Apr 19 2007

The spinster aunt takes a coffee break

Because I am the world’s flakiest patriarchy-blaming blogger, I forgot to post the note alerting the World of Blame that I would be taking an extended coffee break for a few days. As a matter of fact, I’m still off duty, but that won’t stop me from live-blogging a cup of coffee from Flipnotics, the South Austin coffeespace at one of the rickety patio tables of which I at this moment crouch, swigging with my swigger while attempting to stabilize the crazily lurching writing surface with a flipflopped foot. My lack of success in the latter endeavor has resulted in most of my coffee sluicing across the table, endangering the lives of a couple of ants.

Since I have been here, which is about 10 minutes, I have had three conversations. The first was with the barrista, whose enthusiasm for making my single-shot Americano dissipated entirely when I revealed that I wanted it with more water than is allowable by law.

The second was with a nodding acquaintance who was rummaging through a first aid box. She dabbed at a red spot on her stomach.

“Pox?” I asked.

She explained that she was rendering triage to “some kind of spider bite” which she had just “popped” on the advice of a coworker with experience in such matters.

“If that thing turns black,” I said, ever helpful with the unsolicited medical advice, “you’d better buzz off to the ER.” For when it comes to the flesh-eating venom of deadly spiders, I am not without a lively imagination.

My remark was to her the equivalent of dunking a madeleine in a cup of lavender tea. Nostalgia for Gangrenous Spider Bites Past flooded her. Her exterior glowed with an expression of fondest remembrance.

“Last summer,” she reminisced, “I was sittin’ on the porch when all of a sudden my foot really hurt. It swelled up really huge and turned really red. The hole was this big” — here she described with thumb and forefinger a gaping wound with the diameter of a Kennedy half-dollar — “and it was all purulent* and oozing and disgusting. It took about three weeks to go away. I still have a scar.”

I could think of no good reply to this repellent idyll, so I just said “eew.”

The third conversation was with a wild-haired dude with eyes that went in different directions. I knew what was coming when he lurched toward me, because once I was a bartender for 13 years. Consequently I can tell, from the nature of a guy’s lurch, whether he is about to be lewd, or puke on my shoes, or make a sales pitch, or emit an incoherent mutter of schizo poetry, or ask me for money.

This one would ask for money. Did I have some change for “a refill”? I said it probably wouldn’t kill me to give him a dollar. He regarded me disinterestedly while I fumbled for the dough. I was relieved, when our business was concluded, that he did not attempt to suck up with any of that grateful godblessing palaver that so often accompanies these transactions. He gave me two extremely satisfying looks of disdain — one from each eye — and lurched away in no particular direction.
*Actually, she did not say “purulent.” She said “pus-y,” but that word does not, for some reason, exist in written English.


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  1. stekatz

    Glad you’re okay and that you’re absense was not due to some Bert related hole incident or the like. Judging from the number of comments in the previous post, blamers held down the fort just fine.

    There’s just no way to spell that word without confusing it with something else. Pussie? Puss-ee? I guess it’s best to rely on words like puss-filled.

  2. Spinning Liz

    I think you have to spell it with three esses to make it rhyme with fussy.

  3. Sylvanite

    I just read this aloud to a friend over the phone, and I have to say that it made the stories even more hilarious. You could a professional raconteur, perhaps? What does that pay, I wonder?

  4. Jodie

    Things don’t get spectacularly gross until they involve maggots.

  5. zofia

    Yeah, but they’re beneficial since they only consume necrotic flesh.

  6. TP

    I refuse to comment until the thread gets to at least 250 comments, most of which will not be about spider bites, I’m quite sure.

    I’m coming down there! E-mail me!

  7. LilliEve

    Let’s write 250 comments on pus!

    In my dictionary, ‘Puseyism’ is listed after ‘pus’, and is apparently a hostile term for Tractarianism. Lovely.

