Coffee Creatures At The Office Watering Hole - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at - 307798

Swampy's Kitchen

Coffee Creatures at the Office Watering Hole 
Aug. 2, 2013 6:40 am 
Updated: Aug. 8, 2013 8:26 am

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…
Aug. 2, 2013 7:20 am
Doug-you have a knack for writing that should really be published or turned into a sitcom. Have you ever seen Office Space? That show cracks me up. One of my favorite books is Alice in Wonderland. There are so many characters-I always (You make think this is strange) think that people act like the characters in Alice in Wonderland. There are those Mad Hatters, Queens, an Alice or a Cheshire Cat, or the Caterpillar etc. I can just people watch and see the Mat Hatters, the Queens etc. Entertains me when I am bored waiting in line at the grocery store.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:24 am
Beware of the breakroom or beware of open containers in breakroom? ;)
Aug. 2, 2013 7:28 am
Ha! I'm with that guy. I've seen people open others' food and stick a finger in, and worse. Usually it's our very young and immature aides on night shift who haven't developed any self-respect, so they can't respect anyone else. My employer had to make it dismissal offense to mess with other people's food to tame it down some. I use those individual creamers or drink my coffee black, thank you, and if I accidently left it overnight-into the trash it goes.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:30 am
Good morning & thanks Lela - I too use literary nicknames quite often for the people I see on my commute or in my daily activities. It certainly does help pass the time...and yes, Office Space is a true cinematic classic and a must see for anyone who has worked in a faceless, soulless corporate environment. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:34 am
Good morning Elle-NO I'm not a Pro - I always drink my coffee black when I am at a client's office. I don't trust thm at all. Despite signs & warnings, people will always mess with someone else's food to some extent in the office. I just keep chocolate in my bottom drawer so everyone is nice to me. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:35 am
Morning ibbz (typo - had to move the comment) - one of the benefits of coming in as easrly as I do is that no one is ever here so I can use the coffee machine before anyone can do anything to it. I think. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:40 am
Hey Doug...makes you wonder if that guy ever eats out in a restaurant..could he "trust" the kitchen or the over worked sometimes disgruntled servers? Maybe it's just co workers he doesn't trust. It's funny how memories of people from the past pop into your mind once in a while...
Aug. 2, 2013 7:43 am
Good morning ellie - I know I find those hidden camera restaurant shows to be detestable myself but I hope I am not eating in those kinds of places to begin with...and trust me, there are plenty of people from my past that I wish wouldn't randomly pop into my mind too. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:44 am
I look forward to future blogs of the office watering hole! I'm a fill-and-run person myself and usually end up drinking it cold. I switch to ice tea at lunch time, but the same people flock to both.
Aug. 2, 2013 7:52 am
I think I would be considered a "reheater" coffee always gets cold before I can finish it....
Aug. 2, 2013 8:10 am
Great story, Doug. Can't wait to hear about the coffee!
Aug. 2, 2013 8:13 am
Good morning & thanks Bibi - I just hope that by the next time I sit down to write something, I remember I wanted to write about coffee. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 8:14 am
ellie - my wife's coffee cup at hoime lives in the microwave in 20 second bursts all day long so she is definitely a "re-heater" too.
Aug. 2, 2013 8:43 am
Oh, the communal kitchen woes. We had lunches stolen frequently - even leftover carry-outs! My Costco lasagna was lifted as well, brand new in the freezer. People are just critters at times!
Aug. 2, 2013 8:47 am
Good morning Maggi - critters ? more like vermin when it comes to the office fridge. Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 9:26 am
If you pour me a cup while we chat, I'll take mine black. If you have it, please add some soy milk. No sugar or sweetener for me, thanks! Now, I remember one job where we sat in the break room and talked while seriously drinking our brew. When I left that work place, I figured I had gotten up to 8 or 9 cups of coffee a day, because when anyone got up for a refill, they topped off the cups of all the others in the break room, too. Now, I only have coffee at home, and drink out of my special mug. It is my way of welcoming in each new day before the rest of the family wants my attention But now, it's time to move onward... Oh! Thanks for taking the time to chat while I could finish another cup of java!
Aug. 2, 2013 9:31 am
