Gas and the price of cof­fee

The Compass - - OPINION - Harold N. Wal­ters

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 gh­wal­

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