George Orwell shot an elephant. D.H. Lawrence reflected on the death of a porcupine. Myself, we just threw out our old coffeemaker.
Maybe that misses a touch of the old high drama. But I did like that coffeemaker.
Coffeemakers lack DNA, so they don’t exactly live, except in the wonderland of cartoons, but we do think of them as dying. This particular coffeemaker came to us from BHV, the big department store across from Hotel de Ville. We bought it, my darling and me, before we were married. I think. A., when I first met her, was more of a tea person. Tea in the morning, which fills me with a vague unease. My preferred mode of caffeine uptake is coffee. Preference here is a euphemism thinly disguising addiction. As is the way with junkies, when I moved in with A., my addiction soon spread. Tea in the morning became an infrequent thing. First thing I do in the morning is make a pot of coffee, and pour it out into two cups. Habit anchors itself, becomes the way of the kitchen, the salon, the table.
I am not a man for pets. I had a pet once, when I was in my twenties, a cat. Lovely little kitten. Got it a bowl to eat from, one for water, a cat litter box, bam, we were set. Liked to go out in my back yard – at the time, I was renting a shotgun house in New Orleans. Then one day it disappeared. I had my suspicions about the neighbors across the street. I put up signs on telephone poles, the whole deal. Nothing.
Since then, I have never had a pet. I have nothing against other people’s dogs and cats, and sometimes strike up a friendship with them. But the scratch of dog’s nails against the floorboards is not something I am longing for.
But I do live, as everyone I know does, with machines. Two hundred years ago, your average household was stocked with much less complex machines, of course. The fantasy world of ordinary life – the wonderland – was stocked with animals and gingerbread houses, but not cartoon machines. Of course, as gargoyles show, we humans have anthropomorphized things, or reified humans, for a long time. The person in the wood or stone has lurked there as long as humans have used wood or stone. But it wasn’t until the twentieth century that machines became so available for childhood fantasy and adult affection. Kings may have loved Excaliber; Louis XVI loved watches; and surely Edison loved his phonograph. But a real emotional bond with machines had to wait for households full of them. Res-philia, I suppose you could call it.
What I loved about the old coffeemaker was pulling it out in the morning, half asleep, doing the whole business with the water and the filter and the grounds, and hearing it purring when I turned it on and went to do something else. I loved its place in my habits. This was not really res-philia, though, as was proven by my reaction to the pot breaking (essentially, it developed a leak at the bottom), which was to think only of getting a new one.
We unceremoniously tossed the old one. Got a smaller, red model.
What this means is that one coffeemaker made it through this world, crafted and packaged, sucked up up a certain amount of electric energy, and at the first hint of trouble went into another box and was caught up in the great system of Paris waste. In this way, it added its small quotient to making this world a more polluted place. On the plus side, though, it kept me awake enough that I did my work, wrote my bits, and noticed the morning brightening on our terrace, sometimes, before everybody was awake, just me and a cup of coffee in my hand. So I owe it.
And this is its obituary. Done.