Note No. 17

June 20, 2009

Since I moved to Mexico a year and a half ago, I think I can say my level of innovation in problem solving has grown tremendously. It’s a good thing, then, since this apartment in Spain is putting my sharpened skill to good use.

The first morning in our new home, after having been awakened periodically all night long by the elevator shaft and echoing voices of our neighbors, I shuffle out to the kitchen to complete the most important step of the day: caffeine ingestion.

Then I remember the coffee maker. The day before, I had discovered a seemingly major problem: there is no carafe. I had called the office and explained the situation to the man who answered but I used the wrong word for carafe, thereby creating a confusing dialogue.

“Our coffee machine has no ________”


“The ________ in the coffee machine is missing.”


“In the kitchen.”

“And what’s wrong?”

“We have no _________”

“Ahhhhhhh.” Silence. “So it seems it broke.”

“Yes. We got in this morning and then just realized that it’s not there. It seems someone broke it before us.”

“Yes. OK, then. I will comment on this to the management,” he had said before I heard the distinct click of him hanging up.

No one called back, so there I am, the following day, my hair standing on end as I assess the situation. No reason to panic. This very thing happened to me in Mexico when the resident ghost knocked my coffee maker off of its precarious perch and smashed the thing to bits. It’s an easy predicament to solve, provided you have a few basic household items on hand.

Step One: Find a suitable container that fits in the large, empty gap. In this case, the kind managers have stocked the cabinets with short, wide-mouthed mugs.

Step Two: Find something small and plastic to jam into the basket, so that the drip hole stays open at all times; otherwise all the water will collect in the filter and eventually spill out onto the counter. The plastic ring that keeps your 5-liter bottle of water sealed works perfectly, for example, when pulled through the opening and then doubled back again.

Step Three: Estimate the amount of grounds needed for one cup. Keep in mind that only the hearts of mice are meant to beat 500 times a minute.

Step Four: Estimate the amount of water needed for one cup. Keep in mind that a full cup will not allow for the needed tilt to clear the basket when retrieving your hard-earned brew.

Step Five: Press Go. Cross fingers. Don’t leave project unattended.

Within an hour, the experiment has been successfully completed with minimal trial and error and I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be on permanent coffee duty for the duration of our stay.

Then a message comes in that a new carafe will be delivered to us at some point in the day. Sure enough, upon returning from shopping we discover that said promise has been kept.

“Does it fit?”

I cock my head at the seemingly large, glass pot and watch as my mom lifts it to the machine. Clunk. It’s about an inch too big.

We laugh. Amateurs.

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