(james benedict brown) on the road

Lost in caffeine translation (part one)

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 16 October, 2007


A few hours after getting back from America, the jet lag still playing havoc with my body clock, I picked up a hire car and drove south to Oxford. There was stuff in Sheffield that needed to go to Oxford, stuff in Oxford that needed to go to Norfolk, and stuff in Norfolk that needed to go to Sheffield. A five hundred mile tour of England was needed, and the simplest option was to do it in a car. The god of upgrades looked down on me as I waited at the rental office, and soon I was on the road in a little Nissan Note with automatic transmission. I spent the first hour’s drive down the busy M1 motorway trying to find inventive things for my redundant left leg to do in the absence of a clutch.

I stopped at the service plaza near East Midlands Airport at around 21h on that rainy Friday night. With sporadic sleeping I was lost in an unending day that had started in Chicago at some indeterminate point in the past. The main body of the service station was a bizarre recreation of an internal courtyard, with overpriced motel rooms looking down on an enclosed food court, complete with plastic planting and pointless sun shades. A forgetable steel and glass roof (picked at random from the drawer marked ‘curvy roofs that are cheap to build’) was slapped on top. It was not, as the architect might have hoped, anything like a Mediteranean piazza.

As my body adapted to the change in time zone, my brain adapted to the change in currency. Surprised by the monstrous self service coffee bar, where stainless steel attachments to the coffee machines attempted to convey the impression of a fancy espresso bar, I took this photograph of the menu. Something didn’t seem quite right.

It was only about fifteen minutes later, sipping black ‘Americano’ as I joined the A42, that it clicked.

£2.25 (US$4.50) for a coffee. £2.60 ($5.20) if you want froth.

I’d complain about the high cost of wages, but the only person employed in that corner of the faux piaza was a spotty teenager whose sold job requirement was to be able to take money in exchange for coffee from automated vending machines without laughing out loud.

The coffee was, of course, horrible.


One Response

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  1. batesrar said, on 16 October, 2007 at 21:45

    Five hundred miles? You found something for your left leg to do for five hundred miles?!…

    Thanks for the comments on my blog. I really am starting to like the Arts Tower, especially as I spend more time looking at the IC.

    Is that really true, that the friends you make in the first few weeks really aren’t lasting? I’d have thought the opposite but can see why I could be wrong…

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