Thanks for the laugh this morning, Doug. It's been years since I worked in an office (been working from home sinc 2001, but I recognize some of those characters from years past! I'm a sprinkle-of-sugar-generous-dollop-of-half-n-half kind of girl (detest the coffee creamers--gotta be real dairy for me!). But I'm very spoiled by the excellent locally-roasted coffee I have access to. I can't drink coffee in most restaurants (unless they serve my local brand), and I never drink coffee at my company's office locations when I visit them. In my early and later years at my former company, I did trust most of the workers and didn't think twice about using any dairy from the fridge in my coffee. It helped that my division had their own fridge and coffeemaker, though. Middle years, we had all kinds of problems with lunches stolen from the fridge on a regular basis. Really, how can people think that someone else's leftovers or sandwich is theirs for the taking? One of my coworkers who had lost more than one lunch took lefotver pizza, lifted the cheese, and drizzled Dawn dishing detergent on the slices and put them back in the fridge. Her pizza was taken that day, but it never happened again that I'm aware of! :) And as you and Lela mentioned Office Space is gem! Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee. And thanks for the trip down memory lane with the characters.
Aug. 2, 2013 9:41 am
Great blog as always Doug BUT OT - I was just reading this AND it made me think of you! You were doing this or something like this right? How is it going?
Aug. 2, 2013 9:47 am
Hi sueb - glad we could have a cup & quick chat. Sounds like you all had a serious coffee klatsch going. I don't think I can handle more than 2 or 3 cups at the most (though my MIL will always pour me a double espresso when I visit). Have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 10:00 am
Hi wisweetp - I have to admit, I have never really worried about the office coffee. I do worry more about some of people I have worked with. That Dawn on the pizza slices was nasty. I would have paid to have been a fly on that wall when the thief bit into it. Hope your peppers are kicking butt and that you have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 10:11 am
Hi Heather and thanks - my Munchmobile trip (Weird/Wild & Wacky) is scheduled for 8/10 with the article on set for 8/23. My blog on the day will hit soon after that though I will be tweeting at every stop along the way. Glad you stopped by and have a great weekend.
Aug. 2, 2013 10:30 am
Well good luck! I will def follow you on twitter to get in on the 'LIVE' foodie fun! Look forward to the blog!
Aug. 2, 2013 11:31 am
Sure. That guy is weird, but every loves Mad-Eye Moody! "Constant vigilance!" he would advise as he quaffed his beverage from a container no one else ever touched. I might just have to join Twitter in order to follow along on your adventure!
Aug. 2, 2013 12:01 pm
Hi Doug! I think almost all our characters have rotated through my various offices. I like my coffee with half 'n half, no sugar. The last place I had to deal with the break room posse I was driven to buying myself a small, dorm fridge for my office. Between the food police who decreed fat free milk only and the lunch thieves it was just too much so I would sprint in, right after a fresh pot was made (I could smell it from my office) fill my mug, and head back to my desk, thereby avoiding the back biting harpies and perpetual complainers. I do not miss it at all.
Aug. 2, 2013 1:47 pm
Hey Doug, love your stories. The place where I worked the people only drank tea. I was the only coffee drinker there, and I take it black so no problem there. The problem I had was my lunch, I always took leftovers, pasta, stew, what we had the night before. There was always one person there that forgot or didn't bother making one and always asked me to share. I got to the point that I just brought twice what I would eat and just gave it to her. Now that i'm retired I wonder who she gets to feed her.
Aug. 2, 2013 9:18 pm
Not a coffee drinker, but work in an office with a bunch of guys. Couple of the gals are fairly close to the men's restroom, so we know who washes up (and who doesn't). When we have potlucks, and it's always the women who set it up, we make sure we fix our plates before we let the rest know the food is ready. Sigh...
Aug. 3, 2013 6:48 am
Good morning Heather - my twitter handle is @swampynomo - in between tweets about food & my garden, I tend to complain about my commute. Have a great day
Aug. 3, 2013 6:52 am
Good morning Doc and 10 points for Ravenclaw (I assume a clever guy like you would have been sorted into that particular house) for the Harry Potter reference. Another 10 points for naming my favorite member of the faculty at Hogwarts. As I told Heather, I tend to complain about my commute & people in general when I am not talking about food over on Twitter. My name over there is @swampynomo. Have a great day
Aug. 3, 2013 6:58 am
Good morning BigShotsMom - my boss got a fridge put into his office and despite hiding it behind a plant, he still gets his soda stolen. He is threatening to put up a webcam for when he travels so he can catch the thief. (It's not me) As for the coffee, after 8:30am I go nowhere near the watering hole. Too many predators & jackals...have a great day
Aug. 3, 2013 7:01 am
