Well, I can honestly say this about my workplace: my co-workers are very, very trustworthy, at least when it comes to coffee mugs!
I’ve just started my second year at my latest work-site. Somehow I have developed this irritating habit of leaving my coffee mug on the water fountain down the hallway. Here’s how it happens. The fountain, which puts out deliciously chilled and refreshing water (after supposedly running through a filtration system), is down the hallway and through two security doors, situated right next to the men’s and women’s restrooms on one side of the building. These facilities are shared by about a third of the entire department, maybe a couple hundred folks tops. To multitask and save time – I’m such a dedicated employee! - I always bring my empty mug over to the fountain, set it down, use the facilities as necessary, then exit to refill my mug before heading back to my cubicle, all set for the next couple of hours. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, I use the restroom and then forget all about my empty mug on that water fountain and head back to my desk, where I, inevitably, am just about to resume my work when I remember I’ve forgotten my mug again! I end up trudging back over to the fountain and refilling the mug before heading on back. And I keep doing that, kind of irritating.
Before I make the connection between my coffee mug and the trustworthiness of my co-workers, allow me to describe my coffee mug. Coffee KEG is a more fitting title for it. When I began working in the building I realized I didn’t want the distraction of having to get up time and time again to refill a small coffee cup with water, but I did want to stay well-hydrated, good health and all you know. I first tried a regular mug – too small, too many trips. I tried re-using empty plastic water bottles – not much bigger, plus I read about the harmful germs and chemicals that one consumes as plastic bottles are re-used and the plastic starts decomposing – gross. So instead I decided to purchase a new coffee mug, but not just ANY coffee mug, no sir. New job and all, I felt I deserved to go all out and find one to completely meet my needs, the granddaddy of all mugs, one that was insulated and suited for keeping cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, one with a lid, in case a felt like I needed a lid (plus, I spill a lot) and, most importantly, one that was big enough to hold enough liquid to quench the thirst of a hard-working, hard-playing, thirsty guy, or at least Me.
My search was futile at first, taking me to five different stores, no luck. I just couldn’t find the right mug. They either were too small, WAY too big, too colorful, too boring, to cutesy with printed sayings, no lid, cheap lid, cheap plastic, or made of ugly, industrialized metal. And, then, I found BUBBA!
(OMG! I just did exactly what I wrote about above. I stopped writing for a minute to visit the restroom and refill my mug; I set my empty mug on that same water fountain, used the men’s facility, and promptly FORGOT MY MUG there! I walked back to my cube, took a seat, and realized I had done the same thing again. I trekked back, refilled the mug, returned to my cube. WHY DO I KEEP DOING THAT?! Are there any sofa-psychoanalysts out there who would care to give me a clue???)
BUBBA! Found him at a sporting goods store, camping equipment section: BUBBA! His name was printed right on the mug itself. BUBBA, the middle section made of molded brushed-silver metal, the lower and upper portions composed of some dark-grey polycarbonate synthetic (I think) which also melded smoothly to form the dark, cool interior. I just knew that scientific, high-tech material would keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, and it came with an ever-loving matching screw-on lid complete with drink-flap lever to open and close at my heart’s content. BUBBA was BIG, too, 48 fluid ounces big, built solidly, like a coffee mug should be, able to take the constant lifting and drinking and refilling, and stout enough to remain firmly perched on my desktop. With wonder, I picked up BUBBA and held him in my hands – perfect fit, perfect feel. It was pure karma that I found him, because this was the last BUBBA on the shelf, there were no others like him, he was just waiting for me to find him. Fit for a Norse God’s succulent, refreshing, cool ale or a Mountain Man’s strong, bittersweet, lip-scorching cowboy coffee, and now it was going to be mine. But, truly, the best thing of all: BUBBA WAS ON SALE!!!!! A match made in heaven, well, actually a match made in a Big 5 Sporting Goods, but you get my blissful drift, right?
So imagine, the day I’m about to leave for a week-long vacation, the mid-Friday afternoon right after I’ve completed all of my work assignments, put my work-space in order, and ready to step out of that building to freedom, ever-loving sweet-Jesus-in-heaven, nirvana-filled vacation – I DID IT AGAIN! Two final tasks before I departed in pure ecstasy: use the restroom before the drive home and clean out Bubba for storage in my cubicle overhead bin, to be clean, fresh and ready for use when I returned. And, for whatever reason, perhaps in my rapturous, time-off-from-work state of mind, I LEFT BUBBA on the water fountain again!
And, this time, I completely forgot, and went on off on my vacation, with nary a second thought for my poor BUBBA. An entire week away.
