How the Volkswagen Scandal Has Changed Me

ecobee3: Our supposedly energy-efficient new thermostat. I doubt it.
ecobee3: Our “energy-efficient” new thermostat. The app really sells it.

When we bought our 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI, our fond hope was that we would have it for at least ten years. That’s one of the great things about diesel engines, Dave told me after much research. They can go forever. And a diesel that was also clean-burning? At last, technology and principles aligning! Then some stuff happened.

I brought home new coffee from the co-op. I cut open the top, hoping it would smell like Peet’s. It smelled good, but not as good as Peet’s.

“This smells good,” I said, shoving the bag at Dave and hoping he would say it smelled as good as Peet’s.

“Mm,” he nodded appreciatively. “But not as good as Peet’s.”

“Nothing smells as good as Peet’s,” I allowed, tossing the fair trade, people-supported, beautifully-designed packaging, perfectly good-smelling co-op coffee under the bus.

BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THE VOLKSWAGON SCANDAL HAS CHANGED ME. NO. IT’S WORSE.

“It’s a certain sweetness,” Dave mused.

“They all have it…” I added, looking for the right sweetness identifier.

“…But I can tell them all apart,” Dave clarified.

“Me too! I would totally know if I was drinking Major Dickasons versus Garuda,” I claimed, though secretly I wondered, would I?

NO, THAT’S NOT IT EITHER. IT’S DEEPER AND MORE INSIDIOUS.

“Each Peet’s blend is distinct, but they that all have that…” Dave paused.

“That…”

“That…”

“That…”

“…”

“…”

“… something,” he finished.

Yes.

It was a quiet, blissful moment that would have been otherwise unremarkable…

EXCEPT FOR WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

“We need to either get to Peet’s or go back to the subscription service, though it feels too expensive,” was what I was about to say.

BUT SUDDENLY AN IMAGE CAME INTO MY HEAD.

At the Peet’s coffee factory, during the roasting process, workers pour the requisite amount of the synthetic extract “Peets No. 7” into the vat. This chemical cocktail was developed after much market research and consultation with a French aroma company operating out of a shell corporation in China. They’ve calculated exactly how much Peets No. 7 must be added to each batch to create the proprietary brand nose-feel experience while maximizing ROI. Too much and people will suspect foul play. Too little and they won’t find it compelling–they’ll abandon Peet’s for the stuff at the Co-op. Or Folgers. Or maybe Peet’s IS Folgers with Peet’s No. 7 added. HOW DEEP DOES THIS GO?

Old, pre-Volkswagen me would scoff.

Of course Peet’s is different, the coffee itself is better, Peet’s started in Oregon and everyone is pure there. They just wouldn’t DO that.

New, post-Volkswagen me isn’t even shocked.

I just nod dismissively, “Yeah, they probably would,” and pour the co-op coffee into the canister with the rest of the Peet’s because why bother.

Ditto Trader Joe’s “Gluten Free” Waffles, So-Delicious “Vegan” Ice Cream, Room and Board “Made in America” furniture, “eco” bee thermostats, all recycling…

That’s how.

It’s a brand new day

iphone screen
We're pretty sure it's changed our life.

First I check my email. Mostly bank balances and online store events. Sometimes a late-night or early-morning message from a friend. What do I expect? I checked right before I went to sleep. Rarely any work emails lately, since most of what I do goes to a project manager who fields all the emails and works her other miracles.

Next, I check the weather, looking for something in the 60s. That’s all I’m asking for, 60s. Today it’s 49. That’s really close to 50, which is right under 60. That’s hopeful.

Then it’s on to Facebook, to see if anyone there has said anything funny or profound, liked or commented on anything funny or profound I may have said, or friended me from another life.

From there I go to BBC News, where today I see my first typo, “revovered.” I check in with the world and marvel at the BBC’s organizational grace, dozens of concise news stories striated into a logical grid.

Then I’m stumped. This is the part where I need to get out of bed, but I’m sure I should check some more apps first. Oh yes, I can go to the app store and check for updates. Then maybe I should check my email again. Is it possible the temp has gone up a degree?

No. Get up. Just get up and do something. Make the coffee. No, Dave’s making the coffee, I’ll just check this Skype message. The Skype message is two months old, you don’t know the person. Get up. Okay. Should I. Wait! I didn’t check my calendar yet! You don’t have anything today. You have to sit at your desk and finish your videos. Right. Okay. I’ll just double-check. Sigh. Fine. Go ahead. Check it all again. Hey look, it’s 50!

Dave brings in the coffee. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Taking Ownership

holding a new bag of Peets coffee
Do we have the right?

This morning I couldn’t face another cup of non-Peets coffee. Not when we have two bags of freshly ground and delivered Peets waiting. But while we were waiting for the delivery we ran out of old stuff and our friend Chris generously brought us a bag of Julius Meinl which is perfectly fine coffee. At least, it’s great when they brew it. But when we brew it, Dave says it tastes like Folgers.

And this morning I wanted a cup of really, really good coffee, not just coffee that you have to drink fast before it gets bitter. So I snuck downstairs without hitting snooze, and opened the Peets while there was still Julius Meinl in the canister. God, we’re spoiled. We’re bombing Libya and I’m worried about the order in which we consume various packages of premium coffee? I can’t stand us sometimes.