Monday, January 10, 2011

Seventy Steps

It takes me seventy steps to get from my office to the other end of the warehouse where the water fountain is. This is where I can get water to make coffee for myself in the morning. Seventy steps. At about three feet per step, the distance is around 210 feet. The warehouse is not heated.

I often imagine that I am stationed somewhere in Antarctica, and I am walking out of my hut, braving the icy wind and snow to get to another hut that contains the water I need. I don’t know why they would not think enough of me to not give me water in my hut. I don’t even know who “they” are, and furthermore, exactly what I am supposed to be doing in such a place. I am probably being punished for some offense I committed when I was stationed in a sunnier, warmer locale, where every hut has easy access to water. Apparently I was never informed as to what this offense was, so now I begin to think I am some character in a Kafka novel. Except that Kafka is now dead, and he never wrote such a book. But he could have.

My office, though supposedly “heated,” is never warm enough. So I will usually keep my leather jacket and wool watch cap on. Also, the hot coffee helps. The black wool watch cap used to belong to my father. It is my most cherished material possession. I’m not sure why. I don’t believe it meant all that much to him. But if I were to lose it, my world would fall apart.

The coffee maker is quirky. I have to tilt the glass canister just so when the coffee is brewing, otherwise it will not drip down into it, but stay in the part where the grounds are, and eventually overflow. I sometimes forget to do this, and will have quite a mess to clean up—and no coffee, to boot, which is even worse. Because then I have to trudge across the frozen tundra again to get water, and this is really a bad way to start the day.

I keep coffee beans in a cylindrical plastic container, that holds 1.8 L/61 Oz./1.9 Qt. It says so right on the bottom of the container. I am confused as to why someone would manufacture a container that holds this specific amount, just short of a whole number for either quarts or liters. It doesn’t seem logical. The ounce part doesn’t really bother me—it could be 61 oz., 62 oz., 63 oz., etc…, I wouldn’t mind (but one thing that does bother me is why the abbreviation for ounce is oz., when there isn’t even a “z” in ounce—that is irksome). If they had made the container a little bit bigger, increasing the volume by only 4 ounces to 65 ounces (see, I would rather take the extra time and write out “ounces” as opposed to “oz.,” because, as I said, it really doesn’t make sense) I could have had a container that held 2 qt.’s (I don’t mind writing “qt” because at least those letters are actually in the word). Given the choice between a container holding 1.9 quarts or one holding 2 quarts, I’m going to choose the 2 quart one every time (actually, I probably should just write the whole word out, because really, am I saving that much time by condensing a five letter word down to two letters?)

I do not like using pre-ground coffee. I prefer to grind the beans myself. That way I know that there is only coffee in my coffee. If it were already ground, someone could have put anything in there, and I would never know it (I once opened up a can of tuna, and found a piece of rubber in there—I don’t eat tuna anymore). I would probably notice it when I drank the coffee, but I might not. It could be some tasteless, slow acting agent, whose effects would not be noticed until years later. Then it would be too late. I always put five scoops of beans into the grinder.

I drink my coffee black, because I don’t like mixing liquids together. Someone once told me that a chemical reaction occurred when milk (or cream) was added to coffee, completely changing the molecular structure of the resulting beverage. This person always drank his coffee with cream, and seemed proud of the fact that this was taking place in his cup. I couldn’t understand why, since it sounded too much like something some mad scientist would go in for, like a Dr. Jekyl, and I knew I didn’t want to turn into a Mr. Hyde.

The coffee cup I use is black on the outside and green on the inside. It has two pictures of Albert Einstein holding yet another coffee cup that says “I ♥ coffee. On the white handle (my coffee cup, not his, you really can’t see if there is any writing on the handle of his coffee cup—it’s much too small) it says, ♥ coffee makes me smart ♥. It is my favorite coffee cup. I’m not really sure why. There are way too many pictures of hearts (four in all) on it. And I think it would have been better if the coffee cup he was holding was the same as my coffee cup, which would mean that the coffee cup depicted on his coffee cup would be the same one he and I was holding, and so on, thus implying infinite regression. Then I could contemplate infinity while drinking my coffee.

