The Coffee Carafe: Drones, Caffeine, Cracked Glass, Jeff Bezos & Luminous Paint

Amazon delivery cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

My wife made coffee this morning. Or thought she did. When she took the carafe full of coffee out from the Mr. Coffee and began to pour it into our cups, a stream of hot coffee came out the side of the carafe and onto the table. There was a long crack in it, halfway down. She ran to the sink with it and dumped the whole thing out. No sense drinking the small amount in the cups either. Might be glass from the crack in it.

No coffee.

Mr. Coffee has this unique arrangement where, when you slide the empty coffee carafe into it, the top of the carafe fits snug in there and presses a small plastic button up to let the hot coffee soaking in the grounds up top through a filter and down into it.

No coffee until I got the exact carafe to fit into the Mr. Coffee.

I fired up the computer and looked at carafes. We had turned the Mr. Coffee upside down to find its model number. I entered the number. There was the carafe, just like the broken one: $12.99. I have Amazon Prime. Shipping was free and it could be at our house in 48 hours. Or I could spring for $6.99 and it would be there tomorrow.

“I could have it here tomorrow,” I said.

“What time?” she asked.

“Doesn’t say.”

“It has to be early morning,” she said.

Then I saw this other button I could push—$9.99 and I could have it later today. This button had the word BETA on it, whatever that meant. I clicked on that.

“We are going to have it later today,” I said.

About 11 a.m. we were reading The New York Times—we get the physical newspaper delivered—and I heard the sound of a helicopter low in the sky. I thought it odd. We are miles from East Hampton Airport. The choppers rarely stray this far. But maybe this time one did. I also heard what sounded like some creatures walking around on the roof. Could be osprey. They have five-foot wingspans. I took off my slippers and put on my shoes and went outside, but whatever it was, it was all gone. I went back into the house.

At 1 p.m., the front doorbell rang. I answered it. Amidst a whirring noise, there stood on my front stoop a drone, about three feet high and holding a smiley-faced Amazon box with two metal robot arms. A third robot arm with a metal finger was just finishing up retracting into the drone body. It is what had rung my bell.

The drone held out the box to me. But the arms did not hold it out far enough to get it out from under the whirring propeller on top of it. I reached out. The propeller would lop off my hand if I got it close.

“Turn off the propeller,” I shouted.

The drone did not reply but also did not turn off the propeller. The third arm reached out and rang the doorbell again.

“Who is it?” my wife asked.

“Our coffee carafe is here,” I said.

“Wow,” she said.

But I could not get it. After about a minute, the drone, still holding the box, rose up 15 feet, hesitated, and then let go of the box, which fell to my driveway, making the sound of breaking glass. The drone then flew off.

“Problem,” I shouted to my wife. I retreated inside and slammed the door, leaning against it and breathing rapidly from this encounter.

“What happened?” she asked.

“No coffee carafe. It broke the coffee carafe.”


“It was a drone.”

“Humph,” she said.

“Something went wrong.”

House with target
Drop it here, Jeff, Photo: iStock

I went out to the driveway and picked up the dented box and shook it. You could hear the rattle of broken glass inside. I threw it in the trash. Then I went back to reading the Times. Still no coffee.

At 1:30, my neighbor called to tell me there was a big white bullseye on the roof of our house. “Looks like the logo for Target or something. You gotta see this.”

I was back in my slippers. We don’t wear shoes in the house. But just before I started to go out, the doorbell rang again. I hesitated. Then went over and opened it.

There stood Jeff Bezos, who is the Chairman of the Board of Amazon. He looked troubled. But he was also holding a smiley face box about the size of the one the drone had.

“Here’s your carafe,” Bezos said. He held it out and I took it. “We had a problem with this. There’s no charge. Sorry about this.”

I thought this quite remarkable. Jeff Bezos was at our front door. “Would you like to come in?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “If that is all right.”

He stepped inside, and I led him over to a sofa in the living room, where I introduced him to my wife. He was very gracious. Shook her hand and smiled. Then he sat. She asked if he would take off his shoes, which he did.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I asked.

He was silent for a moment, realizing the ramifications of this, involving opening the box and setting it up, etcetera, etcetera.

“No,” he said. “Water will be fine. Ice water, if you have it.”

“Sure thing,” my wife said, and went off to get it.

“When the drone got to your door,” he said, “what did you do to try to get it to turn the propeller off?”

“I said turn the propeller off.”

“Unfortunately it was set to Mandarin.”

“I don’t know Mandarin.”

“You could have clapped three times and it would have done it.”

“I didn’t know to do that.”

“Excuse me,” Bezos said. He lifted his wrist to his mouth and spoke into his watch. I heard phrases such as “…should be on the website” and “reset” and “clap” and at that moment we heard the sound of another helicopter on the roof. We both looked up. My wife came in with his ice water. He finished his phone call.

“They’re removing the bullseye on your roof,” he said. You could hear feet shuffling around up there. “We had them rappel down on a rope ladder to paint it on there. It was to guide the drone.”

“Could we go out and watch them do this?” my wife asked.

“Sure,” said Bezos. He put his shoes back on, stood, grabbed his water and walked with us out the front door to the driveway and looked up. You could see the chopper and the rope ladder, but whatever was on the roof was on the other side, facing the neighbor. But we could hear scrubbing over the chopper sounds. Soon, three men with buckets and sponges were climbing back up the ladder. The chopper flew off.

“All gone,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

Then Bezos lifted his wrist to his ear, listened, spoke to it, then to us, saying “you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go.” He handed me the water, shook my wife’s hand, then mine, then turned, said “sorry again” and walked down the driveway into the trees and out into the street, where we couldn’t see him anymore.

All that was three days ago. The coffee maker works fine now. But the paint is still up there and the neighbor says it glows in the dark. I got an email asking me to rate my transaction. I gave it one star and wrote about what had happened and how the paint hasn’t been removed. But then I ran out of keystrokes. They only allow messages to be 400 characters. So I went with what I’d written, including up to the cut-off word, and pressed send.

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