The Can of Coffee by Tony Hanning
I have secreted away, a can of coffee which I purchased
from a vending machine in Kyoto in 1984. Having purchased the coffee with
every intention of drinking it, I read the label and decided against opening
The label reads “Welcome to Heaven as Time brings
softness found in this can.”
Whether it is a desire to preserve the contents to
retain the novel integrity of the label, or fear of the outcome of consuming
the contents, I cannot tell.
I am not yet ready for Heaven.
If time is a prerequisite for entry into Heaven,
(as we are led to believe) there is an implied directive that the longer
I wait before opening it, the closer to Heaven (or even a greater quantity
of Heaven) will be imparted.
Whatever the case may be, the label has, in effect,
rendered the coffee useless.
Now the coffee simply sits in the can somewhere at
the back of the cupboard and with each moment that passes I am, like it
or not, closer to Heaven.
I try not to think about this too much and it is
only when I see the can at the back of the cupboard that I am reminded
of my concern for it.
On the third floor of the National Gallery of Victoria
there is a glass cabinet containing goblets.
Most of these goblets date back to the 17th Century.
Like the can of coffee, they have been rendered useless
Where once it may have been possible (and indeed
probable) that someone actually drank from them, there is little, if any,
chance that they will be drunk from again.
Like the coffee, time decreases the probability of
these goblets actually being used for what was intended. Ironically, it
is preservation and not decay which has rendered them useless, for most
of them are in as good a condition as the day they were made.
I rediscovered the can of coffee, and for fear that it may be thrown out
by mistake, I transferred it to another secret spot and in so doing, happened
upon yet another undrunk beverage I had secreted away many years ago.
This time it was a small bottle of Guinness. Still
capped and untouched.
This bottle of Guinness is no ordinary bottle of
Guinness. It is in near mint condition, with a gold foil around the top,
and the bottle is of a heavily embossed glass.
The embossing reads “Commemorating the visit by Her
Majesty: 1953” above which there is a larger embossing which reads “The
Queen. God Bless Her”
The printed label of the bottle indicates that this
is a limited edition, and given the circumstances in Ireland since its
manufacture, it is fortunate to be thousands of miles from such strife
and ought to therefore be considered precious.
My memory of stout is that if you drink too much
of it you end up closer to hell than Heaven and as I am not a stout drinker
(nor for that matter a drinker of stout) I decided that this is one old
beverage I could well do without.
I telephoned an Auction House and was informed that
it was worth nothing.
“Yours is a Collector’s item” I was told. “There
is no market for Collectors any more. Those days are gone” she said. “These
days people only buy and sell wine for either investment or to drink.”
This is a clear case of time not being on my side.
Had I sold the Guinness when the Collector’s market
was still active, I might have made some money, but as it is the
bottle only takes up space.
But it is also taking up space in time and its fate
is unresolved, so it remains out of sight in some sort of limbo.
At this point I feel that the only sensible thing to do is to make a cup