LS: Bruce Cameron Column January 04, 2009

Give me a (coffee) break

Whenever I make coffee, it winds up tasting like I filtered it through burned underwear. This makes me popular with exactly no one in the family, even though I’ve cut down on everyone’s caffeine intake and you’d think they’d be grateful for that. Besides, if you add enough milk and sugar to my coffee, it’s actually quite pleasant — sort of like a warm burnt-underwear milkshake.

Because 66 percent of my three children have worked as coffee pushers, I get a lot of flack from them on my ineptitude.

“I’m not a coffee pusher; I’m a coffee barista,” my son informs me loftily.

“You’re a coffee waitress,” I tell him. My son is now taller, stronger and better looking than I, plus his pre-med straight As are endangering his respect for my intellect. In other words, my natural position as top dog in the pack is being challenged by this young upstart, so to keep him in check, I have to undercut his ego by occasionally lifting my leg on it.

“Barista,” by the way, is an Italian word meaning “you’re going to pay 4 bucks for 50 cents worth of coffee.”

I’m glad there are so many coffeehouses willing to employ my children, though there are days when it seems there are now as many Starbucks as there are people. If you lined up all the coffee shops on earth, you could walk around the globe and never be out of sight of one — but so what, you can do that now.

The downside to this phenomenon is that if you order a “medium coffee,” you’ll get a blank stare from my son the barista-waitress, who is expecting you to say something like this: “I’ll take a grande half-caf double shot latte macchiato mutande bruciate,” which roughly translates into “a medium half-caffeinated extra strong coffee with milk and burned underpants.”

Here are some additional translations for you, just in case you ever find yourself being waitressed by my son:

A “caffe latte” is coffee with milk. It differs from the similar-sounding “cafe au lait,” which is coffee with milk. Or try something a little different with a “cappuccino,” which is coffee with milk.

If none of those sound appetizing, you might consider having a “caffe macchiato,” which is coffee with milk.

An unsophisticated person might just order a grande of black coffee and add his own milk, but that wouldn’t be the same, would it? It would just taste the same.

Now, if you’re a male barista and you’re getting angry because you feel I’m calling you a waitress, please know I’m not saying that at all, I’m saying that my son can beat me at arm wrestling. And if you’re miffed because you think I’m implying you’re paying way too much for a cup of coffee, please understand: I’m not implying that at all; I’m stating it directly.

Back before we no longer knew what the future was going to look like, no one predicted that we’d stand in line for 20 minutes so that my girly-man son could custom-pamper a cup of coffee out of a smoking, hissing machine that looks suspiciously like a crematorium.

No one would have guessed that we’d be consuming a beverage made from coffee beans that were carefully grown listening to Mozart and roasted individually between two graham crackers over a campfire before being wrapped in a silk pillow and strapped into a first-class airline seat to fly here.

No, we were going to drink coffee the way the astronauts did, “freeze-dried,” with a chaser of Tang, before we jumped into our flying cars and zipped off to our jobs at Spacely Space Sprockets.

Alas, no one is zipping anywhere — they’re all sitting in coffee shops, peering at laptops, sending e-mails to each other or working up their applications for government bailouts.

Occasionally, my son swishes over to see if they need a refill. I can’t tell what their jobs are, or whether they have jobs, or whether they have heard the word “jobs,” but I do know they must be getting their money from somewhere.

Those cafe latte macchiato au laits don’t come cheap.

To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at


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