I went on vacation for a little over a week, and when I got back home, I noticed how in the kitchen, I hadn’t done the best job cleaning up before I went away. Specifically, the coffee pot had been left out, the pot half filled with unused coffee. I could tell right away because there was all of this stuff floating around on the top, various disks of colored mold.
Gross. I never really imagined a couple inches of coffee could be a breeding grounds for a bacterial colony, but there it was, all of this microscopic life, thriving, clustering together in groups large enough to now be seen by the human eye, my eye, these nickel, dime, and quarter sized collections of whatever it is that’s floating around in the air, invisible, just waiting for the right time and place to settle down, away from the sunlight, away from human interference, somewhere with enough moisture to really get in there and multiply, populate.
Colonize. These little alien life forms floating down onto my coffee pot and making it their own. I don’t like thinking about what’s normally out of sight. And so I instinctively grabbed the pot and emptied its contents into the sink. My actions were too instinctual. I should have waited. I should have taken the drain out of the sink, I should have cleaned out all of the stuff in the drain, pieces of old food preventing the coffee and the mold from going down the pipes. Instead everything kind of just splashed around, the mold discs revealing their slippery nature, their ability to maintain colony coherence while being cast out from their once welcoming habitat.
And then I really started thinking, I thought about the leftover coffee grinds inside the machine that I hadn’t even considered before. Talk about dark. Inside there wasn’t any light at all. I opened it up and what my eyes met inside was similarly horrifying. Actually, it was worse. OK, maybe not worse, but different. While the liquid surface of the coffee was conducive to growing those slippery circles of algae, the wet coffee grinds inside were a perfect environment for a fuzzier type of mold, stuff that grows spiky and upward, almost daring me to try and mess with its manifest destiny of my once spotless appliance.
I say spotless, but I never really cleaned it, not since I bought it almost two years ago. I never felt the need to. I make a pot of coffee in the morning, I drink the coffee, and then the next day I make a new pot, emptying out the grinds from the previous day, adding a little more water. But now there was this infestation. I got out the soap, I unspooled that hose connected to the side of the sink so as to really spray down the innermost workings of the machine with hot, soapy water.
And then it was a thorough cleaning of the sink, of anything that so much as touched the miniscule citizens of the intrusive habitat. When I was sure that I had everything more or less sanitized, I made a new, full pot of coffee. I figured, I had better drink from this machine right away, or my imagination would carry itself away, I’d get lost fantasizing about the one or two microbes that somehow managed to cling to the sides or escape the punishment of my soapy sponge. They’d lay low for a little while, but that one would grow into two, into a crumb of germs barely visible to my naked eye. I’d make a pot of coffee a few days later and maybe I’d drink the unsuspecting stowaway.
No, that’s too much crazy to imagine. I’d drink the whole pot right away and never think about it again. But as I enjoyed my second cup, I started to feel bad. What if some giant space alien flew to the earth and saw all of our cities and felt the same instant revulsion that I experienced when I saw my coffee machine? Wouldn’t I feel like as a member of one of these human colonies, that I at least deserve a chance to live, maybe to be resettled somewhere else, to continue my life before being wiped up and killed without even a little consideration?
I was thinking about this, about life and the scale of the universe, but I got interrupted when the toilet made this self-flushing sound. I forgot about that also, it was acting up before I went away. Apparently disappearing for ten days didn’t solve the problem, and now it was actually worse, the self-flushing intervals were shorter than I had remembered, and so I figured that while I had a few cups of coffee in me, I might as well take a look inside. There was definitely a leak somewhere, but I don’t really know anything about toilets, so I turned the water off, took some parts out, and added some duct tape almost at random. I put everything back together again and noticed that there was a line of mildew right at the top of the upper chamber, right next to where the water level usually fills up to. I thought about the bathroom, about all of the invisible life floating around, just waiting for my next vacation, or for me to turn off the water to the toilet, to create a wet, still environment where a new colony might be founded. I turned the water back on, the duct tape didn’t work at all. I freaked out and started spraying a bleach solution in every direction.