Screaming hot coffee scares drowsiness away

October 15, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd

GO AHEAD, give me your No. 1 gripe about this country. A president who thinks the Oval Office was built for sexual hi-jinks? A do-nothing Congress full of rock-heads? Schools that can't teach Johnny not to club his classmates, never mind read?

Yeah, well, here's mine: It's now just about impossible to get a cup of coffee at a convenience store or fast-food joint that won't sear the roof of your mouth.

Am I right? You betcha.

Look, I like a nice, hot cup of joe as much as the next person. But I don't like it so hot that it charbroils your tongue and fuses your lips together.

Yet every time I buy a coffee to go anymore, it seems the warmer has been set on "thermonuclear."

What brings this to mind is a recent incident on the New Jersey Turnpike, when I found myself getting drowsy and badly in need of a jolt of caffeine.

If you've ever driven the Jersey Turnpike, particularly the southern stretch, you know what I'm talking about here.

For mile after mile after mile, the landscape is flat, brown and monotonous, broken only by the occasional ceramics factory off in the distance or the odd mob hit victim dumped in the underbrush.

Anyway, after an hour of this wonderful scenery, I pulled into a service area and made my way to a refreshment stand.

Behind the counter was a man wearing a button that said: "Ask me about our delicious ground-roasted coffee!"

So I asked him: "How's your delicious ground-roasted coffee?"

The man just nodded and grinned.

When I asked him again, he did the same thing. He nodded and grinned.

It turned out that the reason the man wouldn't tell me about his delicious ground-roasted coffee was because he couldn't speak English.

Now, I don't want to beat this to death, OK?

But it seems to me that if you're wearing a button that says "Ask me about our delicious ground-roasted coffee!" you should be prepared to field some questions on the subject.

In English.

Otherwise you should be wearing a button that says: "Ask me (in my native language) about our delicious ground-roasted coffee!"

But it was OK that the guy didn't speak English.

Because all I did was point to a Styrofoam cup and pantomime the act of drinking an extremely hot liquid until flames burst from my mouth.

"Coffee? Yes, yes, coffee!" the man cried when I pretended to be fanning my lips.

Apparently, even in Guatemala they know that these stupid Americans drink coffee that's way too hot for normal human consumption.

Anyway, I finally got my coffee and loaded it up with that horrible powdered creamer and two packets of Equal or Sweet n' Low or whatever rat-killer they had available.

Then I took a sip.

And began yelping in pain.

Because this coffee was HOT! No, I take that back. It was beyond hot. The temperature of the coffee was at least 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

It was like drinking liquid iron ore, only without the accompanying shower of sparks.

So I stuck a lid on the coffee, ripped a little hole in the lid to sip out of, and headed back to the car.

And now the real adventure began.

Because now, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding this scalding cup of coffee, I had to merge back onto the Turnpike amid the usual psychos and drug dealers and amphetamine-crazed truckers whizzing by at 90 mph.

As a veteran of this maneuver, I know enough to hold the coffee well away from my body.

Because if you ever hit a bump and this hot coffee spills in your lap, it's all over but the crying. You will be in a world of hurt, my friend.

Let me put this as delicately as possible. If that hot coffee ever hits your lap, you can say goodbye to your reproductive organs.

In fact, after shrieking in pain and swerving off the highway into a drainage ditch, you would discover a gaping, smoldering hole in your lap, reminiscent of the hole left by a meteor that has just crashed to earth.

So now I'm driving mile after mile holding this stupid coffee in my outstretched hand, waiting for it to cool down enough so I can drink it.

The good thing is, I'm no longer drowsy.

And the reason I'm no longer drowsy is that I'm terrified I'm going to hit a bump and scald my crotch.

You ask me, the Jersey Turnpike is tough enough without that kind of pressure.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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