After the first week I found out that the social center of the office was the coffee machine. At first, I thought it was about the coffee at the machine. Unfortunately, the coffee was never really good because it was made from powder or surrogate beans. To make something of it, there were bags of creamer, sweetener, sugar, milk cups and stirrers. The powdered chocolate milk and the chocolate espresso were the better options and that was saying a lot. That is why the chocolate espresso was usually only selected when the drip tray of the coffee machine was once again full.
The conversations at the coffee machine were just as weak as the coffee. I knew that my day had really started when I heard the first:
‘Good morning’. This greeting was slightly threatening, because if I would not say anything back, I was antisocial. I would get a label stuck on me that quickly. It did not count if I nodded to someone, it was about saying something back. That’s why I made it a sport to respond as quickly as possible with:
‘Good morning to you too’. Sometimes I said it so quickly that I interrupted a colleague halfway through his greeting. This was all under the motto, rather too polite than antisocial.
All of this did not prevent me from finding it bloody irritating if someone said ‘Mornin’. Actually, that person was too lazy to say: ‘Good morning’. Additionally, he wished me a neutral instead of a good morning. Perhaps the word ‘Mornin’ was used in an unconscious contest in which as few words as possible were allowed to be exchanged. That’s why I did not want to say:
‘Good morning to you too’, because then I would have to use four more words than the ‘Mornin’ greeter. That would mean that I had lost the game, and I would not just give up. I could only win when I used a head nod. In another sense I would then still lose, because I would get the label ‘anti-social’.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon I needed a little break. The corner close by the coffee machine was the first place I thought of when I was thinking about resting, but appearances are deceiving. From behind or from another unseen angle there was often a ‘Good afternoon’ greeter. That usually happened when I tried to straighten my dress. The greeter would surprise me, and then I had to search very quickly for the source of the sound to quickly say:
‘Hi, good afternoon’.
This time I saw a hugely self-centered colleague revolve around the machine. He was the type that would fill a good quarter of an hour talking about himself in what was meant to be a short introduction. When he did this, he frequently used three words that all came down to the same thing:
‘Amazing’, ‘Awesome’ and ‘Totally cool’. At first, he kept staring at his coffee cup and said nothing else. He might have been sunken in his thoughts, maybe he was thinking of his child who had spit on his bib that same morning. It was more likely that he was thinking about himself. Anyhow, I could not escape him and had to have an uncomfortable chat.
To get through it as quickly as possible, I started with the routine:
‘Good afternoon’ and got the reply:
‘Ah, good afternoon’. The first thing I noticed, was that the colleague was wearing jeans instead of his usual blue trousers. I also said this to him:
‘You look different in your jeans.’ He was pleasantly surprised and responded with the words:
‘Gosh, how nice that you noticed that, I’ve already received more compliments about it.’ In fact, I had not just given him a compliment, I had only noticed a fact. If I had to note another fact, it was that his pants were too tight and made contours visible that no one was waiting for. Because I felt uncomfortable, and I no longer could bring myself to actually compliment him, I said:
‘Keep it up!’ In my mind, I added: ’Throw a little sugar and coffee milk on your jeans, amazing, awesome, totally cool.’