  8. Joanna

    When my brother and sister and I moved back to the US from Japan after four years, we all had some kind of reaction to the change in flora and fauna that caused us to get boils. My father described them as pustules. I heard this as “puss jewels.” It still hurt like hell when they lanced them.

  9. thebewilderness


  10. thebewilderness

    I plugged Twisty’s post into this gender gizmo and it deduced that she is female.


  11. Mandos

    I just plugged in one of my posts on my blog and it thinks I’m female too! Woohoo! Let’s talk about … about … anything pink I might own.

  12. octopod

    Wow. That gender thing is complete crap, at least for nonfiction — every long sample I have of my own writing doesn’t register as female. Actually, all the blogs I tried came out female, and all the nonfiction male. What to make of that?

    And using “purulent” is one of the few matters on my mom gets all pedantic, mostly (I suspect) ’cause she has fun telling the other surgeons “That’s not a word” and when they don’t believe her telling them to spell it.

  13. kcb

    Glad to hear that things are as right as they can be when you’re being panhandled and subjected to dreaded brown-recluse-bite stories. (Did I tell you about my octogenarian diabetic neighbor who had to have her leg amputated after she got bit by one of those things? At least that’s what I was told at the time. I was five, and it took me years to get over my fear of all things spidery.)

    Purulent may supplant suppurating as my favorite pus-related adjective.

  14. alphabitch

    ” [..]the barrista, whose enthusiasm for making my single-shot Americano dissipated entirely when I revealed that I wanted it with more water than is allowable by law.”

    Ha! They get so uppity about that kind of thing. My regular coffee guy will give me my coffee however I tell him to make it, but when I’m forced to acquire it someplace else, I get these very careful explanations of why I can’t have it that way: “It’s not done until it reaches a certain temperature. It’s in our training manual; we have to serve it that hot.” Or my favorite, the other day when I requested a glass of ice with two shots of espresso poured over it: “But the ice will melt. Why don’t I put it in the refrigerator for a while to cool it off first.” When I explained that the ice would not all melt, not immediately, and this is how I like my coffee when it’s hot out, he said, “We have an iced coffee concentrate, you know. It’s much better.”

    I blame, I blame.

  15. jaye

    Damn woman
    I turned here, not knowing you were not available, hoping that you would have some rude but true comment on the Supreme Knobs a.k.a. the Gang of Five that think we women cannot face the reality of tough medical decisions on our own and need the men of the Supreme Court to save us from mental and emotional heavy lifting.

    You have had enough time off and out amongst the double visioned. Back to work–er–writing.

  16. thebewilderness

    Here in the NW corner, where the Puget Sound is beginning to take on a distinct coffee flavor, the barristas will concoct just about anything you can think of. In fact it may already be on the menu. The competition is so frantic at this point, you may have heard, some are offering lap dances with the latte.

  17. SingOut

    I’m just a lurker, but I’m nonetheless comforted to know that Twisty is safe and sound, regardless of any SCOTUS decision. IBTP is really important to me – thank you to everyone who contributes.

  18. Bonnie


    Your first paragraph is a brilliance of perspicacity and wonderousness. I worship at the feet of your composition skill.

    BTW – Did I ever tell you I get tonsil stones?

  19. ceezee


    I am actually a Puget Sound barista, and if we tend to be pretty accommodating it’s because we understand coffee theory instead of just having a repertoire of recipies to look at. The lap dances (and how sad it is that you’re only barely–just barely!–exaggerating) make me sick, because, with comptetion the way it is, I wonder what’s going to be expected of me soon. This year it’s a smile and remembering your name and your drink, next year it’s going to be working in a bikini? Even sadder: I know some people who think it’s a great idea.

    Yeah, yeah, IBTP

  20. No Sharp Edges

    So, getting back to the pus:

    And using “purulent” is one of the few matters on my mom gets all pedantic, mostly (I suspect) ’cause she has fun telling the other surgeons “That’s not a word” and when they don’t believe her telling them to spell it.

