Wednesday, 13 April 2011

when my kettle failed me

Went to sleep dreaming about the black tea blend I made last night. Inspired by all the concoctions Robert over at @The_Devotea has been hawking on tea trade, I blended a simple Ceylon and an overly malty Assam. I'll go into more detail on all that another time. The point is that I'd mixed the teas, and fallen asleep thinking that it was going to make for a good train journey.

Like most days, I set my alarm just early enough to heat my flask, brew a pot, pour it in the warm flask with just enough extra tea left over for a quick cup as I'm heading out the door. All of that was fine, but something was conspiring against me. As I filled the electric kettle, and flipped its switch, nothing happened. Nothing at all. The kettle was dead.

Any other day, I'd just heat up water in a pot. If the electricity was out, I could start a fire on the terrace. Fire prevention be damned. But there was no time. My train ticket was non-refundable. And as important as having my tea along for the ride, I had to be reasonable.

Packed my tea blend and was on my way. Made the train in the last second before the whistle blew and we pulled out of the station. There was bagged tea offered in the restaurant car, but I'd had it before. It really was a crime against tea. My anticipation had been so utterly destroyed that I even turned down the coffee. Maybe I could sleep until we reached our destination. No luck. I stared out the window while the countryside rolled by. The beautiful blossoming springtime was lost on me. It was a black day in my heart.

But there was still hope. If I hurried to my appointment, I'd be able to scrounge up a teapot, and brew some of my blend before everyone arrived. But I guess it wasn't to be. I got there early enough. I asked one of my colleagues if she knew where a pot was, and she assured me she'd try. There was coffee, but remember Germany is primarily a coffee-drinking culture. Well, at least southern Germany is. This'd never happen in Bremen or Hamburg.

The meeting started. I was there to give a presentation. I couldn't announce that because of my lack of tea there'd be no power point. Could I? No, I couldn't. Somehow, I went into a fugue state and did my job. It wasn't pretty, but there've been worse moments in Western Civilisation. Not many. But I persevered.

After the visiting clients left, I collapsed onto the floor. At this point, I needed some tea. Seriously. Maybe there'd be relief at some shop or cafe near the train station before my trip home. At the magazine shop next to the track, they apologised that they had no hot water. The woman behind the counter suggested some Iced Tea in the nearby refrigerator. I assured her that whatever was in those containers, they had little or nothing to do with tea. She met my crazed glare with complete and utter incomprehension.

I was babbling incoherently as I stumbled over to my waiting train. The lights around me were getting blurrier as we started moving. Practically hallucinating, my thoughts turned to whether anyone in my building might lend me their kettle. Or was there a place I could still get even a cup of tea before I had to make my way home. Clearly I was a mess.

Somehow, I found my keys and let myself in before any of the neighbours saw me in this state. I looked around the kitchen in a daze, and saw my useless, wretched kettle staring back at me. At this point, I had time to heat water in a pot, but I became more and more incensed at this seemingly innocuous appliance that I'd always taken for granted. So smug and content he was. Knowing that he held the power to ruin my day so completely.

I started to imagine the horrible ways I could destroy the kettle. The humiliations I could subject him to. Dangling him from a bridge. Letting go and watching him smashed to pieces by the rush of passing traffic. Cackling uncontrollably, I found myself weeping and muttering obscenities that I'd rather not repeat.

It was only then I noticed...wait...

The night before I'd tidied up behind the toaster and had to unplug everything. My kettle was still sitting there full of the water I'd poured in in the predawn morning. I carefully fit the cord back in the outlet and turned the kettle on. The red light burned brightly, and for the first time in hours I took a deep breath. Soon there was that reassuring gurgling sound and I was fumbling through my bag for the package of tea I'd waited all day for.

Looking sheepishly over at my beloved kettle, I heard the water start to boil. Soon enough the tea was in the pot, the water was poured and I was somehow calmed. Hadn't yet had any tea, but my body was soothed at the very thought of it.

I heard my voice ask the kettle, 'You know I was kidding about dropping you off of a bridge, right?'

No answer. Not a word.

As I poured my tea, I felt an uncomfortable stillness between us. It actually made me very nervous. It's just a kettle, I told myself as my heart rate slowed and the tea warmed my extremities. At that point, I assured myself that everything was going to be ok.

But still...I unplugged that damned kettle before I went to bed. You never know if he'd come for me in my sleep.


  1. Ken, you are quite the creative writer! This was a fantastic read!
    I hope that this was a true story =]

  2. Well done, sir! And I can sympathize with your plight. Several years back, my ol' red Bodum died on me. I even gave it a eulogy. Can't wait to hear about how the blend was.

  3. I love my rather posh kettle and would never DREAM of verbally abusing it in such a threatening manner! Especially not now!

  4. Goodlord, that deserves to be read aloud on NPR. You are awesome.

  5. Sir Will & Geoff, thanks and thanks. A eulogy sounds appropriate.

    Barbara, the kettle had it coming.

    Sara, #fortheloveoftea

  6. Ha - what a great post! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Our coffee maker and the kettle have to share a socket, so I'm used to "false starts" to the day, but I didn't see it coming here...