A coffee calamity
|Observe and Report
Kaden walked into Anthropology class for the first time this term. Instructor Milleniles passed out notebooks with the assignment.
“You will note, bilious worms, those statements on the book. Read them and study them. They are your assignment for the class and due in one sol. If you have any further questions, you may visit me in my office. If you dare.” Milleniles left the class.
Kaden read the assignment. “Observe and report on the effects of the deprivation of an addictive substance from a planet not in our immediate vicinity, how that substance is depleted, how the inhabitants react, and the long term consequences of such deprivation will all be part of your report. Note: You have exactly one sol to arrive on the planet, devise your plan, institute the plan and observe the results, and then report the results of your plan. Planet 117531 will not in any way be responsible for legal matters you may incur when changing the planet’s environment.”
‘Holy moly,’ Kaden thought to himself. ‘I have to find Asher. He needs to be in on this. I sure could use his help.’
Asher met Kaden at their pod. Kaden and Asher attended the same school on Planet 117531. Kaden majored in Anthropology while Asher studied micro-robotics. They roomed together off campus in a small pod.
“Get a load of this, Asher. I need to find a planet, deprive them of something addictive, observe and report the long term effects. All in one sol! Impossible task, old Milleniles is crazy! And it’s the one task! My last class for my final grade. Talk about screw the pooch. You gotta help me figure this one out.”
Asher read the notebook. “You can go anywhere? Any planet?”
“Yep, no restrictions. How can I narrow a search? Impossible.” Kaden looked out the porthole. The storms were back, great clouds of ammonia gas swirled by. They were in for the longest night.
“There might be a clue here.” Asher sat down, played with a computer. “Yep, as I remember. There it is. The Milky Way, then past Jupiter. I heard once of a planet called Earth. Crazy place. But the inhabitants there are pretty peaceful at times. Depends on what stage they’re in. If they’re between disagreements, that is. We can check easy enough. I have ways.”
A tiny robot appeared at Asher’s elbow. “Find information about Earth, in the solar system near Venus and Mars.” The robot disappeared.
“What did you just do?” Kaden always feared the tiny robots, they appeared and disappeared at Asher’s commands.
“That little guy will direct satellites to find information about Earth. We will soon know what is happening on that planet. You need to know about an addictive substance, correct? Then you need that information. The robot will help you.”
The computer came to life and showed a diagram of Earth, rotating on the screen. Then suddenly they saw a street on Earth, shops and people walking. Some strange vehicles moving. It seems that everyone had something in their hands, a beverage.
“I did a search. A most addictive substance on Earth is coffee.”
“Say again? Cof-fee? Curious name. What is it?”
“It states that coffee is a hot or cold beverage made from coffee beans that are grown on coffee trees. The beans are roasted and ground then hot water is poured over them. Then the Earth people drink it. They put sugar and cream in it or drink it plain. There is an entire industry
built around this beverage. Over two billion people on Earth drink coffee each day.”
“What if we announce that all coffee will disappear one day? All trees. And then somehow all harvested beans. And then all ground coffee. Could we do that?”
“Kaden, you know we can. We are from the Prime Planet. We can do anything.”
Kaden sat beside Asher as he reread the facts. They began formulating a plan.
They left Planet 117531 on day three of the storm season. Kaden packed as light as he dared, while Asher had many bags, one of them contained the mini-robots they would use. One contained a weapon he hoped they didn’t have to use.
The trip was uneventful. Their rocket landed on the continent of Antarctica, as planned. From there, they boarded their small vessel to voyage around the world.
“I vote we go to the South of America.” Asher proposed. “I understand there are large coffee growing areas there. It should be warm, if I understand the weather on this planet. This ice area doesn’t appeal to me. No coffee here.”
Kaden checked the map of the coffee growing areas. “I agree. The map shows large plots. Let’s leave whenever you and the robots are ready.”
Soon the expedition journeyed to Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay then it hopped over to Haiti. Asher sent his mini robots out to the trees in each country. Then they flew to India and Ethiopia. Again Asher sent mini-robots out to trees in those countries as well. The robots were equipped with stores of a lethal virus that attached to the tree bark. It instantly killed all trees.