So, one week later, recharged but dragging with emotionally draining thoughts of the end of my vacation, I returned to work. Back at my cubicle, arriving early to pick up a week’s worth of voice-mail messages, I set my work bag down and turned on my computer. While it booted up, I opened my overhead storage bin and reached for BUBBA, some hot tea would be good. My heart stopped: BUBBA was gone! Oh no, I came to the instant realization, I had forgotten BUBBA at the water fountain again! A week ago!
I sat down in a moment of shock, my rubbery legs unable to support me. I took a moment to calm myself, a deep breath, another. Okay, I thought positively, I’m sure BUBBA’s okay, I had forgotten him there so many other times before – HE WOULD BE OKAY! But deep in my heart I trembled, I dared think the unthinkable: BUBBA could be gone forever! I had never forgotten BUBBA on the water fountain for more than one night, always returning the next day to surprisingly find him safe, sound and untouched, exactly where I had forgotten him the prior work day. BUT NEVER FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK! My heart began to race again as doubts about finding BUBBA bubbled to the surface of my brain. Where was BUBBA?!?!
BUBBA could be anywhere! Snatched up by another employee who, having seen BUBBA sitting there for days, may have considered him up for grabs, like when people leave ratty Barcaloungers and ripped love seats out on the sidewalk, handwritten “FREE” signs grossly taped on them, hoping some desperate homeowner needed just that exact piece of used furniture to complete their own home décor motif, rescuing that piece just one step away from ending its used-up life as human rubbish. I was certain someone had grabbed BUBBA! Who wouldn’t want him?! He could be someone else’s trusty mug right that minute, off on safari in Africa, maybe a walkabout in the Australian Outback, climbing along on a life adventure up Mt. Everest! BUBBA could do it all and would handle any adventure or location his new owner took him. Is he sailing on a one-person sailboat around the world? Travelling by air balloon to Haiti? BUBBA would do it! Or maybe he was being used to water an urban garden, from which harvested vegetables would be used to feed a group of orphans! Maybe right at that moment he was filled with hot java and handed to a homeless man, becoming his prized possession as he panhandled and filled BUBBA with spare change from empathetic strangers! BUBBA was versatile, hardworking, rugged, charming, and, dare I say it, beautiful. So why not?!?! Oh my gawd, I lamented, where was my BUBBA?
I had to know for certain, I could stand it no longer, I needed to know if BUBBA was really gone! I grabbed my employee security entrance door card and headed down the hallway. First door, through. I would be brave for BUBBA! And if BUBBA were truly gone, I thought, I would stay strong for BUBBA! And I decided right then and there that I would not, could not, replace him even if the unthinkable had occurred. I was fraught with guilt. If the worse-case scenario came to pass it would have been all because of me, my stupid, feeble-minded forgetfulness, my dishonorable disloyalty to a tried and true friend. Oh, BUBBA, why oh why had I forsaken you?! Second door, a moment of hesitation. Be strong, Phil, be strong. For BUBBA. I waved my security card, the door light flashed green and I walked through. Only three steps to the water fountain, right around that corner there. Two steps. One more step and I would know, my world could be forever changed!
I struggled on, took another step….BUBBA!!!!
BUBBA was there, he was there! No one had claimed him. No one had picked him up. No one had befriended him! My dear old, BUBBA, my coffee keg, was still waiting for me! I fought back a grateful tear and touched BUBBA’s handle, gently, tenderly, nay, lovingly. I’m so sorry BUBBA! But we were together again. I passed a long, deep sigh of relief.
Just at that moment, one of my co-workers exited the women’s restroom. She looked at me and smiled. She saw me with BUBBA, my BUBBA.
“Hi, Phil,” she greeted me warmly. “You know I saw your coffee cup sitting there for so long I thought maybe you had moved to another job or something. I wondered if you would come back for your cup, it is such a nice one.”
I just smiled at her for a moment. If she only knew how nice.
“Naw,” I replied. “I was just on vacation. But I’m glad to be back and glad my mug was still here. Thank you, co-workers! The people I work with are so trustworthy!”
“Yeah,” she said. “Plus I doubt anyone would want somebody else’s used mug anyway. Have a great day.”
Oh, I would have a great day, my work-friend, maybe the greatest day of my life. For my life was once again whole, once again complete. And I would stay hydrated!
I dreamily used the men’s room, washed my hands and returned to my cubicle. I sat with a contented sigh of one-part happiness, one-part relief, and one-part love.
DAMMIT!!!!! I forgot BUBBA at the water faucet again! What the heck?!?!