Gas and the price of coffee
It’s a Wednesday. The Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices predicts another “jump at the pumps.” No surprise, eh b’ys? Before I address the price of coffee, however, hold still for a short history lesson.
Once upon a time during the 1880s, or thereabouts, there lived an Irish landowner named Charlie Boycott. This was the time of the Irish Land Wars about which I know almost nothing. It seems, though, that Charlie was mistreating his tenant farmers — standard nasty landlord fare, apparently. The farmers got up in arms. No, that’s a lie. The farmers didn’t literally get up in arms. They, figuratively, sat down on the job and said, “Charlie, old man, we’m not going to dig your spuds,” — or whatever.
Charlie nearly went whoopsie in his small clothes.
Despite threats, the farmers became more entrenched.
Eventually, Charlie caved and the word “boycott” entered the English language. Boycott, meaning “If we don’t get our own way we’ll pout and sulk until we do.” Now, consider the price of coffee. Dearest Duck, the conscience angel on my right shoulder, chides me for exhibiting what she claims is arse-up snobbism because I — so says Dearest’s heavenly voice — peer down my proboscis at people who don’t drink instant Nescafé.
I’ve tried other coffee. Double-double. Moca-moca. That newfangled stuff in the wee Dixie cups. None of it jolts my bloodstream like a heaping spoonful of instant Nescafé stirred into a mug of boiling water.
Some years ago the price of Nescafé climbed up on the roof, so to speak, beyond the reach of frugal consumers. Handy $10 a crock!
“Enough,” said I, thinking of Charlie Boycott and his impoverished tenants. “As of this moment, Nescafé!”
“Your action will surely rock the halls of commerce,” said Dearest Duck, her voice scornful as if she’d shifted sides and was now the devilish imp on my left shoulder. “You just wait,” said I. Days, weeks, p’raps a month or two passed, while I drank Tension Tamer to calm me during the siege. I refused to lay my coffee dollars down. Then the $10 bottles of Nescafé rolled off the roof, crashed and shattered on the flagstones, whatever they are.
Encouraging signs appeared on supermarket shelves: Nescafé Now! $3.99!
“Frig you, Charlie Boycott!” I crowed, feeling like an Irish tenant farmer and fancying the King of Coffee Commerce as dastardly Mr. Boycott.
“Harry, my misguided love,” said Dearest Duck, “I suppose you think this price reduction is the result of your stubborn sulking.”
“Yes, my Duck,” said I, “one determined man can stall the wheels of overwhelming industry.”
“Don’t be so foolish,” said one coy angel; said one tickled imp.
Undeterred, I tally-hoed to the supermarket, stacked four Nescafés on the checkout belt, handed off a $20 bill and accepted pocket change.
Next day I went back for another four. And again the day after. And a final time after Dearest cashed her pension check and lent me lucre.
I stacked twenty bottles on a basement shelf and have ever since topped up said shelf at every occasion.
Now, here’s gasoline jumping at the pumps. Jumping up far more often than jumping down,
boycotting eh b’ys?
Picture the Oily Kings of Crude merrily chafing their avaricious palms as gas pump snouts gurgle fuel into x-million automobiles. Picture the Oily Kings of Crude cackling like misers, circling holiday dates on calendars, pissing their pants with excitement and panting, “More, more, more.” Remember Charlie Boycott. Remember Nescafé. Remember me, a man alone, who — dare I say it? — singlehandedly upsot a Coffee Cartel’s applecart, or whatever. “Harry…” A man alone, even a man and his Dearest Duck in tandem, cannot hobble the Kings of Crude and bring them to their knees by refusing to drive to The Mall. But… But, if for just a single day, a thousand times a thousand men, refused to buy a drop, a stain, of gasoline and instead stayed home and sipped their Nescafé, well, that might be a different cup of tea, a different quintal of fish.
“Harry, my love, my love, my feverish, raving love, I fear you’ve gone overboard. I’ll pour you a Tension Tamer. It’ll be oil on troubled water.” I swear my Dearest snickered. Thank you for reading. By the way, I’m down to my last twenty bottles of Nescafé. Truly. — Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, Placentia Bay, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org