October 21, 2016
One of the perks of my job is the free coffee that is available throughout the day. It is a godsend in the morning when I need some assistance in joining the world of the conscious. I’m not trying to say that it’s Starbucks or Peet’s quality coffee. We don’t have a Keurig machine. Our coffee gets delivered to the shop in white boxes from a coffee service which also infrequently maintains our antique Bunn restaurant model drip coffee maker. It’s actually pretty simple to use. Lighted toggle switches turn on and off the hot plates on which the glass pots rest. Another switch is pushed once to begin a cycle that sprays heated water over the ground coffee that rests in a paper filter held by a removable basket. The coffee itself comes in prepackaged bags that are just the right amount for one pot of the liquid version of the “magical fruit” that is thought to have originated from Ethiopia back in the 11th century.
For some people, the drink is an addiction. The mild stimulant effect of the caffeine contained in the fruit of the plant we know as coffee helps much of the world function normally when somewhat sleep-deprived. And after the dependency sets in, withdrawal symptoms tend towards harsh. Monday mornings without our brew can be hell on earth. So when your workplace makes it accessible at no cost, it’s a very nice benefit indeed.
It’s not uncommon to watch my co-workers make trip after trip from their work area to the coffee maker during the day. White disposable Styrofoam cup in hand, they walk through the shop, pour the hot brown liquid to the top, or perhaps leave room for some sugar, milk, or the scary powder made up of ingredients that are NOT milk and probably known to cause birth defects in laboratory animals. On the way back to their assigned task, they often stop and talk to a co-worker for several minutes about whatever topic is of interest, but most likely not about the job itself. Because having a cup of coffee is really a social ritual, isn’t it?
Our employers don’t seem to mind if the workers take advantage of this freebie. No one has ever complained that we drink more than is necessary. We never run out, because Angela, the office manager, makes sure that the supply cabinet is stocked with the boxes from the service. No, the only complaint that arises is when some entitled jackass feels no need to spend a small bit of time making a fresh pot after draining the last of the previous one. These guys have been here long enough to know at which level they should brew some more. But way more times than should ever happen, I walk over to fill my mug, and there is less than a half of a cup left in the pot. I tend to get a little bit irate. I’ll either call down evil upon their mothers and pets while performing the task of making more, or, if it’s later in the day and I won’t actually die from not having it, I’ll simply put the pot back on the burner, say “fuck it!” and walk away. I probably let it it bother me more than it should.
Although the coffee maker sits within my line of sight for most of my day, I rarely ever catch the culprit(s) who leave the pot empty. There is, however, one miscreant whom I have seen on more than one occasion. One of the engineers, Paul, starts his workday at 8am instead of six. His name isn’t really Paul, but his Eastern European name is unpronounceable to most Americans, and the last syllable sounds a little bit like “Paul”, so it’s just easier. At any rate, I’ve watched Paul enter the shop, punch his time card, get a cup of coffee, and walk into his office. And many of those times, I’ve gone to refill my mug and found the pot damn near empty. Being an engineer means you are smart enough to figure out the process of making a pot of coffee. And being an engineer by no means makes you exempt from that task.
So, when I have witnessed Paul being such a dick to his fellow workers, I tend to call him on it. Twice, three times, maybe more, I have brought the pot into his office to show him how awful a person he is. He really doesn’t like being called out, and one day made the mistake of vehemently arguing back about how I shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not he makes coffee, because it’s NOT. HIS. JOB. Okay, asshole. I got your number now. You just made it MY job to make your life a tiny bit of hell.
Every day for the next two weeks, I made a concerted effort to watch the clock, even setting my phone alarm. I would wait for 7:55am to come, then spring into action. Grabbing the pot of coffee, I would fill my own mug, walk it over to my co-workers in the vicinity and offer a refill or top-up. If there weren’t enough takers, I would empty the pot into the drain, until there were perhaps two ounces left. Then I’d go sit back down and wait for Paul to walk in and try to pour himself a cup. It was hilarious to see him look aghast at the tiny remaining amount in the glass container. He’d look around in bewilderment, then proceed to his office. The next day, the same scene would play out. Poor guy had just fought traffic for over an hour to get to work, and no coffee to greet him. I didn’t feel a bit sorry. I would raise my full mug in a toast to him if I caught his eye as he walked past. After first week, he actually began to make himself tea instead of what he really wanted. His stubbornness was a joy for me to behold.
On the third week, I allowed myself to get distracted, and the show ended for a while. But at some point it happened again, and I walked into Paul’s office and asked him pointedly what made him think he was above making coffee like most everyone else. He looked at me and told me that he didn’t know how. Seriously. A manufacturing engineer who has worked here at GND Machine for well over a decade, who designs complicated machinery, who seems to believe that he knows more than anyone about everything…says he doesn’t know how to make coffee. I swallowed my instinct to berate him for being an educated idiot, and instead I gently offered to show him how. He had no other choice but to meekly follow me out to the Bunn and watch as I explained the simplest of tasks to him.
We’re good now, Paul and me. He makes coffee when it needs making. Because he knows damn well I’m watching.