Coffee Coffee Coffee

In my nine years in the navy, I learned that the one thing all true watchmen have in common is a need for coffee. We had watch teams of 5-6 people in the engine room, and when you’re standing 5 hour watches every ten hours, have normal divisional day jobs, and maintenance around the clock, one tends to find it hard to catch a decent amount of sleep. It’s something I actually found a bit of pride in–going so long on so little sleep.  Most watch teams, including mine, had a designated person to make coffee. Not because they were the bitch of the group, but because we tended to demand a certain consistency to the quality of our sleep in a cup.

Jerrod, a guy I still call one of my best friends, made the best coffee on my watch team. I’m sure due in part to some secret ingredients or magical method of brewing passed down from the coffee gods. Coffee was worth its weight in gold on the ship. Deployments had people bringing in whatever specialty brands they could get and hoarding or bartering them from the racks. I stuck with the Starbucks brands.

If it wasn’t coffee, we were hunting filters. We didn’t use much sugar, and had no clue what creamer even was. Hell, we were mechanics for fuck’s sake. We stirred our coffee with dirty screwdrivers and we never washed our mugs. Okay. That’s a lie. We did wash out community mugs, because you never knew who drank from it last, but if you had your own personal mug, you let the flavor dry into it. Black. Thick. Coffee. “Looks like muddy water, tastes like turpentine” comes to mind. Ours usually tasted decent, due to the a fore mentioned designated coffee guy. I tried learning Jerrod’s method one day. He said it was something to do with double filtration… A process I’ve perfected myself over the years since.

The hunt for coffee had me sending a Fireman (E3 rank in the navy) with the last name of Turner (what the fuck was that kid’s first name?) on secret missions to obtain coffee by any means necessary. I had many reasons I did not like Turner. But when I gave him permission to use lethal force, if need be, to get us coffee, the kid always delivered. Props kid. We ran out of filters one time and had started cutting the sleeves off our white (sweaty off-white) t-shirts instead.

Looking back, maybe we had an unhealthy addiction to the many cups of caffeine that we would ingest over the course of our five hour watch. Once, someone decided it would be a good idea to clean the coffee maker. This involved pouring soapy water into the water chamber and flushing it through the machine. No matter how many pots of water we poured into it, it still took weeks for the taste of Dawn dish soap to disappear. Whoever did that, two words: Fuck You!

Now that I’m in the oilfield, a lot has changed. For starters, there is no shortage of filters. Ever. Coffee can be found anywhere, and is usually already made. This does lead to a lack of consistency in our brews. We also only have two choices out here. Folgers and Colombian. I tend to lean towards the Folgers. I hate cheap bagged coffee now. And we end up using the empty red Folgers can for something after anyway. There are also mountains of creamer and sugar. I hate to say it, and I know my navy brethren will look down on me with utter disgust and betrayal, but I’ve gotten a little fru fru with my coffee. My preferred way to drink it now is usually sweet and a light brown, a far cry from the black mud we used to pride ourselves in drinking. Oh well. Acquired tastes can be un-acquired too I guess.

I leave you now with this pearl of wisdom: Sleep is not a good substitute for coffee…

10-26-2015 Copyright ©