Jerry walked up to the front of the room, tugging at his jacket to straighten it. It wasn't in need of straightening, and Jerry knew that, but he was nervous and this helped him keep his courage. He moved to behind the podium and cleared his throat.
"I am Jerry, and I am a recovering coffee snob," he said hesitantly.
"Hi, Jerry," the small crowd went.
"My problem with coffee snobbery started when I was young and my parents started giving me milk with a bit of coffee in the morning. It was terrible, but..."
Someone coughed. Jerry's eyes shot to the man who did so, who had an eyebrow raised and was motioning to him.
"Ah, uh, it was regular coffee. Not bad, not good. I was far too young to really form an opinion on it anyway."
The man in the audience nodded, pleased with the self-correction.
"Over the years, I developed a real taste for coffee. And then there was the turning point, which you summarized very well, Sadie. Just like with most of you, I started to feel like there was a clear line between quality and lack of quality."
The audience went "Hmhm" in agreement.
"And I had a closet full of what I considered to be quality coffee. I would go to coffee houses and judge them based on what they said their best offering was. I would chastise coworkers, family members, friends, people on the street, everybody really, if they carried around one of those decadent Starbucks cups or mugs."
Another cough from the man.
"Just a cup. Anyone carrying around a Starbucks-branded container."
"I was so convinced of my coffee that I would brew my own at home and bring it into the office. And I found out recently that I was hated for it. I did it so I wouldn't have to complain about the low quality coffee anymore, uh, sorry, I mean the office coffee."
Jerry rubbed his eyes for a second, before continuing.
"Okay, this whole thing is very difficult for me. I'm so used to talk about regular coffee in a negative way that I find myself incapable of doing so without thinking it really hard."
"That's okay, man! You just gotta keep trying!" someone from the crowd shouted.
"Thanks. Where was I?"
"Office coffee," Sadie said with an odd smile, like she was uncomfortable saying the words.
"Oh, yes. So, I used to bring my own coffee in. But then I found out that the coffee store I bought my beans at had been swindling me. They were buying cheap beans and re-roasting them and selling them for ten times their original cost."
The crowd gasped. Jerry immediately felt a connection with these people. They understood the horror of what had been done to him. They were kindred spirits. Most people he attempted to talk to about this seemed to think that he just needed to 'get over it'.
But he had found that it wasn't that simple. Coffee Snobs Anonymous, CSA in short, was a small group, but the group leader had told him that in recent months, membership had gone up significantly. Coffee Snobbery was becoming a real problem and he was hoping it would be recognized as a real disorder, just like alcoholism. Jerry had said that that felt weird to him, since his snobbery wasn't an addiction, and the group leader had countered with "Isn't it?"
Jerry hadn't thought of it that way. Now, noticing very actively that he had trouble referring to certain types of coffee in more than negative terms, he realized that he was, indeed, addicted to complaining about it. Even if it had in no way interfered with his life for ages.
It was a thing he did. A sort of tic he'd acquired at some point and there either hadn't been enough people who told him he was being an ass or he hadn't been able to listen.
He had felt very strongly that those who disagreed with him just didn't get it.
"When I realized that I had been duped -- for years, no less -- I had an identity crisis. I had for years seen myself as a coffee connoisseur, an expert in the field -- though an amateur -- and suddenly I was a plebe just like the rest."
Yet another cough. Jerry tilted his head back and sighed.
"You're right, that wasn't okay. Suddenly I found myself to be even more clueless than those I had derided before."
He took a sip from the filter coffee they kept in a big metal tankard with one of those taps on the snack table. It was lukewarm and watery, but he knew this was fine. It was fine. This was coffee, just like any other, and it wasn't bad or good, it was just a cup of good, traditional coffee. A regular cup of Joe. Totally fine.
"A coworker pointed out to me that I didn't need to feel superior for enjoying good coffee, and that there might be places out there that had good coffee, and that I just needed to open myself up to that possibility."
Someone clapped their hands together and stopped immediately, noticing they were the only one.
"It's been 4 months and I haven't told anyone their choice in coffee was a bad one. I haven't complained about the coffee I've purchased or otherwise received since then, I've always been polite and appreciative."
Jerry paused. The group leader looked at him expectantly.
"It's been 4 months since I paid more than 4 dollars for a cup of coffee. or 10 dollars for a bag of beans."
Now everybody applauded. The limits on how expensive coffee could be was part of the tenets of CSA. Through the applause he could see someone wiping a tear away. He was pretty sure it wasn't because his story was so moving, but because the thought of expensive coffee brought back a sense of nostalgia. It always did in him.
He took another sip of the coffee. He licked his teeth, noticing little particles of coffee. He looked at the cup and the last sip was mostly grounds. His left eye twitched.
He bit his lip and put the coffee cup on the podium with a bit of a clank.
"Jerry? You okay there?" the group leader said, getting up.
Jerry shook his head left and right slowly, opening his mouth but unsure what to say right now.
If he spoke his mind, it would be a setback. But it was the truth. And it wasn't what was expected of him. But it was the truth.
It wasn't fine.
"No! I am not fine! There is bad coffee! This is bad coffee!"
He threw the cup at the wall, where it smashed into pieces, leaving a stain of wet coffee grounds on the off-white wallpaper that was peeling off in places.
"Jerry! Not in here. You know that," the group leader said firmly.
"What, you can't handle it? You can't accept that there is a difference between expensive, quality coffee and this shit you've given me? That you've given these poor people for weeks? Months?" Jerry was nearly frothing at the mouth.
Someone in the audience shouted "Yeah!" and someone else added "It's shit!"
The group leader turned around and raised his hands in front of him.
"Calm down, people. Jerry's just having a rough time, but we can't let the negativity back in."
"No, he's right!" someone shouted while standing up.
"I'm sick of having to brush my teeth after a meeting!" someone else shouted while also getting up.
More and more people were getting up, some of them already at the coat rack, getting their coats.
Jerry smiled in a not-so-friendly way. He walked over to the snack table.
"Jerry, don't you dare!" the group leader said.
"Dare!" others shouted.
He stood in front of the snack table and exhaled with his eyes closed. When he opened them, he grabbed the coffee tankard with both hands and pulled. When it toppled, he jumped back and it hit the ground with a loud thud. Coffee came rushing out when the lid popped off due to the pressure.
The group leader stood there, surrounded by empty chairs, mouth half open and eyes wide.
"That's what I think about your 10-step program and your horrible coffee," Jerry spit at him.
"Now, my people, who wants to get a cup of good coffee?" he said, turning to the others.
They all agreed.
Just before he exited the church basement the meetings were held in, he turned back to the group leader and with a grin he spoke.
"I'm back. And now I've got a crew."
Author's note 1: Remember Jerry? Because I surely do!
Author's note 2: This is part 3 of the Jerry Saga.
Part 1: Coffee
Part 2: Something about Coffee
Part 3: There he goes again
Part 4: Coffee Snobs Unanimous