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The many causes of coffee wars

There are some people in these parts – you may even know a few- who believe that this is a just world, one in which good and evil are handed out in equal measure, one in which every selfish deed is balanced by a deed filled with generosity.

These people, if you look closely, share one characteristic: None of them work in an office in which employees share the coffee-making duties.

With the possible exception of the rural road association, no human activity engenders as much ill will as the cooperative coffee-making venture.



The problem may be this:

Although 25 people in the typical office drink coffee, only three of them ever took the time to learn how to pour water into a coffeepot. And of that group of three, one of them worries about his expensive dental work whenever he faces the need to tear open one of those packages of coffee.




Or perhaps the problem is this:

The manufacturers of office coffeemaking equipment have decided to hire some of the best practical jokers from the recent graduating classes of Ivy League colleges. These practical jokers spent innumerable hours calculating how long it takes for the typical group of office workers to drain a pot of coffee. They have calculated the amount of time it takes to walk from a coffee maker to a work station. Office workers often comment that they start a pot of coffee, walk back to their desks for a moment, and return only to find the coffeepot drained dry. Little do they know that this is intentional. And little do they know how this keeps the practical jokers in the engineering department in stitches.

Or perhaps the problem is this:

Every office contains some people who drink decaffeinated coffee, some who drink regular coffee, and one woman who drinks tea. At 8:03 a.m., when the coffee maker is producing one pot of decaffeinated, followed by one pot of regular, followed by one pot of decaffeinated, the woman who wants tea ties up an entire coffee pot to heat some water. The coffee production system collapses for the rest of the day. (These tea drinkers, by the way, often are traditionalists who believe that water heated in the microwave is not heated properly. Science should look into this folk belief.)

Or perhaps the problem is this:

Most offices include one man who hasn’t entirely caught onto the concept of the on-off switches on a coffee maker. He finds a freshly brewed pot of coffee – these guys never make coffee, they merely find it – and pours himself a cup. He places the nearly full pot back on the burner, reaches up and flips the switch to “off.” After all, he’s done. Why should the company waste energy keeping coffee hot?

Or perhaps the problem is this:

Every office includes two groups of people: Those who will drink anything black and warm that comes out of the coffeepot – even the stuff that has cooked down to the consistency of the La Brea tar pits – and those who believe that the subtle pleasures of coffee are lost within the first 30 seconds after the pot is brewed. The La Brea tar pit guys are never around when they’re needed to drain a pot, and the

Long ago, I heard once, workplaces didn’t have coffee makers. Instead, the workers were given beer. Now, there’s an idea for workplace peace!

John Seelmeyer is editor of The Union; his column appears on Saturday.


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