    Octopod, I wish your mom worked in the hospital system I work for. I’m doing medical transcription these days, and these freaking doctors make up SO many words it’s ridiculous. I guess once they learn all those Greek and Latin roots, they just feel free to come up with new and interesting combinations, regardless of what any stuffy ol’ medical dictionary says about it.

    I’ve had to type “pussy” (for pus-y) in a medical report. I believe I put it in quotes, which can mean either “I think this is what you said” or “WTF?”

  21. Feminist Avatar

    In the interests of science I had a go inserting my writing in the gender genie. I had two goes- the first time I inserted work from my thesis that I am currently writing and I scored much more highly on the male score than than on the female score. Then I inserted my comments to the last post into the gender genie and I still came out male although the difference between male and female keywords was not as marked. For the record I am not male.

    This doesn’t really suprise me as I have done those gender quizzes before where you perform lots of tests and it tells you whether you have a male or female brain and I apparently have a male brain (For the record this was on the internet so not claiming scientific rigour here).

    On the plus side, where do I sign up for my pay rise?

  22. Flash

    Thanks Twisty. You’ve cheered me up, as will the home-brewed Americano that’s calling from the kitchen. I’ll refrain from telling you about my nasty afflictions. Suffice it to say, they’re best kept private.

  23. Arianna

    I plugged Twisty’s post into this gender gizmo and it deduced that she is female.


    I plugged in an essay I just wrote and it was overwhelmingly rated as male. I think it might be biased towards “male” for academic writing :/ I blame the patriarchy.

  24. phio gistic

    I, too, am chiming in to say I’m engladdened to hear that all is well with Twisty. And to say, “I’ve never been bitten by a spider but I could tell you my welding teacher’s Texas tarantula story” and “What is up with that ‘Gender Genie’?” I tried it on one of my posts – it came out male but only by about 7%. Looking at the scoring, I see that the words “a,” “it” and “the” are considered male words. “Is” is male, while “was” was female. How odd.

  25. alphabitch

    I put several randomly selected samples of my own and others’ writing in the gender genie. I’m so close to the middle it’s not even funny. Twisty’s writing came through as male every time but one. So did Amanda Marcotte’s. The scoring is definitely weird. I think it’s bogus, personally.

  26. norbizness

    I plugged in a couple of paragraphs from one of my recent posts about the Supreme Court decision into the Gendertronic 3000 and it told me to please for the love of God stop writing.

  27. Mandos

    Here’s the paper on which this gender thing is based:


    The figures and tables are actually at the end. It’s based on a study of the British National Corpus.

  28. Lauredhel

    Arianna: “I plugged in an essay I just wrote and it was overwhelmingly rated as male. I think it might be biased towards “male” for academic writing”

    I was wondering much the same thing. I plugged in a few of my blog posts, and all but one came back coded feminine. Then I plugged in about 20 pieces of my academic writing, and every single one came back masculine, some quite dramatically so. Including the women’s studies writing, and including the works addressing subjects like breastfeeding in Parliament, feminist ethics, and mother-blaming.

  29. lawbitch

    Twisty has spoken! Glad that it’s only a cofee break. Probably much needed after keeping up with Rotel. I tell ya that my kids are killing me!

    *makes note to self to buy spider traps*

  30. Rumblelizard

    I was innocently typing away in my home office one evening last year when I felt a tickle on my arm. I brushed at it and shrieked when the tickle turned out to be a large, buff-colored spider, which shrieked back at me as it fell to the desk. This spider was LARGE. It had a tattoo of a heart with a dagger through it and a scroll that said “MOM” on one of its legs. I captured and released it outside, as is my wont with spiders; while they scare the living daylights out of me, I admit that they are still useful members of the local ecology.

    SO, about ten minutes later, my phone rang. As I lay on my couch speaking to my friend, my neck began to itch. I scratched it, but it kept on itching. My face felt kind of funny. All tingly, kind of. In fact, *I* felt kind of funny. Sort of alloveritchy all of a sudden. Still talking on the phone, I went into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, shrieked again, and dropped the phone into the sink. My entire face was swollen and red. I looked like someone had battered me severely. My pupils were swollen to black holes. I lifted my shirt, and saw that my entire body was covered with red, raised welts.