The bathrooms are located where the water fountain is. There is a men's room and a ladies' room, even though there are no women working here. I sometimes have to wait a long time to use the bathroom, while the ladies' room is unoccupied. I cannot make myself use it, even though they are identical except for the sign. I am assuming they are identical, because I have never actually looked inside the ladies’ room. For all I know there could be a chaise lounge and house plants in there. Other workers do not have the same high standards as I do, since I have seen them come out of there when the men’s room is occupied. I have never asked them what was in there, because I prefer not to talk to a man who would have the audacity to use the ladies’ room.

Someone has put a metal chair in the men’s room. I’m not really sure why, unless they had the notion they needed to rest, and not necessarily use the bathroom. But they could’ve just as easily sat on the toilet and rested. If they are in there just taking a rest, that would be very inconsiderate to me, since I am standing outside, trying not to pee in my pants, and they really could have rested anywhere, not necessarily in the bathroom, which should be reserved for the specific purpose of relieving oneself.

The ideal place for the chair should really be outside the bathroom, so I could sit down while I’m waiting. There are times when I do not feel like standing outside the bathroom in the cold, shivering while trying not to pee in my pants, waiting for it to become available, and so will walk the 210 feet back to my office, where I will usually drink more coffee, and exacerbate my already uncomfortable condition. Then I will make the arduous trek back to the bathroom, just in time to see someone exiting it, and another going in ahead of me.

I am writing all of this with a bare pencil. In my last meeting, I scraped off all of the yellow coating with my thumbnail. I don’t like the coating on pencils, or any writing, such as who made it, or what number it is. I believe all pencils should be a No. 2 (here we go again, there is no “o” in number), and leave it at that. Besides, pencils should be doing the writing, no one should be writing “on” the pencils. I am wondering if pencils can be bought with no coating or writing. And if so, would I have to pay more for such a pencil? This would not be fair, if that were the case, because it should be cheaper to manufacture such a pencil. It took me the whole meeting to scrape it off.

I never speak during meetings, unless I have to. While I do have a fear of public speaking, that is not why I do not speak. I try to look as if I am very busy during the meeting, too busy to even talk. This is not easy, especially when I am only busy trying to scrape off the coating on my pencil. If my boss perceives that I am too busy to even contribute anything in the meeting, he will not give me extra work. In reality, I am not busy at all in my job. I used to be, but over the years, I have managed to figure out how to do my job in a very short amount of time. If he were to know this, and give me extra duties, I would not have time to do the really important things, like scraping off the coatings on my pencils, or writing about it.

As I think on it some more, it could be that they put the coating on the pencils to keep you from getting a splinter in your finger. I really hadn’t thought of that before. Now I’m beginning to get concerned that I might hurt myself. I had better procure some sandpaper, and make extra certain this will not happen.

When I was a child, I used to watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood every day. It was my favorite show. On one episode, he got a splinter in his finger, and so he took the opportunity to show everyone what you were supposed to do when this happened. First, he got a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass and carefully extracted the splinter. Then he washed the damaged finger with soap and water. Then it was necessary to treat it with iodine, to make sure it didn’t get infected. He finished by putting on some antibiotic salve, before carefully applying a bandage to it. I stopped watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood after that, because I surmised from all of this that he was a wimp. The only thing I did when getting a splinter was pull it out with my teeth, and then go about my business.

Now that I’m as old as he was when he made that episode, I understand the wisdom and efficacy of his instructions. I wish I could write to him to apologize for being so callous in thinking ill of him and not watching his show anymore. But he never knew me or knew I stopped watching his show. Plus, he’s dead.


  1. This was a delight to read. Yep, sounds like Mr. Rogers went a bit overboard. I'm too old to have watched him. Captain Kangaroo was my man, but I think Mr. Rogers probably had a better show.

    I love my coffee--black, thank you.

    I don't work, but I sympathize with those meetings you have to attend. I have been reading a book of Dilbert cartoons, which are about work, of course.

  2. Hey, I loved me some Captain Kangaroo, too! I very much sympathize with Dilbert. I would much rather be in your shoes! Ah, one day...