Good morning manella - That is an excellent question....your story tells me that you are just like my wife, an Italian who can't say no. She would have brought twice as much too. I can't stand office moochers and those who want a bite off your plate at a restaurant. (BTW - the teeth are getting there - I can almost taste that apple) Have a great day.
Aug. 3, 2013 7:03 am
Good morning Magnolia Blossom - Smart crew of ladies you have there. We all know who is who and what does what in the office too and you make sure to get to the food before they do in those situations. Hope you have a great day.
Aug. 3, 2013 3:14 pm
Just let me know where and when to send it Doug.
Aug. 3, 2013 3:28 pm
Love this topic Doug! We do have a coffe pot in the Real Estate Office where I work, but it's never used. Everyone here goes to the coffee shacks; of which there are many in my little ole' town of 50,000. (One of these days, I'm going to drive around and count them) So, we don't have that problem. Now, the frige is another thing. It's beyond nasty in there. It never gets cleaned and I wouldn't put my lunch or anything else in there if you paid me. Great blog as always. BTW, uou get to know people's hygeine habits when you work with them too! Magnolia Blossom's place of employment is telling.
Aug. 4, 2013 3:25 am
DM: Work-place coffee. Doug, you can make practically any subject sound interesting. I am anxiously awaiting what you have to say next.
Aug. 4, 2013 11:42 am
I thank god that 10 years ago when I decided to have children with my husband I made the choice not to visit the office coffee any more. Since then its been good times and some rough but NOW every morn., I have the best of the best when it come to my morning coffee. And yes, only real sugar and half and half for me
Aug. 5, 2013 9:08 pm
Good evening Bikerfamily - I'm putting office coffee on hold for another subject that came up over the weekend. Check back soon, I have a long flight tomorrow.
Aug. 5, 2013 9:10 pm
Good evening jrt - my coffee of choice is a mix of community coffee New Orleans blend with chicory and Cafe Bustelo cuban espresso. I have it all in my kahuna sized coffee mug on my way to the train each morning. Thanks for stopping by.
Aug. 5, 2013 9:16 pm
Hi Candice - I have noticed the coffee shacks in my business travels through Oregon, Washington & Idaho and have meant to stop. We have none of these in my area of NJ. Now office fridges could/should be another blog topic along with what should not be microwaved for lunch....have a great day.
Aug. 6, 2013 12:44 am
DM: The work-place refrigerator is the bane of my existence. Can't wait to hear some of your opinions on the subject. Doug, you should let us know the next time you're in the Northwest. In fact, I hope you'll be in the area in the Fall so we can share a box of Honey Crisps.
Aug. 6, 2013 6:53 am
I'm really into Gevalia house blend coffee lately. Very smooth, and always up for coffee talk.
Aug. 7, 2013 6:02 am
Warthogs! Hostile and messy. Good word for that category of coffee drinkers, Doug! We had a few too many of those and they were expert at stealth while making their mess at "the watering hole"! We made announcements and signs to clean up after themselves only to have the situation become worse. Finally, we began scheduling a different person each day to have two hours (generous time) to clean the room every shift. Only one ever defied doing it and he was given a three day unpaid vacation. People began being more responsible with their housekeeping to the point that the cleaning service would provide a few extras to the room.
Aug. 7, 2013 10:26 am
Good afternoon Mike - sounds like you all found the best way to deal with it all. We had a schedule of cleaners at one office I worked in but it was such a mess, I decided to quit drinking coffee. Luckily for my coffee jones, that job only lasted 6 months before I transferred. Have a great day.
Aug. 7, 2013 3:39 pm
Well I have an unusual job so I don't have coffee breaks with people or experience the whole coffee room scene, but as i read this I'm longing for coffee because my cappuccino machine is still on the blink! I've been compensating with Starbucks Double Shots in the can and some instant coffee drink mix from Nescafe! Help! maybe I need to bust in on someone's office coffee room!
Aug. 8, 2013 8:26 am
Good morning Godzilla - now you have me wondering about your job. I find when I travel that it is always good to bring a couple of the Starbucks Via Instant Coffee sleeves with me - I add them to the crappy hotel coffee I find in my room or to the crappy airline coffee they give us on my flights. Hope you have a great day and thanks for stopping by.
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Doug Matthews

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Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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Mendham, New Jersey, USA

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Mar. 2000

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Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Southern, Healthy, Kids, Quick & Easy

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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