    That damned spider had bitten me. The ingrate! And apparently, I am extremely allergic to the venom of yellow sac spiders, which I identified this vicious beast as when I consulted the Intertubes later that day. I slammed three Benadryls and hoped for the best. Eventually the swelling and itching subsided, but I’ve been informed by medical professionals that next time I might not be so lucky.

    Although I am very much a proponent of “live and let live” where most spiders are concerned, every yellow sac spider I’ve run across since then has suffered summary execution.

  31. whyme63


    I’m a little suspicious of the Gender Genie. My writing came up as male every time. And strongly so. Even the piece that included this passage:

    “Okay–this is officially a bad day. I was scheduled for my physical this afternoon, so naturally I got my period this morning. 5 days early. I was in the ladies room at work, had to walk a half a mile back to my desk. No supplies in my purse at all. Grab a dime, walk another half-mile back to the ladies room, put dime in machine. Get stiffed by machine. Walk ANOTHER half a mile back to my desk, grab change purse, walk up one flight and yet another half-mile to the ladies room. Christ, I’m irritated”

  32. Jodie

    Rumblelizard, did they give you an Epipen, just in case? If not, ask for one; they work really well.

  33. Bird

    I gave up drinking coffee last year at the same time that I quit smoking. I was very poor company for quite a while.

    I would like someone to teach the average barrista how to make a good cup of tea, please. That hot water spigot does not provide water at a suitable temperature, and putting the bag in after is utterly useless. Tea results from a hot shower, not a warm bath.

  34. Hawise

    Bird, if you despair of a good cuppa hot tea then stay away from what they consider an iced tea, shudder. If only the sun will stay out long enough this summer season for a few good batches of sun tea then I’m good.

  35. Bird

    I’m a Canadian. I like my iced tea sweet with lemon. I had a real shock when I ordered it in an American restaurant and it was horribly bitter. I only like hot tea unsweetened (with the milk put in the cup first, thanks). Jeebus, I’m picky, aren’t I?

  36. larkspur

    Bonnie: ITA about the brilliancy of Twisty’s first paragraph. And…tonsil stones? WTF?

    Norbidness: I love your short, spot-on comments on some of the finest blogs in blogonia. I read ’em, and wow, my heart grows a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.

    No purulentosity is involved in said bulge, though.

    And btw, Twisty, et al.: this “OMG, Kathy Sierra, you sound like a wimpy-ass victim!” accusation made me flash-back to Ehrenreich’s “Welcome to Cancerland”. Hey, punditverse and conventional wisdom purveyors (none of whom are currently represented in this blog or its comments): some shit is scary, painful, unfair, forcible, and not always amenable to being transformed into a positive opportunity for personal growth. Tell me to turn my frown upside down…come on, go ahead. I’ll make ’em learn just how damn cute suppurating sores can be.

  37. Frumious B

    Bird – Where in the US did you get that bitter iced tea? Not in the South, I hope. Southerners take their iced tea sweet. Northerners, I shudder to reveal, take their iced tea with milk.

    To all: the wobbly table problem can be solved by rotating the table. No really. It was proven mathematically and everything.

  38. Catherine Martell

    I knew a fear of spiders had to be rational at some level.


    I plugged in an essay I just wrote and it was overwhelmingly rated as male. I think it might be biased towards “male” for academic writing :/ I blame the patriarchy.

    It is. Similarly, I came out overwhelmingly male, for having written an vaguely academic essay. The words that were flagged as feminine were “me”, “my”, “myself” etc. Because only women talk about themselves, whereas men go around saying things like “Tank!”, “Gun!”, “Bang!”, “Raaaargh!”, etc.


    No purulentosity is involved in said bulge, though.

    Surely “purulence”? I will be using this word at every opportunity.


