We glared at the unresponsive contraption like a pair of groggy bears trying to work a vending machine. I pushed the power button. Nothing. Chrissy checked the plug. Try it again. Nope. We tried a different outlet. Same maddening result. I banged the top. I banged the sides. I shook it until water sloshed across the counter.  

No change.

No green light.

No coffee. 

There are many things we can go without here at the “home office,” but coffee is not among them. The coffee maker picked Saturday morning to quit without notice, and I was determined to replace it by that afternoon. Where does one buy a new coffee maker during a global pandemic? Online, of course, but we needed a cheap stand-in while we waited for delivery of the model we can’t afford. 

So I donned my facemask and hit the road. The Dollar General and the hardware store were out of the $20 Black and Deckers I wanted, as was the supermarket where I found a $33 Proctor Silex. I paid the difference as a coronavirus/convenience tax and headed home. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that while I was out in search of the cheapest coffee maker available, Chrissy was buying me a $500 kayak. She got it for $300 in an online sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods, a COVID-19 bargain she couldn’t pass up. Chrissy and my brother- and sister-in-law got kayaks last year, and have insisted since that I needed one. Oh well, it’s cheaper than a casket.

So we had to go pick it up. The parking lot at the Viewmont Mall was desolate. It was so eerie and unsettling that neither one of us thought to take a photograph. We texted that we had arrived, and a guy came out with the kayak, wrapped in thick sheets of plastic. He sat it on the curb, we exchanged pleasantries from afar, and Chrissy and I strapped the kayak on top of the car. 

We were tightening the straps when a guy walked up — at a responsible distance — and asked, “Are they open?” 

“No,” I replied. “We’re just picking up. Bought it online.” 

The guy said he had been up at Lackawanna State Park early Saturday and there were “all kinds of people out there, especially on the lake.” 

I said I hoped they were paddling at a safe distance. He smiled and shrugged, and we parted ways. The kayak is in the garage next to Chrissy’s. It’s drydocked for at least the next few weeks, but the hope it represents is worth its weight in gold. We held off on ordering an expensive coffee maker online. The Proctor Silex works fine. In a home office equipped with two kayaks, you have to cut operational costs somewhere. 

If only everything was as affordable as a subscription to a local newspaper. A digital subscription to The Times-Tribune is $4.95 a month. If you have one already, thank you. If you don’t, please get one here. For less than what you spend drive-through coffee every day, you can support the community journalism that has never been more important than right now.

Today’s Times-Tribune is full of content you can’t get anywhere else. Get the latest coronavirus updates here. Staff Writer Sarah Hofius Hall has the story of regional colleges and universities struggling to survive the pandemic. Staff Writer Jeff Horvath checks in with new parents of infants and examines the stresses of giving birth during a pandemic. Joe Biden chimed in on the debate over the Scranton School District’s wildly unpopular plan to eliminate pre-K. Sarah has the story here.

And as is often case, Sarah has the brightest story of the day, about a Carbondale woman churning out mounds of essential oils-infused modeling dough children can use to complete challenges she posts on Facebook. Read it here, and support community journalism while you still can. 

Hang in there, hunker down and wash your hands. Rapids up ahead.