Ask Aunt Chelsea, Week of July 31, 2013
Dear Aunt Chelsea,
I am very mad at my co-workers.
Every day, I go to get coffee from our break room to find that no one has been considerate enough to start a new pot. I might be able to forgive this mishap — but even worse, no one has even cleaned the coffee pot. Why is it that I find myself to be the only one who cleans stuff around here? Why do I work with pigs? This is supposed to be an office, not a farm.
I am tempted to put a sign up saying, “If you can’t clean the pot, don’t use it” or, “If you are the last one taking coffee, please be considerate enough to start another pot.”
Sick of cleaning other people’s messes
Let me get this straight before I dole out my usual tough but fair advice, and tell me if I’m painting a reasonable accurate portrait of your terrible work conditions.
Hmm. Let’s see. Instead of toiling in the sun all day, you have a job in an office — which I gather is air conditioned, since you make regular pilgrimages to fetch coffee in the break room, where you are permitted to take breaks. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the java that flows so easily over your lips and through your gums is provided free of charge — except, of course, for the human cost of having to clean the pot and make a fresh batch.
Oh, my. Does Amnesty International know about this? Perhaps they could partner with the Maxwell House people and put on some sort of benefit concert for you and others of your ilk. I believe it was President Kennedy who said, “To whom much is given, much more should be given.” Well, goodness, look at me. When my hackles are raised by something I consider to be an unfair burden (i.e., the pet peeves of the privileged), I can be just as indignant as you!
So now that Aunt Chelsea has burnt all the fuel in her Sassy Slapdown tank, I’ll do my job and give you a solid plan of action I guarantee will alleviate your “pot” problem. I’m sad to report this doesn’t involve winning the hearts and minds of those co-workers for whom the communal coffee maker is only good until its last drop. You could spend a week’s worth of break time pondering what makes this kind of person tick, and still be no closer to the truth…and what good would it do, really, if you were to discover their motivations? They might be completely unaware of their bad manners (piggish farm folk, as you point out, simply lack the sophistication to properly navigate your rarified white collar world). My personal hunch? Somebody is doing it because they get a giddy thrill out of seeing how angry it makes you. In that case, the peace of mind you seek will be found by taking the high road — not the bait.
Working up a froth is for making a cappuccino, not stewing at your desk while penning a loony, disproportionately nasty sign you intend to post on the break room refrigerator door. I can see it now…scrawled in heavy black marker and full of words IN ALL CAPS, WITH MORE THAN THE ONE NECESSARY EXCLAMATION POINT!!!! So just cool your jets. This is an office etiquette problem, not the Reformation. What we need from you is less Martin Luther and more Mother Teresa. That means doing good deeds for others, with no expectation of reward or recognition.
The next time you find the pot empty and the filter from the last batch still in the machine, set your stopwatch. Then wipe the condensation from the device, rinse out the pot and make a fresh batch. Done? Stop the clock. Now think of all the things you can do the next time around during the short period it takes to make a fresh batch, that don’t involve working yourself into a tizzy over the oversights of your co-workers. Then go back to your desk, enjoy your coffee and pat yourself on the back for the ample supply you’ve left for the rest of the office. If that doesn’t put you in a good mood, then it’s time to switch to decaf — or buy your own damn coffee and stop going into the break room. Good luck hon, and sorry for the swear (trust me, it was necessary to deliver the message). Toodles!