Crashing coffee cups

April 27th is Tell-a-Story Day. It is also what would have been my Pop’s 72nd birthday. So it seems highly appropriate to tell a story about him.

A short one this year, inspired by a comment by a friend. She was describing how she frequently, in her haste to get going in the morning, will leave her coffee cup on the roof of the car only to hear it tumble and crash to the ground as she starts driving.

Pop was a frequent coffee cup crasher. In grade school for a few years, he would drive all of us to school. Our household mornings were no different than billions of others – sleepy kids unenthusiastically dressing, eating and gathering the requisite books and bags and other necessities for the day at school. As we all piled into the car (which in the winter time had been running for a while to warm it up and clear the windows), Pop would be carrying his coffee cup in one hand, bag and/or keys and/or other stuff in the other. The coffee cup would be placed on the roof above the driver’s door while he cajoled and bundled us into the car. He’d get in the driver’s seat, put the car in gear and…bump, bump, crash. The cup and its precious contents would be on the ground.

Thankfully, Pop took his coffee black-no-sugar, so the liquid mess was relatively inconsequential. The cups, however, were irreparable, as he favoured a ceramic mug for his morning drink, and these rarely survived the ordeal intact. The more significant loss was the stimulating effect of the coffee – Pop would have to wait till he got to work to have a cup.

I do recall occasionally reminding him about the mug, but not frequently enough to forestall the occasional morning disaster. I don’t recall whether the subsequent drives to school included grim silence or playful teasing (likely a bit of both, depending on the general mood of the morning).

Another recent incident reminded me of Pop’s coffee-cup-in-the-car habit. One early morning heading to work, my sister dropped her open commuter mug full of coffee – with milk and sugar – into her purse. Everything – purse, wallet, papers – was instantly soaked in hot milky drink. It made me wonder: why didn’t she put her cup on the roof of the car? Was it a lesson learned all those years ago about broken cups and spilled coffee? Pattern recognized?

Just the other day, I had occasion to be using a car and getting in with a bunch of bags of stuff with a drink in my hand. As I put the drink on the roof to dig the key out of my pocket, I recognized the action as expedient but potentially perilous, and breathed a small sigh of relief as I picked up the drink from the roof and got in the car. Pattern recognized.

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