I got thrown out of the dingiest, raunchiest bar in Hamilton Township! This is my sad story.
I have two passions in life. The first is breakfast. I will go anywhere — any time — for breakfast.
Some people pitch their pup tents in parking lots to get a new iPhone. I, on the other hand, sleep in my car for those early morning home fries and sausage when the diner opens at 5 a.m.
I found Nirvana when McDonald’s announced its all-day breakfast. There is a plastic chair with my name on it beneath those golden arches.
So I was ecstatic when one of our local bars put out a big sign that read: $6.99! Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast … and two beers!
Now I had some reservations. Every time I went by that place three unsavory guys were outside smoking something and throwing their butts on the sidewalk. And three other guys would be, well, on the sidewalk.
But the lure of a cheap breakfast drew me in. The fuzzy flat screen was showing a tractor pull. The single work of early Americana art was a tattered — but autographed — 1987 poster of the Hooters girls. The unisex bathroom, with “Men” scratched off the door, was open and the urinal was full of ice cubes because the plumbing didn’t work.
But I didn’t care. I asked the bartender, who looked like a bad version of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, for that “special” breakfast. And he said, “Do you want your beers now or when I bring it out?”
Now we all know what goes with breakfast, don’t we? And it’s not beer. It’s coffee. Jumping Java. The nectar of the Incas. The fuel that feeds Seattle. And that brings me to my other passion. I love coffee.
My wife says, “You don’t drink it. You slurp it!”
I stop at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wawa, and then, after that, well, I never met a rest stop I didn’t like. All week, four, five, even six cups. And then — on Sunday — my barista is my high priesta.
And that is why my wife calls me: “The coffee idiot.”
Things got so bad that my friends and family held an intervention. They just forgot to invite me!
So, I asked the Bogie-looking bartender to skip the beer and bring me coffee. A few moments later the bacon and eggs came out. It smelled heavenly. “But where’s my coffee?” I said.
I could see the wheels turning behind Bogie’s bleary eyes. He was thinking, “Of all the gin joints in Mercer County, this flake walks into mine.”
But all he said was, “No coffee.”
“No coffee! You can’t make coffee?” I said.
“Yeah,” he answered. “I can make coffee. I’m just not making it here for you.”
“Well,” I suggested, “why don’t you take your profits from this place and go buy a $10 coffee pot at Walmart?”
Bogie didn’t take that well. “Whadaya think this is?” He retorted. “A piano bar?”
Then I did the unconscionable. I pushed my plate back across the bar. “All right,” I said, “I’ll go to Starbucks and get my own. Just microwave this when I get back.”
There was a moment of ominous silence. I could see the red veins on Bogie’s bulbous nose start to pop out and explode, one by one.
Then he took my eggs — my lovely eggs — tossed them into the garbage, and yelled, “Get outa here!”
“Well, no tip for you,” I snickered.
Then, out of his mouth, came the “F-Bomb,” the dreaded word that no one in a bar ever wants to hear.
I saw the whole bar watching me. Each patron, sitting on his cracked and tilting barstool and swaying like a sailor in a high wind, was pointing at me and saying, “At least I’m better than that guy.”
So, I left. No coffee. No eggs. Not even a shred of dignity. When I got home, I expected sympathy from my wife. But she said, “What do you expect when you ask for coffee at a bar?” And then, the familiar refrain: “You’re an idiot!”
Well, as every married man knows, your wife is always right. But in this case I doubted her. So, I carefully, and I mean carefully, investigated every watering hole in the Greater Trenton area.
And I discovered that not only was she right, but Oscar Wilde was wrong when he suggested that “Work is the curse of the drinking class.”
No, the sobering truth is that coffee is the phantom menace of our local liquor establishments, the Death Star of the dive bar. But I also discovered that there are many other coffee idiots out there.
So, I am starting “Coffee Idiots Anonymous.” Won’t you join in our crusade, singing the song of addicted men (and women)? We will — like Carrie Nation — take our boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and invade all the dark drunken dens that deny us our rights, and we’ll chant … in unison:
In addition to being a coffee addict, Ed Leefeldt is a contributor to CBS MoneyWatch and the author of “The Woman Who Rode the Wind,” a novel about early flight.