Once the trees died, then the robots sent out signals to the earth’s satellites to destroy any coffee beans, whole or ground, still left on earth. Asher had spent all his time traveling to Earth on that deadly program. He was curious as to its effectiveness. They then chose to spend some time in a city to observe and report.
Kaden and Asher wandered a street in Bozeman, Montana. This beautiful summer day found hundreds of people out shopping and walking, not noticing two aliens amongst them. Their brilliant purple hair and orange skin didn’t attract any attention in the college town. They found they fit right in.
“We are here to observe and report. The first incidents of no coffee will be sent to the news outlets within the hour. We’ll need to start sending reports back home.” Kaden searched the streets for a place to sit and compile a report. With their transport in the backwoods near Bridger Bowl, they chose a motel room near Bozeman as headquarters for next few days.
Asher carried the satchel containing the mini-robots. “I see a place ahead. It looks favorable.”
They wandered into a small eatery. No one glanced at the aliens. Asher ordered a coffee, as did Kaden. “We need to try this beverage. To report back our observations.”
They sat among the college students and opened the computer to connect to the home server. Asher checked on the mini-robots. They were starting to get restless.
“This is ghastly. Why would they treasure this beverage? Give me the Elixir of Aliman any day.” Kaden threw his coffee in the trash. “I’m glad we’re destroying this.”
“Well, maybe with more of that white poison powder. And that white liquid.” Asher added more sugar and cream. He tasted again, “Okay, now I see why they like this.” A big smile.
Kaden and Asher sat in the eatery and communicated with Planet 117531 for the rest of the afternoon, courtesy of free WiFi and Earth’s satellites. Asher drank cup after cup of coffee with cream and sugar while Kaden found a miracle called Kombucha, which tasted similar to the Elixir of Aliman.
“All the coffee in the world will be gone in a week. A week. Do you hear that, Gladys?” Bruce turned off the TV. They sat in their apartment kitchen in Maplewood, NJ.
Gladys poured herself a cup of her favorite Folger’s, dumped in three spoons of sugar, three slugs of Starbuck’s creamer, stirred her cup, sat down. She took a big sip.
“What? You know I can’t concentrate until I have that first hit.”
“Coffee. It’s all over the news, the internet. It’s going away.”
“Shut up, Bruce. It’ll be like that virus. Here today, gone tomorrow. Big deal, they made of it. No big deal it was. Don’t listen to the naysayers. We have plenty to tide us over. I have this in the cupboard, some in the freezer I got on sale. We’ll be fine.”
Bruce turned the TV back on. The announcer now said all coffee, even in homes and stores. would be destroyed. Something about a virus. All coffee trees all over the world were now dead. He turned off the TV again.
“I tell you, it’ll go away. I don’t know how, but it’ll be gone. Some Nazi-Commie plot, it always is. The government is always out to get the little guy. They want us under their thumbs. You try to get ahead and WHAM, they cut you down, every time. Well, not this Joe. We’re fighting back, Gladys. Where’s the gun?”
“Stop it. It’s coffee. Not the end of the world. Sit down, have a cup. Settle your nerves.”
Gladys got up and poured Bruce a cup, black, just as he liked it. They sat and drank coffee for a few hours, not talking but thinking about life without coffee.
So in a week it was all gone. Gladys went to make coffee one morning. She opened the coffee tub as usual, half asleep as usual. The scoop came back empty. She woke up with a start.
“Bruce! There’s no coffee!” She turned the tub upside down. Nothing. She checked the tub in the freezer, empty as well.
Bruce came from the bedroom, hair askew. “What?”
“No coffee. It’s gone. Disappeared.”
“See! Didn’t I tell you! It’s a government plot! They somehow sent a magic ray gun and zapped the coffee at night.” He too turned the coffee tub upside down, checked the freezer.
“Get a grip. How can this happen?”
“I need coffee to think. I can’t think without it. What to do, what to do.” Bruce paced the kitchen.
Gladys sat at the table, head in hands. “My head already hurts. What about hot chocolate? Maybe that will work. Surely they didn’t touch that.” She checked the cupboard for cocoa packets, cocoa in a can.
“I’m not a child. That’s not the same.”
