03 December 2004

The Coffee Truck

The highlight of our mornings here at Columbia University Press is an institution known as "the coffee truck" (the alternate name for which is, as Joel informs me, the roach coach.) Every morning at approximately 10:30 the coffee truck arrives and honks. Word goes 'round the office, passing from those who are close enough to windows at the parking-lot end of the building to actually hear the truck honking, through the finance department, down on through the indexers cluster by cluster: "Coffee truck.....coffee truck's here.....coffee truck....praise God..." There is a mad scrambling for coats and change-purses, and we begin our daily pilgrimage to that holiest of shrines, the coffee truck.

The coffee truck is a beautiful sight. Its shiny chrome sides gleam in the midmorning light, and some half-dozen spigots protrude from the back of the truck, dispensing coffee, hot water, decaf, coffee, coffee, and more coffee. Cradled in a trough are cartons of milk and Tupperware containers of sugar. On one side of the truck are various tasty comestibles--sandwiches, doughnuts, muffins, and of course cheese Danish. Occasionally there are also yoghurts of varying exotic fruits. Though this concept takes the phrase "highway robbery" to a new height of linguistic irony, and the caloric consequences are sometimes devastating, the coffee truck is indeed one of man's finest inventions, second only to bottled beer.

Which brings me to my point. This morning, there was talk among a certain group of indexers that there should be an afternoon counterpart to the coffee truck. (This flight into fantasy has no doubt occurred because it is currently 10:57 and so far the coffee truck has not made its appearance.) Sometime around 3:00 or 3:15 each afternoon, the afternoon counterpart should make its appearance. It will be called "The Beer Truck."

Ideally, the beer truck would have taps along its back bumper, offering a variety of domestic, import, and microbrew selections. Around the side you'd have your mixed nuts, trail mix, hot wings, cocktail offerings, olives, finger sandwiches, and scoop-your-own popcorn. One of the guys from the warehouse on the first floor has even suggested tiki torches, because by 3:30 in the winter, it's already pretty damn dark and you don't want to spill your drink (except maybe on that jerk from marketing). It was MK who came up with the coup de grace: Friday afternoon travelling beer truck treks.

On Friday afternoons, instead of parking, the beer truck would honk and make a U-turn. Employees could then log off, pack their briefcases, fetch their car keys, and join a caravan, a sort of vehicular conga line, to the destination of the week. We would follow the beer truck hither and yon, through the hills of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow to wherever the beer truck led us. Whenever and wherever the beer truck parked, the party would begin.

For now, though, we're stuck eating our $2.00 doughnuts and drinking mediocre brown swill at a dollar per environmentally questionable styrofoam cup. (I've noticed there's no discount if you bring your own mug. Come on, even Starbucks does that.)

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