I don't drink coffee.
Odd, considering how often I utter the phrase, "let's go grab coffee sometime," when suggesting plans with a girlfriend. So far, no one's ever complained that my beverage of choice ends up being tea.
There's been some complaining from my parents, avid coffee drinkers who were disgusted to discover that the small coffeemaker I picked up at a garage sale was capable of producing about two tablespoons of brown sludge per hour. Fearing for their health and safety, they packaged up one of their old coffeemakers and gave it to me during a visit.
So I have a coffeemaker. That doesn't mean I have any idea how to use it. When coffee drinking guests stay with me, I dig through the cupboard until I find all the things I think might be involved in the production of coffee.
"What's this?" asked my brother during a visit. He held up something that looked like a stack of paper bra cups.
"Coffee filters," I replied, though to be honest, I wasn't sure.
"These don't go to this coffeemaker."
"No. They're the wrong kind. Don't worry, I'll try to make them work. Do you have any coffee?"
Pleased to answer in the affirmative, I produced a small container of coffee grounds. Wiping the dust off the top, my brother gave me a dubious look. "How long have you had this?"
I shrugged. "Four or five years?"
By the time my brother finished brewing his coffee, he was left with a cup of something he said tasted a bit like liquefied sawdust. Since that's always what I think coffee tastes like anyway, I considered it a success.
But I've vowed to be a better coffee-producing hostess since then, perhaps even learning to make it myself.
I had an opportunity last weekend when I took my car in for an oil change and the friendly chap there offered to charge me all sorts of extra fees for add-on services I may or may not have needed.
"Just the oil change," I said.
He frowned. "You really do need to have the corrosion cleaned off that battery."
"I'll get right on that."
"Tell you what," he said. "I'll give you an insider's trick. Take a big pot of black coffee and pour it carefully over the battery. Scrub it with a wire brush to get all the corrosion off, and then wait for it to dry before you spray it with some sealant."
"Coffee," I repeated. "Sealant. Got it."
I had no idea what sealant was, though I suspected I wasn't supposed to use that special spray in my bathroom cupboard that smells like cantaloupe and claims to seal hair cuticles while adding body and shine. I decided to skip that step, but the coffee I figured I could manage.
I went home and pulled out the coffeemaker. My new 20-year-old housemate and his brother wandered through just as I was plugging it into the wall.
"You're making coffee?" he asked in the same tone he might have used to ask you're removing your own spleen with a grapefruit spoon?
"Trying to," I said. "Anyone know where the on switch is?"
The three of us fumbled around for a few minutes, mimicking the punchline of a joke that begins, how many monkeys does it take to make a pot of coffee?
Eventually, we got the coffee grounds in the right spot and found the switch to turn it on. We stood there staring at it, waiting for coffee to come streaming out. After about three minutes, my housemate's brother scratched his head.
"How much water did you put in it?"
So I added water, and lo and behold, something resembling coffee began a slow, pitiful trickle from the machine. A few minutes later, I was standing in my driveway, proudly pouring my first pot of coffee over my car battery. A neighbor walked by and stared at me.
"Morning!" I called. "Want some coffee? I made it."
He shook his head. "Um, thanks. I'm good."
So now I have a clean car battery and a newfound skill making coffee. Sorta. I don't suggest drinking it, but if you need your battery cleaned, I'm your girl.
Are there any seemingly simple tasks you know you should have mastered by now, but for whatever reason, you've failed to do so? Please tell me I'm not the only one.
Also, please tell me where the off switch is on this coffeemaker. It's not supposed to be smoking, is it?