“You’re sure whining like one. What about tea? Black tea. I can’t find any cocoa.” Gladys continued rooting around in cupboards, moving boxes, canisters, cups.
“Tea? Hot water with a bit of brown color? Get real, Gladys!” Bruce stormed out of the kitchen. “I’m going to take a shower. Maybe I’m dreaming and this will all be gone when I come back,” he yelled.
The weeks dragged on, there was no more coffee. A strange virus had invaded the crop, per scientists. How it invaded supplies in warehouses, stores and homes was a giant mystery. The talking heads on news channels blamed global warming, warring factions, the coronavirus, plant to human transmission of a virus, the Nazi/Commie plot so favorite in a crisis, Republicans vs. Democrats, Canadian tourists, the tea industry, and the latest to pop up - the family of Juan Valdez, the late spokesperson for the Federation of Coffee Growers in Colombia. The family said they were cheated out of royalties for his commercials that aired on American TV and wanted restitution.
Bruce and Gladys didn’t care a whit about any of the plots. They were tired of tea, of the fake coffee, Postum, and of not being able to do anything due to lack of the caffeine kick they were used to. Their headaches had finally subsided. But now a new problem emerged. Constipation. Seems coffee not only gave them energy, it also helped them to, well, you know, go number two.
Life was dragging on. The country had come to a standstill. Starbucks declared bankruptcy. All the small coffeeshops had a hard time selling fake coffee or tea or cocoa. They too soon went under. Bakeries that sold pastries in the morning to coffee drinkers soon had more scones and danish and cinnamon rolls than they could sell. They suddenly had more dough to sell and less dough in their pockets. It was a conundrum wrapped in an enigma steeped in mystery. No one knew what to do.
The soft drink industry stepped up its game. They started to market to coffee drinkers. Pepsi and Coca Cola informed the public they had as much caffeine and sugar as coffee. You could heat their products if you wished, the bubbles would dissipate when heated.
Coca Cola started putting small amounts of marijuana in their products. A new era had begun, they said. The new drink was called Mari Cola. It was an instant success. The slogan was ‘Be Merry! Drink Mari!’ Mari Cola flew off the shelves. Then Mari Cola partnered with Frito Lay. Frito Lay made new a new potato chip also laced with marijuana. Their slogan, ‘You can’t eat just one!’ also took on a new meaning. Lazi Chips were now flying off the shelves to eat while drinking Mari Cola.
Not to be outdone by Coca Cola, Pepsi stated you could put more ‘Pep in your Step’ and started putting uppers in their cola product. Not a lot, the CEO stated, just a little to help the overworked and undersleeped. So ‘PepUp’ Cola was formed. And ‘PepUp’ Cola partnered with Little Debbie snack cakes. Their sweet cakes full of high fructose corn syrup began making a new cake named ‘PepUp Poppers’. These bite size cakes had more caffeine in them than all the coffee people used to drink in a day.
People now had a choice. They could be lazy and eat all day, or they could get hyped up and work 24 hours straight. The world truly had entered a new era.
The two aliens reported to Planet 117531 the progress on Planet Earth since the addictive substance named coffee had been eliminated. They observed that earthlings adapted to change willingly and were quite a bit like an animal they saw called sheep. They followed each other without thought. One led and the others followed. A new term they heard and liked was ‘sheeple’.
They observed that large commercial entities had a grip on people and could make people buy anything through advertising. New products were invented to take the place of coffee and now people had new addictions to new drinks.
It seems that as long as there were legal ways to get caffeine, and caffeine was a legal drug, people would consume caffeine. And now you could legally get uppers and marijuana in your food as well as caffeine.
But there now were other problems. Earth people were becoming bloated and constipated, unable to work or concentrate. Laxatives were in short supply, diuretics were needed, and RedBull became a prized commodity.
The leaders of all the nations got together. New laws were enacted. Caffeine became a regulated substance. It was now unlawful to possess more than 5 kilos of caffeine in any form at any one time. So of course the gangs and illegals became winners in the game. They cornered the market in caffeine. All caffeine manufacturing now was controlled by three companies. And these three companies were purposely set up on three continents, Africa, Asia, South America, those continents where coffee grew, to better track the consumption of caffeine throughout the world.