    In my dictionary, ‘Puseyism’ is listed after ‘pus’, and is apparently a hostile term for Tractarianism. Lovely.

    Correct. After Edward Bouverie Pusey, a Victorian arch-patriarch of the High Anglican persuasion, determined to ossify the Church of England in as much crusty old Catholic ritual as he could find. Also great mates with kiddie-fiddling author Lewis Carroll. There remains a house in Oxford called Pusey House, frequented by socially dysfunctional chaps in monastic robes. From which (if I remember correctly), with splendid irony, women are barred. No Pusey for us.

    OK, I’m all out of filibuster. But we’ll get to 250 posts on pus. Just you wait.

  39. chingona

    I am exerting all my willpower not to share my stories of botfly and pique. I find them fascinating, but really, they’re just gross. So I’ll stick with saying I’m glad Twisty is still with us – somewhere around post 257 I started to get worried – and go back to lurking.

  40. Frumious B

    Continued musings on tea:

    I grew up with my father making iced tea the proper way, to wit, heating the water in a kettle, pouring it over tea bags, steeping it, and chilling it. Never did it occur to me to make it any other way.
    Many years later, I dated a guy who drank lots of iced tea. One day, he was feeling ill, and I suggested a cup of hot tea. He said something about only being able to make iced tea, and I suggested that he make the iced tea, but skip the chilling step. It was then that I learned that he made iced tea from powder.
    The horror.
    He was a Northerner.

  41. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    The first and only time I stepped on a poor honeybee, my leg swelled up as far as my knee. So now the doctor makes me carry one a those epipen thingies, because I don’t want my drag name to be Ana Phylaxis should I be stung again.

  42. Bird

    I must confess that Canadians are the world’s biggest consumers of powdered iced tea. However, the quality of the powdered stuff here is significantly higher than that available in the US. But I still prefer mine made the real way: make very strong black tea, add honey and lemon, chill.

    The horrifyingly bitter tea was in the northern US en route to eastern Canada on a choir tour while I was in college the first time around (I was a music student then—voice major). Anyways, we stopped at some sort of roadside chain (perhaps a Taco Hell), and I ordered an iced tea to wash down my pseudo-Mexican meal. I was thrown into greater misery to discover that I had not only ended up with fake food, but also something that bore no resemblance to iced tea as I knew it.

    Starbucks tried serving unsweetened iced tea here when they first entered the Canadian market. Didn’t go over so well. You really can’t add the sweetener (honey/sugar/whatever) after it’s cold. And milk in iced tea? Are you kidding? Ick!

    On a side note, from what I can tell, in the southern states, “tea” means iced tea, and “hot tea” is, well, hot. Up here, when you order tea you get the hot stuff, and you have to specify if you want it iced.

    Can I blame the patriarchy for bad tea?

  43. mg_65

    Holy shitski. Twisty, you are so awesome. That’s some good writin’ there, Tex.

  44. Frigga's Own

    I can assure all of you that this Yankee not only avoids any and all powdered teas, but also does not add milk to it. In fact, I prefer to make my iced tea the way my mother always did, but pouring water into a large glass jar, adding tea bags, capping tightly, and allowing it to steep in the hot sun until it’s ready. A little wedge of real lemon and just enough sugar to round out the tea’s flavor is all I need.

    I can’t stand sweet tea. Usually this is because someone has decided that “sweet tea” is a concoction of sugar water in which one tea bag has been allowed to sit briefly to turn the water brown. This is why unsweetened tea in the South is so horrible, nobody bothers to let the tea steep to develop some flavor.

  45. Sol Niger


    apparently cold tea with milk is known as Hongkong style iced-tea. I had it at a chinese restaurant and I also bought some in a can from a korean supermarket. Being used to drinking chai (hot,spicy tea, by definition with milk), this cold milky brew felt strange indeed.

    I’ve gotten unsweetened iced tea in restaurants all across New York and New Jersey. I agree, its just not the same with added sugar packets.

