In my thirty plus years out in the work force I have had the opportunity to work not only in a quite a few different industries but also in quite few different parts of the country. Throughout & despite all of the professional & regional differences I have encountered, there have always been two constants that add up to the modern day equivalent of a watering hole on the African plains – office coffee & the office break room.
Now I could go on & on about the various kinds of coffee I have run into over the years of my employment from bad bar coffee meant to wake the dead (drunk) to the sludge at the bottom of the “I don’t want to finish the pot so I won’t have to make a new pot” pot to the generic coffee bags that look & taste like they fell off a delivery truck headed for a third rate hotel chain to pseudo-designer beans that are too awful to have come out of some southeast Asian cat’s butt. But that really is another whole blog topic itself and is best kept for another time. What I want to talk about to today is the various “creatures” that I have run into at the office coffee machine over the years.
Now unless you work for yourself or own your own company or run the Human Resources Department, you really have no control over who you work with on a daily basis. If you work for a large company, you are surrounded by an ever changing cast of characters. You have those that love to take their time making their cup so they can talk & talk while avoiding as much work as possible. You have those that dart in & out pouring a quick cup of coffee (black) and running straight back to their desk. You have the shy ones who won’t go in if someone else is there for fear of actual human interaction and then you have the warthogs and we all know what kind of mess they leave behind in their wake. Not often though, you find a new or unique creature like none you have ever seen before or since. The other morning, when I was opening a new carton of half & half, a particular “creature” from my past came to mind.
Many years ago I worked in a large office with a large break room. The refrigerator was always stocked with half & half, whole milk and skim milk (No one was lactose intolerant then or even knew what that meant) so there was almost always an open carton for you to throw a quick splash into your coffee. Despite that, there was one employee, that over time, I noticed had a very peculiar habit. Every time he got a cup of coffee, he opened a new carton of half & half, whole or skim milk rather than use an already open carton. The first time I saw him do it, I thought nothing of it. The next time, I figured that he didn’t notice the open carton on a different part of the shelf. A year later, after he turned down the carton I offered to him and proceeded to open a new carton of exactly the same thing did I finally break down and ask him about it.
“Excuse me but if you don’t mind my asking, why do you open a new carton of milk every single time you get a cup of coffee ?”
“I do, don’t I.” he replied with a somewhat vacant & absent look.
“Yes, you do but why ? It’s been driving me nuts for over a year now.” I said.
“I don’t trust anybody,” he replied as he looked around like it was the first time he had been in the room, “I’ve seen those hidden camera shows where people do things when they think no one is looking. I want to be safe.” And with that he handed me the carton, abruptly turned and scampered away. I was left standing there with two open cartons of the same thing in my hands when the office manager came walking in and looked at me with a questioning stare.
A few months later, I transferred to another department in another building and never saw him again. I can safely say, I have never seen anyone like him since. I do trust the people I work with now not to do anything to the coffee or to the creamer in the break room. I think.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go get another cup of coffee. I finished the half & half with my last cup so it’s time to open a new one. Come back next time when we discuss the actual office coffee…