I am in line at a conference with 10 or 12 other yawning ladies. We are all paying anywhere from $2 to $5 for the privilege of pouring our own coffee into paper cups. We have our choice of sugar or any of 3 kinds of artificial sweetener. We are supposed to have a choice between 2% fat milk or half & half. The carafe labelled half & half is empty. There is no choice after all! I inform the cashier that she is out of half & half. I decide as I pour my own milk that I am glad I chose the $2 size cup.
It's late in the day. Wearily, I shut my computer down and get ready to lock my office. A voice comes over our PA: Attention, faculty and staff! Tomorrow would be a fabulous time for you to bring a pound of coffee. We are out.
The local grocery store has its own store-brand 13-ounce package of coffee on sale, buy one, get one free. Even though they are asking too much for their not-quite-one-pound brick-shaped package, I find the idea of getting 26 oz. for the price of 13 irresistible. I tell myself that I will take the extra short-pound to work with me so I don't have to contribute to the coffee fund. My co-workers will be so happy that we don't have to skip brewing our pot of coffee even one morning!
Anyway, the store is out of my favorite brand.
My husband enters the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning wearing a T-shirt, plaid shorts, and cowboy boots. He is on auto-pilot at this hour as the boots steer him in the direction of the percolator. I stand between him and the counter to mask the fact that the percolator light is OFF. My mouth is open in semi-surprise; there is a hint of panic in my eyes.
"What?" he asks when he notes my expression. He reaches past me to open the dishwasher for a clean coffee mug.
"Um," I reply. The caution in my tone stops him as if we were playing freeze-tag. Mr. Powers is paralyzed, mid-reach.
"What?" he asks again. Who turned up the volume?
"I think we're out . . . " I say, as if I didn't know for sure. Of course I know for sure. It's my job to set up the percolator every night before I go to bed. That way all I have to do is plug it in when I get up. The miracle of 1930's technology does the rest, and Mr. Powers and I go to work slightly more alert than our non-caffeinated peers.
"What do you mean 'out'?" he asks me. I'll have to think about this for a second. Out has lots of meanings. My intention was to disclose, ever so carefully, that we had no coffee in the house. But my mate's question may have given me an out around the dangerous truth.
We are no longer closet coffee-drinkers. We are out of coffee. The world can at last know who we are. It's the end of the line for "Don't ask, don't tell," and we'll proudly place those coffee mugs on our desks for everyone to see. . . .
Or maybe out can be where we'll drink our coffee this fine autumn morning. We'll go out on the deck and watch the blue jays eat their breakfast . . . but we'll have to go out somewhere else first, like the grocery store.
"We don't have coffee?" The incredulity in his tone is deafening.
"Um." (Oh, rats! I already said that!) "I didn't notice until I came in to set up the coffee pot last night. I thought we had almost a pound of that store brand in there, but--"
"You didn't go get any?" More incredulity.
"It was kind of late. The store was closed by that time, and I didn't feel like going out . . . . " (Bright idea!) "I'm having some hot tea. Can I fix you a--"
I am talking to my husband's plaid-covered tailgate as the cowboy boots steer him back down the hall. I sip my hot tea and hope we're not out of BC powders, too.