Travelling Light 3: Travelling Flat White

A few years ago, I decided to stop patronising (traditional) the Australian coffee chain Gloria Jean’s and start patronising (modern) them. This wasn’t because I felt their coffee was sub-standard – although, I did and it was – but because it was revealed that much the money made by Gloria Jean’s went to Mercy Ministries, a Christian pro-life charity, to the homophobic Australian Christian Lobby group, and to the pro-Creationism, anti-gay Hillsong Church, described by a former member as ‘toxic Christianity’.

So, naturally, I stopped going, despite so many of their shops being conveniently located inside Borders. Oh, you don’t remember Borders? Borders was a book chain noted more for its ubiquity than its atmosphere, but we all went to it anyway because it had put every other book store out of business. (That’s a bit of chicken-and-egg logic there, but we shan’t dwell.) Borders went out of business almost immediately after I boycotted Gloria Jean’s, and it’s very, very safe to assume that the two events are connected.

During the Borders going-out-of-business sale, the price tag on this chair helped illustrate exactly why they were going out of business.

But earlier today, I found myself reluctantly entering a Gloria Jean’s. There were, of course, mitigating circumstances: I was an hour early for a media screening, I’d not yet had a coffee, and I would not have another opportunity to have one until about 1pm. I’m one of those people who cannot function without a dose of caffeine, and who smugly informs everyone of this despite the fact that telling people about your coffee-drinking habits is a great way of informing them that you have nothing interesting to contribute to the conversation, or, possibly, humanity.

Gloria Jean’s was the only café open in any sort of reasonable radius, so I quietly slipped in, ordered a coffee, and worked on my laptop for an hour.

At about 10:15am, I wandered into the Hoyts next door to get in early for the film. The staff looked at me blankly; they’d not heard of any screening, so they directed me to the Cinema Paris – Hoyts’s arthouse cinema – around the corner. The staff there had not heard of the screening either, and we somehow reached the conclusion that the screening must be inside Fox Studios next door.

To clarify: I am new to Sydney. I’ve never been to the big Fox Studios lot, so I had no idea where to go. Also, it was pouring with rain. So as I ran from building to building, knocking on doors and trying to find my way around, I managed to get completely and thoroughly soaked to the bone.

A few security guards seemed to know which screening I was going to, whilst others had no idea where I could possibly be trying to get to. My old Ain’t It Cool News spy instincts kicked in, and I started looking around to see if I could spot Hugh Jackman filming The Wolverine, but to no avail. (I would later discover that I was beaten to it at the exact same moment by Prime Minister and future AICN-Downunder editor Julia Gillard.)

By now, I was aptly resembling that X-Men villain who is wet all the time (thanks for nothing, Google), and it was 10:40am and I’d missed the start of the film. Grumpily, I squelched out of the Fox Studios lot, hailed a cab, and headed in to the office.

Only during the cab ride did I realise that this whole situation seemed eerily familiar. A failed trip whose only real success had been the acquisition of a coffee from a place I have an intense dislike for? Oh god, I thought. I’ve done it again.

But unlike McDonald’s mediocre coffee, this trip had resulted in mediocre coffee and the funnelling of money to professional homophobes. So, to counter the $4.20 I paid for that medium flat white, I have now donated twice that amount to Australian Marriage Equality, a group working towards gay marriage in Australia. Initially, I was going to create a matching donation of $4.20 to make it a wash, but that seemed too passive. And that’s not the type of equality I wanted to support.

It’s not all bad. I’ll have another chance to see the film in a few weeks, I’m back in the office with a plunger and a deliberately-inaccurate idea of how many coffee grounds should used for one standard drink, and a pro-gay marriage group has ended the day with more of my money than an anti-gay marriage group. And I’ve written another blog about it.

I’m calling that a win.