Asher and Kaden observed and reported as requested. Illegal activity confused them as well as intrigued them. No illegal activity ever happened on Planet 117531. Then they made the mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this time in downtown Columbus, OH.
“Whad’ya doin’ here, ya’ freaks?” A tall skinny man with a shaved head grabbed Asher by his throat. Asher dropped the carrying case with the mini-robots. The case fell on the man’s feet and Asher punched the tall skinny man in the nose.
Kaden yelled at the man in the language of his planet. “HARerlke trope asldkfop!!!!”
“What’re ya’ sayin’?” the tall skinny man screamed at Kaden. He kicked the carrying case back to Asher.
Kaden stomped on the tall skinny man’s feet, kicked him in the groin. The tall skinny man dropped to his knees. The tall skinny man groaned, then stood up.
“What’re ya’ll doin’, ya’ll crazy or somethin’?”
The two aliens stood together in front of the tall skinny man. The mini-robots escaped from the carrying case, ran up the tall skinny man’s legs who then ran off down the street screaming something about crazy orange immigrants and the plague of grasshoppers this year.
“You need to get those robots back, Asher. We need to get out of here.”
“No worry. I’ll reset their radar.” Asher grabbed the carrying case, reset the radar in the computer. Suddenly all the mini-robots streamed back into the case.
The two aliens ran down the street with the mini-robots now safe and sound in their case. Once they reached a corner, they sent off a signal to Planet 117531. The emergency beacon immediately activated extraction protocol. Asher and Kaden knew they had about ten Earth minutes before their Planet’s emergency personnel would arrive. Ten minutes to wait on a busy corner in a section of a city where illegal activity was rampant. After the incident with the tall skinny man, they were hesitant to walk any further.
Now three women approached the aliens. “Hello, fellows. Aren’t you cute! Looking for some fun in the big city?” One of the women touched Kaden in ways the alien didn’t like, called him names he didn’t recognize. Another woman rubbed against Asher and tried to open the mini-robot case to see inside. Asher instantly turned her to dust with his weapon. A woman name of Amber screamed for the police and ran away from them both.
A woman name of Babe near Kaden said it was ‘Kinky fun!’ She tried to kiss Kaden. Asher turned her to dust also.
“Asher! Stop this! We will be rescued soon. We don’t want the police of this Earth to find us. We need to observe and report. We don’t want to turn people to dust. Your reaction to this illegal activity is making you as bad as them. Stop.”
“You need to get out of here, Kaden. I fear this caffeine madness is making me crazy. I made the mistake of taking some of it, as an experiment. It truly makes you mad.” He gave the case with the mini-robots to Kaden. “Here. Take the robots. They are yours now. Goodbye, friend.” Asher turned his weapon on himself and turned to dust. A stunned Kaden stood with the mini-robots as they waited for rescue.
The rescue mission arrived to find Kaden standing on the corner of the illegal part of a city in Earth, alone with the case of mini-robots. He entered the rocket and sped back to Planet 117531. His final report on the elimination of an addictive substance on the Planet Earth was short. All it said was: Total Failure.
Bruce and Gladys sat alone on a street corner in the center of Maplewood. All around them raged chaos. People rioting, looting, guns going off, fires burning out of control. They chugged some cans of PepUp.
“Pretty crazy, Gladys. Who knew when this all started that a little caffeine shortage would cause such nuttiness. Who could have known.” Bruce shook his head, then ducked as a chunk of concrete flew their way.
Gladys kicked away a molotov cocktail, drained her can of PepUp. “Yeah, whatever. Let’s get out of here. I’m ready to get out of this city and go somewhere safer. Another planet sounds pretty good right about now. ‘Beam me up Scottie!’ Ha! Don’t I wish that was possible.”
They laughed about it for just a second. Then they disappeared only to reappear instantly on Planet 117531.
An alien named Scottie Thennkins in a control room of the radar station gazed at the two Earth life forms. The magic phrase Bruce and Gladys uttered cued the satellite to beam them to the interface. Now what was he to do with them?
Thennkins walked out of the control room to welcome Bruce and Gladys. He held in his hands two servings of the special welcome beverage of Planet 117531.
Bruce took a sniff. “Gladys, could it be?”
A big smile came over her face. “COFFEE!!!”