One of the best parts of seeing John Cleese in his Last Time to See Me Before I Die show was hearing the list of his mother’s phobias.
She had all of the common ones, including both claustrophobia and agoraphobia, plus a list of less well-known fears, of, among others, bats, raccoons, brass bands and bells.
Among many other fears, my own mother feared Thursdays – far more inconvenient than worrying about Friday the 13th. “Thursdays are bad luck,” she said, and waited with resignation for the end of the day, to see what would go spectacularly wrong.
I might mock these women, but really, I can’t, because I’m on my way to developing a morbid fear of losing the current perfection of my made-at-home coffee.
It started with the blue seahorse cup that I bought at the Honolulu Aquarium when we were there in September. I can’t remember being so drawn to a piece of crockery for a long time: the tropical shade of blue, the lovely seahorses – is there anything more magical in the ocean than these creatures?
And when I pour my coffee into the milk foamed by my Aeroccino milk frother the tall narrow shape of the mug makes the foam stand up an inch higher than the edge of the mug. I don’t know why that makes me so happy, but it does.
So now I am afraid on two counts.
One is that mugs break. I’m anxious about that, fearing the day when this lovely item in daily use is chipped or shattered, an eventuality that seems closer when you have stone kitchen counters.
I might be lucky. It might not break. I might drink the last latte of my life out of this very blue mug. But the odds aren’t good.
I already know that the second part of the equation – the failure of the Aeroccino – is inevitable. I’m now on my fourth Aeroccino in one year, which for a simple small appliance is a stunningly bad record.
The first milk frother was a gift, a year ago in July.
At first I didn’t want it – one more thing to clutter up the kitchen counter. But the first day I used it, I was converted: hot milk, dense foam, easy clean up, and a pretty little machine to boot. It instantly shot to the top of my list of favorite kitchen gadgets.
It lasted two months, and then suddenly stopped working.
It had died. Quit. Failed. Checked out. Left the premises. Pulled the plug.
I scoured the Internet, looking for hints, and found a large literature devoted to keeping your Aeroccino from going bad:
• Don’t store the top on the base, and most particularly don’t store it on the base when the base is plugged in.
• Don’t let any water come in contact with the bottom of the milk frother, where it plugs in to the base.
• Clean it thoroughly so there’s no build up of slightly burned milk on the bottom, which would mislead the thermostat.
I would add: pray frequently.
Luckily, Nespresso has a generous return policy. Despite my lack of a receipt, they gave me a new machine, and a customer number. I now had a one-year warranty.
The friendly clerk said: “Usually they either go right away or they last forever.”
In this case forever turned out to be another eight months.
We had been careful with the first milk frother. We were vigilant with the second one. But there it was, early July, and all we could get from our milk frother was a blinking red light.
I took it back in, and got another free replacement from a much less friendly clerk. That one lasted two weeks.
By then it was late July, we were getting ready to go to Read Island, and I didn’t have time to get back to the store before the warranty ran out.
Once we were back home, I called Nespresso, where telephone rep with a southern accent and manners as sweet as molasses set me up with my fourth frother, for $56, which was about 60 per cent of retail. And that included shipping.
She promised it for Wednesday; it arrived on Monday.
It’s red. I love it. And I’m waiting for it to break.