    Has anyone had vietnamese coffee? Its pretty strong coffee with condensed milk and it can be had hot or cold. Pretty darn delicious.

  46. Bird

    Oh, for cold Chinese teas, bubble tea is pure heaven. For those who aren’t familiar, it includes milk and whole sago. It comes with enormously fat straws to suck up the sago beads. They’re like giant tapioca, and if you get tired of ingesting them, you can shoot them at your friends with the aforementioned big straws. But these are more like milkshakes and come in all kinds of flavours (I prefer red bean).

    Frigga’s Own, that’s what people in my part of Canada usually call “sun tea” to distinguish it from regular iced tea. Also a lovely summer treat. Sadly, our summers are far too short to enjoy it most of the year.

    Chai is an afternoon staple for me at work. I cheat and just brew really strong black chai tea and then add some soy milk. I’m sure any self-respecting South Asian would be horrified at it, but it keeps me from throwing red pens at people.

    Vietnamese coffee is delicious. There’s also Ethiopian coffee, which is spiced like chai but is incredibly strong (like Turkish coffee). Tasty with a kick like a mule. Okay, I do miss coffee once in a while.

  47. Fiona

    Can I blame the patriarchy for bad tea?

    I do all the time. I live in New Zealand, which is traditionally very British in terms of tea consumption. However, with the growing influence of various coffee-toting megacorporations (my friends and I used to play count-the-Starbucks in Auckland, and discovered they were more plentiful even than McD’s), good hot strong tea has fallen by the wayside. Go into an eating establishment and ask for tea these days and you’re lucky to get actual boiling water to pour on your one teabag. I blame the saturation of Starbucks-type places, which I reckon are a manifestation of the patriarchy.

  48. B. Dagger Lee

    I agree with alphabitch and others who said “The Gender Genie” is totally bogus.

    I went to Project Gutenberg, downloaded some Gertrude Stein (Tender Buttons!) and some Emily Dickinson, plugged both of them into the Genie, and they both came back male. I bet you could type Vagina in 500 times and it would come back male.

    Who made the Genie’s algorithms? K-tel? Ronco?

    I’d put my Dual-Purpose Sausage-Maker and Textual-Analysis-Machine up against it any day and put money on it too.

    yrs, BDL

  49. Bird

    I remember one intersection when I lived in Vancouver (BC, not Washington) that had three Starbucks and a Second Cup (Canadian equivalent). God forbid one should have to cross the street for a latte.

  50. Fiona

    It’s so pervasive! When I worked in a supermarket that had a mini-Starbucks in the foyer, I lived down the street from a competing supermarket with a mini-Starbucks in the foyer. The shops belonged to bitterly competing umbrella corporations, but somehow the benevolent mermaid could look past all that and grace each with her presence.

  51. Mandos

    There’s a Vancouver, Washington? And people were likely to confuse it with the real Vancouver??

  52. LilliEve

    Catherine Martell said:
    “There remains a house in Oxford called Pusey House, frequented by socially dysfunctional chaps in monastic robes. From which (if I remember correctly), with splendid irony, women are barred. No Pusey for us.”

    Hmm, methinks Pusey House needs some reclaiming. Perhaps a covert operation involving women in catsuits. Gee, sounds like an empowerful Hollywood movie.

    Bird, I always chea with chai as well. Still tastes great, though!

    A cafe near where I live always serves hot black tea with a cute little teapot, cup and saucer. They do a blissful Italian walnut slice, too. Oh, I think I need to go pay them a visit.

  53. katarina

    He regarded you without interest, Twisty. Disinterestedly means impartially, without bias.
    I don’t bother pointing that out to most people, but you are a wordsmith who changes lives such as mine with your blogs, so you need to know these things.

  54. Denise

    Could the gold standard word here be “suppurating”..??? Bloody hell, I’m glad there’s no mean spiders like that in England and Holland…well, as far as I know. I think an Aussie redback might have crawled groggily out of my Mum’s suitcase and mated with the locals.

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