Johnson County Mr. Coffee by Kelly I. Hitchcock

I stared down the fancy instrument panel of the $80 coffee machine, as if staring it down would make the “Clean” light turn off on its own. I had already punched the button, glowing a yellow-orange back at me, no less than a dozen times, but it refused to turn off.

I hadn’t even wanted this fancy coffee pot, or the fancy one we’d had before that, the one that decided it was better off without a power button that worked. I had wanted to keep the no-frills one that I’d kept back in my no-frills, one-bedroom apartment on the Missouri side of Kansas City. But no, when my boyfriend and I moved in together in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, where the air was crisp, we had to get the fancy coffee pot. The first fancy coffee pot broke after a year.

“How much are you willing to spend on a coffee pot?” This was the question he asked me when it came time to throw the brushed nickel finish monstrosity in the garbage. I longed for the black plastic Sunbeam I had inherited from a cousin who’d, in true Johnson County fashion, upgraded to a fancier model.

“Not much,” I’d told him. Forty dollars, max. When he came home with the Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew Thermal coffee maker, also in brushed nickel finish, I had to counter with a question of my own.

“How much was this?” I asked, ripping the shrink wrap from the tiny components in the box that was twice as big as the coffee maker, on account of all the Styrofoam.

“Eighty bucks,” he said, nonchalantly. He’d thought I meant forty dollars apiece. Not forty dollars total.

Now, within a month a purchase, the Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew Thermal coffee maker was throwing me a warning that he needed to be cleaned. And he would not be silenced.

“I can’t get this light to go off,” I yelled down the builder beige painted hallway. He strode up, half-asleep, and began pressing the clean button with the same vigor I had shown moments earlier. Meanwhile, I heard Mr. Coffee spew what it thought was a dirty, vile liquid into the thermal carafe. When that didn’t immediately, miraculously work, he began pressing the other available slimline buttons on the slick instrument panel. I could’ve killed for my old on/off switch.

Mr. Coffee announced that it was done brewing the dirty pot of coffee with the three high-pitched beeps I would normally be listening to from my home office down the hall, just 10 minutes after rolling out of bed, brushing my teeth, putting on a bra, running a brush through my hair, and taking the dog out to piss. This was the baseline for a standard workday, when I wasn’t stuck in the kitchen, fighting with the coffee maker.

He shrugged and unplugged the cord from the wall, the crimps from the twist-tied confinement in the box still wavy on the too-short power cord.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged again. Caltech education in action, I thought to myself.

I poured myself a cup and took a tentative sip.

“Tastes fine to me.”

He followed suit, pouring the hot, normal-looking liquid right up to the Sharpie-drawn line in the Starbucks Lenticular Tumbler mug he took on his stop-and-go trip to the office every morning.

“Nah. Tastes funny.”

Whatever, I thought to myself.Coffee is coffee. As long as it gets me through my daily 8:30 meeting.

Halfway through the morning, I resolved to not let the fancy coffee maker get the better of me. I plugged the machine back in, the “Clean” button reminding me again that it was in some state of non-optimalness that the Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew Thermal coffeemaker would not tolerate. I filled the removable water reservoir and filled it to the top, pressed the brew button, then returned to my office for the three beeps I was now classically conditioned to.

When I raced to the kitchen on the sound of the beeps, I found the “Clean” button laughing back at me. No matter, I thought, emptying the hot water from the brushed nickel carafe and repeating the process, only to come back three beeps later to find the cleanliness still not to the satisfaction of Mr. Coffee.

I held the reset button for what should have been more than long enough to reset whatever it was that the coffee maker’s fancy computer needed resetting before I angrily ripped the cord from the wall.

“No, Mr. Coffee. I am not spending another $40 on a fancy-schmantzy piece of crap coffee pot.” I realized halfway through the sentence that was talking aloud to an inanimate piece of machinery, but I worked from home, so I didn’t hear the sound of my own voice much. I marched, irritated, back to my office to ask the Lords of Google what was wrong with my Optimal Brew Thermal coffeemaker. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the top results of my support article search:

Clean button won’t shut off.
Clean light comes on and stays on.
What do I do if my Clean button illuminates?
None of the support articles had an answer to the problem, but most were filled with helpful suggestions from fellow owners who said it was “the best coffeemaker they’d ever had.” I wondered to myself if Mr. Coffee paid these people. Oh well. The coffee was good enough for me. If the boyfriend wasn’t satisfied, he could go out and buy another eighty dollar goddamned coffeepot.

A week later, I shuffled into the kitchen to the sound of Mr. Coffee’s three, high-pitched beeps.

“Oh, hey,” my boyfriend said, quickly shoveling his instant oatmeal breakfast. “I fixed the coffeepot.”

I whipped my head around to look at him, then quickly back to the coffeemaker’s shiny instrument panel. The familiar yellow-orange glow behind the Clean button was gone.

“What? How?”

“I cleaned it.”

© Copyright 2012 Kelly I. Hitchcock. All rights reserved.

Kelly I. Hitchcock is an up-and-coming writer in the Austin, Texas area. She is author of various poems about the randomness of life, several short stories, random creative nonfiction works, and the coming-of-age novel “The Redheaded Stepchild,” available for Kindle. She is world-renowned among a readership of five people and growing.

Raised by a single father in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri, Kelly has fond memories of cash-strapped life in the Ozarks that strongly influence her writing and way of life.

When she’s not writing manuals for money or writing poetry and fiction for unmoney, or training for the Jailbreak half marathon, Kelly enjoys sewing, playing dodgeball, and politics. She is an avid volunteer and fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Follow her on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Johnson County Mr. Coffee by Kelly I. Hitchcock”

  1. This was so funny, I read it avidly all the way through (I usually skim stories and get bored fast). Your writing is understated and hilarious. That last line – I am trying not to laugh out loud in the office!

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