Clueless in America. Chapter 40

40. Leave the Lights Off Please

Well the first thing we noticed coming into Cedarburg was again, all of the cute houses and then the second thing we noticed upon turning into the main street was that Cedarburg looked one hang of a lot nicer in the dark than it did this dreary, overcast fall afternoon. In fact I was so disappointed that we needed coffee. We had once been given some Cedarburg Coffee Roastery coffee beans, so we set out to find their main street cafe. We drove the main street twice before we found it sitting pensively between the matching grey foot-path and grey clouds. We found a park and in anticipation of alleviating our GPS tension with a good dose of freshly roasted coffee, we hurriedly dashed down the damp side-walk. Upon entering our place of asylum, we were suddenly overcome with the fresh smell of burnt coffee beans. Did God have his finger on the smite button(126) this day or what?

But never mind, cafes are our natural environment and any cafe which roasted its own coffee was definitely good enough to become our wildlife sanctuary. In case you missed it, we were the wildlife. We de-stressed here and plotted our next plan of action. I also took the chance to view their merchandise; I was still looking for my insulated coffee mug. Over the last week or so I have pondered as to why this coffee roastery was seemingly burning its beans with such a passion. I have been in the presence of many roasting beans over the years and have even attended coffee school, but nothing had really prepared me for the rancid smell of these burning beans. The dude doing the deed did not seem to be fazed by it at all. One of the many things that Europeans sling at Americans is how they do not have decent coffee. Of course, what they really mean is that they cannot roast their coffee. Most of the world’s coffee comes from the equatorial regions of the world and often times European and American coffee comes from the same country. Europeans seem to like their coffee bitter, strong and useless without a bucket load of sugar. Whereas Americans seem to enjoy theirs tasting rather washed out and weak. And thus their beans are roasted accordingly. This lad at Cedarburg was in such a rush to roast his beans, it seemed to me that he had his roaster on far too high a heat and it seemed that no sooner were those beans hitting the inside of the roaster, than the beans were cracking and crackling and then being released as roasted coffee. It seemed to be that this dude was roasting his beans as a function, not as a romance or an art. Thus, though the coffee was good, it tasted washed out and functional. I wonder if I could apply this experience and theory to the great transatlantic coffee debates and secure myself a seat in the European Union parliament. I am sure they have a department to discuss such things. Anyhow, I will move on.

From here we went back to Kohl’s. Or at least Sharon did, I was too scared to go back in and be overwhelmed. We parked in a typically innate and boring parking lot which was flanked by equally innate and boring square windowless buildings. I do not know what these places are called, maybe strip malls, maybe shopping centres. But can someone tell me, does a wee man sit in a wee office and try to work out how to make these places as boring as possible? No wonder the church is so consumerist; if we had taken the ‘Kohl’s’ sign off the building and put a ‘More Grace Pentecostal’ sign on, well then we all would have gone in and worshipped something quite different. My point is that churches, shop, warehouses and factories in America all look basically the same and can be quite confusing.

We parked the car in the middle of this huge, empty car park. Sharon took a five-minute walk to Kohl’s, whilst I stuck Ronnan in my pocket and walked five minutes in a different direction to an electronic store. Upon entering the store, I presented myself to the first shop assistant and presented my rather flat and dead borrowed GPS system. Oblivious to the morning’s turmoil, a pimply faced, smiling geek presented me with a new cigarette lighter charger. It was on sale, but still cost a packet, it seemed that I was not the first loser that had been done over by his GPS system. From here I walked the five minutes back to the car and then five minutes in the other direction to the outdoor store. I wonder, do Americans drive from shop to shop in these car parks or are they like me and actually walk?

In the outdoor store I was still looking for my 100-strength fleece. I learned a lesson in this store. But first to put things in context; I was jaded, we had stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. Once again we did not know how to order, then they couldn’t understand our accents and eventually I was left eating something I hadn’t meant to order. So I was a tad miffed walking into the store. This was Wisconsin and not Kohl’s, so the staff did not really care about serving me. Well I searched and searched, got fed up and asked for some help. This lassie was friendly, but not from Texas. She showed me a number of fleeces; with each one I asked, ‘Is it breathable and where is it made?’ She never knew if they were breathable or not. Eventually I said to her, ‘Look if they do not say on their label that they are breathable, I am not buying it, so please do not bother showing me’. I learned that there is nothing that annoys an American or at least Wisconsin shop assistant more than being proven to not know their product or a customer expressing that they are not happy with what they find. This woman became quite snarkie with me. She eventually found an outlandishly-priced breathable fleece for me but I was silly enough to say ‘No thanks, I do not want it’. She miffed me even more by asking ‘Why?’ To which I explained rather emphatically ‘Because it is made in China’. Her reply was something like, ‘Well everything is made in China these days’. Before I had even managed to find my way through the maze of illogically placed shelves, she had managed to get to the front desk and tell her colleagues about this strange and rude foreigner. So by the time I walked out there was a gaggle of teenagers standing at the counter all scowling at me.

I trudged my way back to the car, plugged in Ronnan, set the co-ordinates for Summit Lake and drove to Kohl’s to pick-up Sharon. The day had politely sucked and we were both keen to get away from Grafton traffic, shops and civilisation, and get up north and on holiday.

Tune in next week to read about killer letter boxes.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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