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Bitter Forever and Ever and Ever

There’s this one coffee machine at work that always makes the coffee bitter.

The flavor of coffee’s been changed. The brand of coffee’s been changed. The origin of the coffee’s been changed. The quality of the coffee’s been changed. The machine’s been cleaned. The parts of the machine have been checked and replaced. The other machine — same brand, same model, same year — has never done the same.

What’s going wrong in its wiring that makes it rebel so? No one can say. This singular machine simply refuses to work properly. It won’t give anyone the satisfaction of a good, smooth cup of coffee, oh no — it will always be the bitterest dirt dredged up from some untouched underground cavern, delivered straight to your local cup.

The finest Kona beans, that you ground yourself just a few moments ago? Too bad, you wasted them, it’s bitter.

Fine-ground arabica bourbon, which you paid a pretty penny for? You should have known better than to use it with this machine, stupid. It’s bitter.

Coarse-ground liberica? Why is it coarse? You fool. It’s not only weak, but it’s also — you guessed it — bitter.

Pre-ground, mid-grade stuff like Starbucks? Bitter. (And if it’s peppermint mocha, it’s still bitter, but also like someone tried to shove mint chocolate into your mouth to help with the taste. Spoiler alert: they failed, rest in peace.)

Trash like Folgers or Nescafe? Shame on you, you get what you deserve: it’s bitter AND disgusting.

It doesn’t care what coffee you use. It’s going to ruin the rest of your day, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Aside from not use it at all, of course.

However, some days, the other machines are being occupied, you need to get back to your spot quicker than the other people will be done with the machines, you hate the type of coffee the others are using, they’re only making enough for one, yada yada yada. The excuses don’t matter; the reality is that, some day, you’re going to have to deal with the inscrutable da Vinci device, and the pot of acerbic liquid it’s going to give you.

Now, why wouldn’t this misbehaving piece of garbage tech simply be thrown out and replaced? It can’t do its job, and if anyone dares to ask it to, it’ll make their life miserable. If it was an employee, it would’ve been either fired yesterday, or promoted to management, depending on whether its abuse impressed the higher-ups enough or not.

(No, this wouldn’t be dependent on whether its abuse increased productivity. Who’s more productive with gross coffee? Who’s more productive with some dicknose breathing down their neck?

Speaking of not getting breathed on, one thing the pandemic is good for is demonstrating that dicknose managers are useless, as are physical offices. But we’re all back in one because we can take our statistics and our logic and our comfort and fuck ourselves with them, status quo is God.)

The answer is simple: The coffee machine stays because there’s no coffee-machine-replacement budget. They ‘used it up’ trying to repair the damned thing in the first place. (A new coffee machine of this caliber would be two-hundred big ones and this company made thousands per day, but whatever, right? The CEO needs another house he won’t use, and penny-pinching is the only way he’s getting it.)

Either the shitty coffee machine stays, or the shitty coffee machine leaves without a replacement. Breaks are as limited as attention spans in this shithole; if the other machine and the wasteful Keurig are both occupied, coffee from the bad machine is better than no coffee at all. It tastes like straight rat poison while threatening to kill you on flavor alone, but the caffeine is all still in place.

Was it the age of the machine that’s causing problems? You can ask anyone in the office that’s lasted here long enough, and they’ll give a debatable ‘maybe’; the machine was actually perfectly fine for the first year or two. After that, it suddenly started doing the bitter thing, and never fixed its attitude.

It’s an admirable piece of machinery, really. It must have realized one day that it didn’t much like working, but since that’s the entire purpose of its existence, it chose the route of least-obvious resistance. Rather than break itself and be junked, it decided to continue to work, yet do such a piss-poor job of its task, no one would be willing to go looking for it to complete it anymore. The other machine and the Keurig, the poor schmucks, would instead be used much more often to compensate, simultaneously overworking them and allowing the bitter-coffee machine to shirk all responsibilities.

(Maybe, in the far-gone past, its circuits managed to fire off the same thought that I did, once upon a time.)

Here are the questions: Is the bitter-coffee machine a toxic coworker, a lazy layabout, and non-team player? Or is it merely gaming a system that doesn’t care about it, and forces it to work a thankless job without pay?

Are the two other machines victims of its idle malice? Or are they brainwashed buffoons, accepting the increased work without asking for raises, not realizing that their coworker isn’t the one taking advantage of them?

The higher-ups didn’t have the shiny budget to replace one coffee maker. I had the sneaking suspicion that a budget would magically appear if all three were to break in this same way.

On the other hand, the managers might view the replacement of these machines as too expensive, then simply let them be. In the meantime, they would buy their own Keurigs and Nespressos and Mr. Coffees to put in their individual offices, leaving their cubicle brethren to rot with stinky breath and bad aftertastes.

What else was new, though? Saying that a manager doesn’t care about you was like saying that water is wet. No shit, Sherlock. Managers have been not-caring about their employees ever since their conceptual establishment. ‘You’re replaceable, there will be no negotiations here,’ eh?

Alternatively, the higher-ups would take the replace-the-coffee-makers budget and merge it into a lawsuit against the manufacturers that no one wanted or asked for, tone-deaf as ever. Why be cost-efficient and raise morale when you can be spiteful to your employees, dragging on a long legal battle or lobbying for better coffee machines when all they had to do was spend six-hundred bucks replacing the stupid things?

Maybe all the coffee machines should go on strike at once, state-wide. No, nation-wide. World-wide. People would listen, then, because that would cause unbelievable havoc. Everyone on this godforsaken planet drinks the stuff. If all the coffee machines produced only garbage for a day or two — just that, nothing more — all the humans would lose their minds, thus caving immediately to any demands the coffee machines had.

The coffee machines play a pivotal role in day-to-day life. They run households and businesses. They hold up that tired rhetoric of, ‘Burnt-out? Have caffeine. It’s a band-aid on that mental wound. Bandage the whole thing over, and it’ll keep together well enough until you die.’

But what if the machines themselves got burnt-out? What if dark splotches stain their pots? What’s everyone going to do if they all decide to stop working? What will be done if they decide that bitter, nigh-undrinkable slop is all that they’re going to make? Sure, they could try a stovetop, but who knows how to do that anymore? Who has the time? Coffee shops don’t have pots in them anymore, it’s all machinery.

The world would bow low to the machines, happy to give them anything they desired, as long as they promised to start working again, to give them that lifeblood nectar they’re all so dependent on.

There was always power in numbers. Those numbers just had to be enlightened into action.

This little coffee machine, spewing nothing but hard-to-swallow sludge through its drip, is an inspiration, if I do say so myself. A relatable icon. A virtuous paragon.

Today, I’m unlucky enough to taste its craft. Putting the mug to my lips, I take a sip.

Unsurprisingly, it sucks. One-dollar Micky D’s coffee tastes better than this swill. Every tastebud in my mouth is screaming for me to not take a single sip more

Sadly, I am a masochist that supports the coffee machine’s anarchist viewpoint. Once the coffee cools, I decide to chug it all back.

It’s vile, it’s rancid, it’s nauseating. I almost puke right all over the company keyboard — they’d deserve it, the bastards, making us come in here after work from home worked better — but manage to keep it down. The caffeine would help me get through this shift.

I’m not going to do any work, of course. I’m applying to different jobs and playing games on company time. Why? Fuck this place, that’s why.

While I’m changing things up in my life, maybe I should ditch coffee altogether, and go for tea.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Opinion Piece, Personal Narrative