Кавовий велосипедний кур’єр, або прокляття прапорщика
Coffee Bicycle Courier, or Ensign's Curse
When the ruscists horde attacked us again on February 24, they almost surrounded Kharkiv. The huge city went under siege. With artillery and rocket attacks, bombings - the ruscists killed hundreds of civilians, and destroyed entire city districts, many houses in the center, factories, markets, schools. When you look at Kharkiv now, it seems that the windows in most houses in the city are broken. People from Kharkiv fled who could. It is said that 2/3 of the population, about 700,000 fled. But many people remained. That's why after about a month of living under siege, when the Armed Forces of Ukraine drove the horde away from the city, we decided that we should start working, because we can't live like that anymore. We opened a cafe, our colleagues needed coffee in Poltava, a few more customers came, there were online shop orders, and we started roasting coffee again. I began to deliver small batches of coffee by bicycle. In the beginning, there were few cars on the roads and it was possible to bike safely on the roads. Then the number of cars increased. But then began fuel shortage. And bicycle delivery has become even more relevant.
When you pedal over long distances, the head thinks of something. And here during the next long rise with a backpack of about 20 kg - my stupid (but already a little smarter) head asked: «For what sins to you this punishment is? At 59, carrying a big heavy bag of coffee, under thunder of explosions, air strike emergency sirens and the crunch of ubiquitous broken glass under the wheels? ” I began to remember my sins, related to coffee. And here came the insight. I remembered for what a sin such a punishment could be for me.
This was during service in the army, in the late fall of 1987. I was on a military task trip, we lived in a tent camp in the woods. Nearby, there in the woods was a secret military territory, surrounded by several rows of barbed wire, between which walked the guards with dogs. Between the rows of that wire, that is, also under the protection of guards, but without access to the territory, there was a railway platform. We pulled several of our broken tank-chassis tractors and trucks out of the woods to moor them on railroad cars. We set up the equipment, tied it up, a locomotive arrived, pulled the cars away, and we waited until we were picked up by a special car, because we couldn't get out ourselves, because the perimeter was guarded by those guards and we were warned not to leave the platform. All this time it was raining and snowing, it was quite cold and windy, there was nowhere to hide, because we were on a bare platform - it's just an embankment covered with concrete slabs. There were few of us there, a few soldiers, wet and frozen. Like everyone else, I also got wet and froze, and to get a little warm I walked and ran the platform here and there. And so, running down a bit from the platform, I noticed that under one concrete slab there is a gap, quite large. I tried to crawl into that hole, to hide from the rain under the slab. There, the ground was slightly washed away, crumbled, compacted and formed a small cave, where it was a little warmer and more comfortable than in the cold rain. After lying there for a few minutes, I looked around. My eyes got a little used to the darkness and in the far corner of the "cave" I saw something white. I crawled to that corner, there was a plastic bag filled with something, in the darkness I could not see what. May be it would be interesting to say, that in those days in the USSR such packages were only foreign, that is, it was a sign of a terrible import deficit, a kind of cargo-cult. The person with the package then had, so to speak, a higher status. Well, that's about how nowadays a man with a Louis Vuitton bag for $ 20,000 feels about his high status. Crawling to the light, I opened the package and just dumbfounded. The package was full of ground coffee, around 5 kilos. Well, try to imagine, in those times of total shortage, when in no store (coffee shops then did not exist at all) no coffee can be found anywhere - suddenly in the middle of the forest, around the perimeter of barbed wire under the protection of armed guards with dogs, in a hole under the concrete slab - there is 5 kg of coffee… I thought that maybe some ensign (in army slang they are called [prapor], the petty-officers, category, famous for their thievish character) snatched this coffee there at the base and hid it here, then to take out by car or locomotive, which can come here to the platform and leave unattended at the gate. When the car finally came to pick us up, I hid the package under my quilt (or as it was then called [vatnik], literally meaning “cotton”) and brought it to the camp. None of the soldiers who were in the car with me then noticed anything.
Due to the fact that the tank-tractor on which I worked before broke down and was sent from the same platform - I was left, so to speak, "without work" and I was put in an outfit, as they said "duty officer". And in this "position" I "hung" for 18 days in a row. This service demanded that I and two other soldiers (who were called «orderly») do not sleep day and night and oversee the order in the camp, where several hundred various soldiers lived. Rather, according to the Charter, orderlies can sleep in turn. But the "duty officer" can not sleep in an outfit at all. Well, when I was on the duty for 18 days in a row, I certainly slept, but only during the day when no one was in the camp. And in order not to sleep at night the coffee turned to be very useful. Of course, I discovered this coffee secret with my orderlies. These were my friends, sent to the trip from my unit, Aniskin and Rol. Along the way, Rol also served as a waiter in the officers' canteen tent. We usually drank coffee late in the evening, when everyone around calmed down. We brewed coffee on the stove in the same officer's dining tent, where no one had the right to enter except the officers (there were few of them and at night they either slept or wandered to some distant "villages" to have a booz, and meet some jolly ladies). It was nice to sit by the warm stove with a cup of coffee. The lights from the stove play with reflections on the white walls of the tent. The smell of coffee mixes with the smoke of resinous wood and the pine forest around. It is warm, the vatnik is dry and clean, and it is quiet - the bloody tractor does not rumble and not stink of diesel fuel, a state of harmony close to nirvana. The coffee was unbelievable - aromatic and thick, like the darkest night in this most deaf katsap asshole.
