05.05.2023 – The (not) scandal of the $15 cup of coffee

I have mentioned before our volunteer work with an Afghan family who arrived in the U.S. shortly after the fall of Kabul. We have known them since late 2021 and our relationship has evolved to include not only what help we might provide as they rebuild their lives in our strange land, but a wonderful friendship we value deeply. We share our lives and family times, laughing together and occasionally crying together. Sometimes we just share a moment of humor, irony, or success.

Earlier this week our friend Aziz texted about a moment of humor and irony – maybe with a little twist to it.

Aziz drives for Uber Eats to support his family. He much prefers the independence and the out-and-about-ness of delivering meals and snacks to the monotony of the manufacturing work he had done earlier in their time in the U.S.

So, the text came with a photo (cropped to conceal identity) of a customer who had a cup of coffee delivered by Uber Eats to wherever he was:

I delivered this order to the customer today. It was about 10 miles away. I thought that today there are many people who earn a dollar a day… and there are also those who are ready to spend 15 dollars for a coffee.

With the Taliban-led state in near complete dysfunction, the average income in Afghanistan is about $335 per year.  Aziz knows of what he texts.

Eighteen months ago, our friends were living in a country where many people earn a dollar a day (though, fortunately, they were better off than that). Now they live in a far country where people pay $15 to have a cup of coffee delivered ten miles from the nearest Starbucks.

Aziz is neither angry nor upset. He appreciates paradox, ambiguity, and the ironic absurdity of our world. He desperately misses life in Afghanistan, but passionately loves his new life in the United States. They are different worlds on the same planet.

Could Aziz’ customer’s $15 have been better spent for a more noble cause?  Probably.  Should he feel guilty about his purchase? Probably not (maybe foolish, but not guilty).

Laughing at irony may (sometimes) be better than getting angry at injustice (all the time).

But I wonder, ten miles later, wouldn’t the coffee in a cardboard cup be lukewarm?  Tepid coffee is something to get angry about (all the time).