There are a lot of unexplained mysteries in the world: the Bermuda Triangle, crop circles, tofu, and the Mary Celeste, to name but a few. Sure, everyone’s got their own pet theories – and some confident souls clutching scientific equations, previously undiscovered historical documents, or curds made from coagulated soy milk might insist they’ve stumbled across the answer – but we’re still all basically in the dark about these intriguing enigmas.
Not that anyone minds too much: there’s something delightful about an enigma. It’s just human nature to be drawn in by riddles – how else can you explain the popularity of murder mystery parties, or those shit jokes in Christmas crackers?
To add to the expected head-scratchers, something both mysterious and inexplicable happened to me when I got home from work yesterday.
Let me set the scene: it was half past eleven, GMT+1. It was a crisp night, and I’d just navigated my way across a Prague heaving with the usual Saturday night crowd (ie mostly stag and hen does intoxicated by a mixture of a excitement, b cheap beer, c cheap absinthe, and d a little bit more beer). I was exhausted from a dramatic and challenging shift at the hostel.
(The boiler had broken down and, as the closest thing to a Czech speaker on shift at the time, I’d been dispatched to the heating room to be remotely guided through the resetting process by the maintenance guy. (Phone conversations are so stressful that it took me a good five minutes to understand he was telling me to push the giant red button.) Also, a group of lads had been caught smoking out the window, and I’d accidentally given someone $50 worth of change rather than 50€ (ie grossly shortchanging them). But I digress.)
I got home, so exhausted from boiler/currency exchange drama that I could barely find the strength to put the kettle on. Little did I know that I was wearing this generation’s Loch Ness Monster on my feet (in terms of mysteriousness, not smell and/or plausible imaginariness); and yet – when I took my shoes off, there it was: a whole bunch of ground coffee.
How can I be sure it was coffee grounds and not, say, dirt or generic brown dust? Because, thanks, I think, to my extreme tiredness, I didn’t hesitate to smell the mysterious stuff, and recognised the aroma of everyone’s favourite socially acceptable addictive substance.
What the actual (sorry, Mum) fuck? Sure, I drink a lot of coffee and I’m pretty clumsy, but I’ve never spilt a drink so badly that it’s ended up in powder form in my shoe. This was something else.
Invigorated by the mystery (and, maybe, by the delayed effect of caffeine entering my bloodstream via the ankle), I fixed myself a steaming mug of Horlicks, installed myself at the kitchen table and, equipped with pencil and extra large receipt, made the following list of theories.
- jostled someone transporting stolen coffee on the metro;
- fell victim to a good-natured prank at work;
- developed the ability to secrete coffee powder through the heel;
- unknowingly walked through a coffee spillage somewhere between the tram stop and my home;
- was on the receiving end of the mild revenge of the customer I short-changed;
- unknowingly had my shoe stolen by some looters to use as a receptacle for their liberated coffee – on completing the job, they returned the shoe, plus some spare grounds, to my flat via the cat flap;
- fell victim to a mean-spirited prank at work;
- or, and this is a long shot, spilt coffee grounds when I was making a coffee this morning.
We’ll never know what really happened, of course. Surely heads will be scratched over this particular mystery for years to come.