I did some checking and found curious coincidences between Middletown, home of Klekolo, and London, Ontario, Canada, where I imbibe my Klekolo coffee. Both cities have the nickname, “the Forest City,” presumably about our shared affection for Tom Hanks movies. Both cities featured largely in Middlesex County, well at least until 1960, when county government was eliminated for Middletown. Each city is on a river and patterned, to a degree, on London, England. Wesleyan University looms large in Middletown, and London is home to both the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College. Neither town is a stranger to students.
The differences are striking, also. Middletown’s history goes back to the mid-1600s while London is a newbie, dating to the 1830s. While London is over 6 times the size of Middletown in population, it sits as the largest population center in Southwestern Ontario. Middletown, part of the Hartford-Springfield corridor, is part of a metropolitan area that is 6 times larger than London.
Okay, those things are easy to look up. Many intangibles slip past. I have no idea what public transportation is like in Middletown. I know what it’s like in London. And it’s not great. I’m lucky. I live on a bus line that stops near my place, goes more or less directly downtown, and directly past the theatre at which I work. It runs every half-hour, more or less, which is about average for a route in London, and if I walk a little west I can catch a stop that loads before the whack of students get on, assuring my newly arthritic knees a seat near the back, where I can remain relatively undisturbed.
The problem with buses in London is that a large percentage of the routes head downtown, through one intersection, that of Dundas and Richmond. One Intersection. Perhaps it made sense when downtown was the thriving business center for the area, but like many cities, suburbia, malls and big box stores are a way of life. Unlike big cities, Toronto or Chicago for instance, public transportation has a stigma in London, largely because all these buses come into that One Intersection. Thus, to transfer efficiently, you likely have to disembark at this place. As do all the miscreants and low-lifes (no, not me. I stay on for a good mile and a bit past downtown.)
What does all this have to do with coffee?
Well, bringing some of my stash of Klekolo’s wares to work was on the books from the day I started. Grinding in the morning, I place my measured grounds into a filter and carefully fold the filter into a little pouch, which I place inside a resealable bag, one with a plastic slider across the top. I make sure the slider doesn’t completely close, so I can push air out of the bag to reduce it to minimal size, which also keeps the filter pouch tight. Then I secure the works with an elastic and slip the pouch into my shirt pocket.
This arrangement encases my immediate vicinity with the delicious fragrance of fresh-ground, fair trade, organic coffee aromatherapy, often needed when packed into close quarters with fellow miscreants and low-lifes. Unlike many, I try to keep to myself and endure the human sardine-ism with stoic grace. Perhaps a little of my aroma bubble reaches the olfactory resources of others, but I trust it is a welcome intrusion if it occurs.
Our bus drivers are a surly lot, many displaying passive-aggressive tendencies that would be worth intense study by scholars or others with too much idle time. I am forced merely to cope. Strapped into very comfy looking driver seats, they seem to delight in stopping ahead and behind stop signs, wherever the people are not. Applications of brakes and acceleration seem planned to knock the unwitting over. I suspect they have an informal betting pool back at the depot.
Combine these drivers with passengers bound downtown (home of social assistance, unemployment help centers, methadone clinics, county health units, etc.), carrying fragrance bubbles of their own well-tainted with intake of chronic choice of alcoholic beverage, and that little packet of coffee has a battle when such a specimen plops on the seat beside me. Live and let live, I say. Our journey together is a short one. And so it goes.
Until. The One Intersection. The Wild Turkey Fragrance Bubble rises. Passive-aggressive driver lurches. A hand moves with surprising speed to find the overhead bar to stabilize. Turns out said hand was required to hold up unsaid pants. Less than a foot from my face I am confronted with the not naturally off-white Looming Fruits of my travel companion, now struggling with the mutually exclusive tasks of holding that overhead bar while reaching toward his ankles to retrieve fallen trousers. Can’t be done. I’ve seen the research. Uneasy silence fills the bus until it comes to a complete stop. Trousers raised, the moment of tension passes.
I drop my head toward my aroma bubble, inhaling deeply as I add up again the money I’m saving and the carbon footprint I am reducing by not driving. The smell of the cup of coffee to be soothes me. And I wonder how come Scarlett Johanssen never takes my bus.
Drinking: Café Mam
Listening: Bus Rider – The Guess Who