In the photo - Aniskin and Rol.
Except for the three of us, no one knew about this coffee. Only once we almost "burned". Usually, when officers returned from the late "spree" - it was noticeable from afar. Because when their truck approached the camp on the way, the headlights shone directly into the window of the same tent where we drank coffee. But one day, apparently, the truck stalled somewhere in the woods far from the camp, the officers came on foot and we did not notice them immediately. Hearing some footsteps at one entrance to the tent, Aniskin and I grabbed coffee mugs and jumped out through the opposite entrance. And Rol (because he was the "boss" in this tent) remained in the tent. Standing in the middle of the dark night behind the thick pine trees, Aniskin and I watched through the window of the tent, lightened inside. It was also good to hear. And here we see such a picture. Next to the stove is Rol, in an unbuttoned jacket, an army "grandfather", a strong guy about 1.80 tall. He is approached with a menacing uncertain gait by a bully lieutenant colonel, a crooked-legged "burly", 1.60 tall (this is together with the "officer's cap"), with the profile of a typical Neanderthal, with a broken nose. Stopping right in front of Roll, the lieutenant colonel sniffs and smells coffee. Here is the "dialogue":
- Rol, bring me a coffee!
- What a coffee, comrade lieutenant colonel?
- Such a fucking coffee… just rush and brought…
- Where did you see coffee in the army, comrade lieutenant colonel?
The lieutenant colonel clearly did not expect such a "bulling". Looking up at Rol's eyes and breathing moonshine fumes at him, he takes him by the belt and pulls him off the ground with a sharp movement.
- Son, what do you know about the army? How long did you serve?
- 1.5 of the year…
- And I - twenty-five… Because of that - rush and brought…
And the lieutenant colonel throws Rol in front of him, he falls, turns over his head and flies out of the tent through the entrance where we jumped out. Rol stands to his feet and runs towards the camp, we stop him. His eyes are a little crazy.
"Did you see it?"
- Sure we did… ????
- Give me coffee
"For you or for him?"
- To him
"Are you a fool?" He will fuck us up. You will give it to him once, so he will take everything…
- So what should I do?
"Take butter, sugar, prepare him some tea..." Let him to drink and to calm down…
Roll runs to the sergeant, who swears and gets something from his boxes for the comrade lieutenant colonel… Aniskin and I share Rol’s mug of coffee and disappear between the tents. Because someone is necessary to keep the military service, and not just drink moonshine with whores… ????
On the photo - I'm in the same camp, maybe in the same “vatnik” in which I hid the coffee. And with the mug from which I drank it.
After the army, living (many years without a residence permit, with all the consequences) in a time of rapid changes, when the USSR was already dying, but still could not throw away his hooves - I sometimes had the thought of emigrating to America. I once saw a movie about bicycle couriers in New York on TV or in a "new-fangled" video store. These were desperate strong guys delivering mail, or small loads in a city full of cars, with adventures and difficulties. However, now, comparing the bicycle couriers of today's Kharkiv with them, I can say that in New York, among the difficulties, there were no rockets or shelling. So then I thought that if I came to America, I would probably make a living for the first time by bike courier.
More years passed. I never emigrated to America. Our Kofein has already opened in Kharkiv. We set up our own coffee roastery, where I not only roasted coffee, but was also a bicycle courier for a couple of years, that is, delivering coffee. Just then I once again came to Berlin. At that time, most of the trendy coffee shops and New Wave coffee roasts were not there. There were a few old ones and I decided to go to roastery “Coffee mamas”, which roasted coffee under the Deutsche Ban platform near Alexanderplatz, when I was in Berlin in 2001, i/e "Pharaones Ages", when there no one heard any waves of "specialty coffee" in our country. There was also a coffee shop nearby with the provocative name CoffeinBar. And then somewhere I came across the first (besides myself) real bicycle courier. I was so moved that I almost rushed to hug him. But the dude was sweaty, worried, and quickly drank coffee from a paper cup.
It was obvious that he was no longer a free independent courier like me, but working for a large company, with dispatchers, uniforms, that is, with all the signs of industrialization and globalization. The romance of the profession faded before my eyes. The guys on bikes and motorcycles with yellow backpacks-boxes, which have flooded the streets of our cities in recent years, "finished" this romance even more. I distanced myself from this profession. But now, so unexpectedly, I returned to it again.
So, almost 35 years later, carrying a backpack with coffee, I realized that it was my karma. I must have been overtaken by the terrible curse of the “prapor”, which did not find its imported package under the concrete slab and howled furiously like a mad wolf in the Bryansk forests, cursing the one who stole his freshly stolen coffee…
Interestingly, this insight (about my coffee karma) came to me on the very day we met with military correspondent, photographer and writer Serhiy Loyko. I gave him our coffee, brought by bicycle in a backpack. And he gave me his book "The Flight".
If the coffee karma exists, can there be another, general karma? And she will catch up with the prototype of one of the heroes of the novel "The Flight" named Pukhov (Putin) and he will get something heavy on the head? Sooner, please - rush and brought... ;)