, she had given me an idea.

The next thing I did was set up an account at Then put links to it on my two websites. This was long overdue, I now realize. Wrongcards has existed since 2008 and so far it’s never earned me a cent. But if I can get some whiskey out of that website, I would consider the whole thing a net win.

I also thought it interesting that the ‘Buy Me a Coffee’ website encouraged me to change the donation message to anything I pleased. I could make it ‘Buy Me Whiskey’ if I liked. But my wife’s warnings against me pan-handling for whiskey-money near my children’s school reminded me that some people take everything far too seriously. I’m given to understand that if my children tried to sell lemonade or cookies at the school, merely to raise funds to buy their father a bottle from the top shelf, then the authorities might even get involved.

So, this explains why my website encourages people to buy me coffee. To be clear, I enjoy coffee, but the cost-of-living crisis in Australia has pushed its price up significantly. One time, I paid eleven dollars for a cup of lukewarm nonsense, and predictably, the barista had one of those I’m silently judging you attitudes, and even pretended my card was declined, possibly because he didn’t approve of my shoes.

As I say, I like coffee, though it is not part of my identity. In fact, I think two minutes of talk about coffee beans would be more than enough. Same with wine, now I think about it, because coffee and wine are never the subject of those conversations; really, the subject concerns the inherent wonderfulness of a certain person’s sensibilities. They’re experts, you see, and they can prove it by speaking in a litany of cliches, and you’re supposed to listen and marvel in awed silence. Sometimes, when people talk about coffee, you can almost hear the agitated hooting of primates squabbling in a tree.

But I know how to deal with this. I used to work alongside Harvard Medical School physicians, whose pretenses could be as elaborate as they were Luciferian. Some had two offices because their egos required the extra space. And did I make fun of them? You bet I did. I made fun of them all the time, right to their faces. The trick is knowing how to do it without getting yourself fired. All that’s required is a light touch.

Suppose someone is boring you about single-sourced coffee beans from Antartica or who-knows-where. It’s a monologue, and you want their mouth to stop making noises. This is how I’d approach the problem.

“How do I want my coffee?” I’d interrupt, suddenly, gazing manically past their left ear. “How do I want my coffee? I want it in a tin mug, and made from freeze-dried granules — stale, ideally, and several years past their sell-by date. Oh, and I want it scalding and topped with a splash of whiskey, like a dangerous afterthought.

“Black and bitter, like a terrible night at sea,” I whisper now, hoarsely. “For you know, we are aboard a ship in a storm. You’ve arrived just now to wake me from troubled dreams, and with you comes terrible news. A crack has opened in the hull below decks. We’re taking on water. And, here’s the crux of it: apparently, my two daughters have absconded with the ship’s only life raft.”

You see? It’s all about offering a sincere reading of the old emotional barometer. Did I mention the school camp and cello lessons?

“I stand now upon the ship’s bridge, glaring across our submerged bow. Beyond the yonder cresting wave, I see my daughters dancing upon the deck of our only life raft. Treacherous and beautiful, they are — their hair is unfurled, their voices raised in song. Do you hear it, that Elven laughter over the crashing waves?”

If you’re feeling confused, you might not be a parent.

“Yes, sir — give me two spoons of instant coffee in a humble tin mug! This ship is sinking, so let us spare ourselves the indignity of brand awareness. Scalding hot, I said — black and bitter, with a splash of inexpensive whiskey, before we drown…”

Sure, they’ll probably think you’re mad, and edge away. But if you do it right, they’ll never talk to you again.

With Chaste Affection,

Kris St.Gabriel

You can buy me a coffee here.

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