Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Coffee Level

­Living in an area where commuting is not only essential to earn a living but also necessary to buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, most frequent drivers have become especially sensitive to road rage. 

To safely survive jaunts about our highways, it is wise to keep more than just a level head.  The poet Seamus Heaney, in his book, “The Spirit Level,” tells his son to run “And tell your mother to try/ To find me a bubble for the spirit level...”  Literally, a spirit level is what the Irish call a carpenter’s level, but what Heaney is referring to is more of a state of mind.  However, if drivers cannot find a “bubble” for their spirit level, then I have another solution:  simply maintain a coffee level.

I like most of my commuter counterparts, drink coffee in the car.  (Please note acceptable substitutions:  tea (green or otherwise), hot cocoa, soda, or any other staining liquid.)  Keeping the coffee at an even keel will act as a good barometer for friendly driving, although it’s imperative for me to have a cup or three prior to departure. Before my first cup, I can barely speak, let alone think straight enough to find my car in the driveway.  Herein lies a paradox:  I need coffee to think straight and I need to think straight to make coffee. 

The other morning, while making coffee, another paradox hit me right in the forehead.  I was reaching up in the cabinet for the stack of filters for the electric drip coffee machine.  Half the stack tumbled and I was plummeted with coffee filters parachuting down looking like an invasion of a tiny army.  After picking up the mess, I tried to separate two filters so I could make the coffee.  The paradox:  It takes the dexterity of a neurosurgeon to pull these things apart and it takes at least a cup and a half of coffee for me to have the dexterity to pick my nose.

No matter whether it’s in a $20 travel mug or a convenience store paper cup, by observing the coffee level, commuters will have no choice but to maintain proper vehicular etiquette.  Sudden moves like merging into a space that couldn’t fit a tricycle or changing lanes without signaling can upset the coffee level. 

Flying past as many cars as possible until the merging lane ends forcing traffic to halt just to let in a car that is now riding on the shoulder of the road instead of merging when there is a space available tips the coffee level of several. 

A gaper, one who stares with mouth wide open, is never good for the coffee level of commuters on the road and those who haven’t even left home yet.  Innocently cutting someone off without the apologetic wave is a serious disruption to the coffee level as is not offering the “thank you” wave after someone has slowed to let a car in.

 Other pointers for maintaining the coffee level:  listen to music, leave talk radio to the unemployed; put in a tape or CD before departure, not doing 68 mph while changing lanes in time to merge; leave the other half of the doughnut on the floor, it’s not the dirt that’s unhealthy; and, for goodness sake, shut off the cell phone, the possible price of the call is just not worth it!

People of the highways, let’s preserve our coffee levels.  Let’s keep our papers free from dirty brown spots.  Let’s have our pants and ties stainless.  Let’s keep our cars free from the smell of old spilled coffee.  Just think, if the smallest spot of coffee on a freshly pressed white shirt is enough to spoil a person’s entire day, imagine what blood can do.

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