by Dan Sanders
Well, you know how it is. You spend the first few years getting used to the job, to getting used to the space, making sure you fit in, that you’re not stepping on any toes and it happens so gradually that you don’t notice how trapped you are. You keep to yourself when you should keep to yourself and you jump through the hoops when you need to jump through the hoops. It’s a constant struggle and you work hard every day, day in and day out, for these people you barely know for some business you don’t believe in and some product that is morally grey at best. You give yourself to this thing, this nothing, for money. It’s a transaction. But it’s supposed to be more than that. You were promised more than that. You work hard, you get paid, but more than that, the suggestion is that you will be given freedom. But everyone, you, me, everybody, we wind up someplace between still and stagnant and they can’t even bother to make decent coffee.
And it’s fine that the coffee is bad, for a while. Because you’re getting used to things and it seems like such a gift to be working and, if you’re like me, you’re really kicking ass. But it’s still early and you don’t have firm footing. So you man up and drink the shitty coffee, because that’s part of the arrangement. But then you get acquainted and you reach the point where you’re caught, captured, imprisoned. They tell you to cut your hair. Cover your sick tattoos. And suddenly, you aren’t going any farther than the middle of nowhere and that’s when you start to try to change your surroundings to better suit you as much as you can.
I brought in a kick ass fern. It’s five feet tall. I set it behind my chair and it takes up so much space that it dictates my movements throughout the day. But that’s OK. Because it’s mine. It’s ok for the fern to make me uncomfortable, because I bought the fucking fern. You see? I decided why I’m uncomfortable. Not like the chair. The chair is like sitting on a stack of wet phone books and it’s bad for my back and nobody cares. They bought it wholesale. They got it cheap and I should shut up. But my point is, I don’t shup up. Not at this point. Not for the man. Why should I? I’m no afraid of them. I fix my own problems and I bought my own chair. It’s from the Rush Limbaugh collection. It’s every bit as comfortable as it sounds.
I have the fern. I have the chair. I brought in some Vitamin D lights and some stress balls. I feel as good as I’m going to. But the fucking coffee. It’s a few months after the chair, where I feel pretty good. I’m knocking out sales. I’m ignoring the bullshit. Giving the finger to management. Standard me stuff, you know? Livestrong.
And, I know I should forget it, but I’m buying four cups of Starbucks a day. Which is fine. I have the money. I have a lot of money. I have the money, but why am I wasting so much of my money on the good stuff, while they laugh at us, and brew that junk in the Kitchen Area. That’s our Kitchen Area. I get that technically it’s their Kitchen Area, but we’re entitled to a decent Kitchen Area, and a decent cup of coffee in said Kitchen Area.
And finally, I was like. I’m not going to take it anymore. They woke the beast, you know what I’m saying?
Here’s what I did.
First, it’s an office. The first rule of office work is: Create a problem so that you can create the solution to the problem you created and then deny you created the problem in the first place. Blame it on “Workflow” or “Communication problems” or “Zero Sum Habitat Synergy” (that’s not a real thing, doesn’t matter) . Focus on how you ‘Fixed’ the problem you created – then everyone gets to pretend they told you to fix the problem you fixed that you created and it spirals out from there. Someone is going to offer to high five you. High five them.
Create a Problem: I consistently put A-1 Steak Sauce into the coffee machine.
Recognize the Problem: After a week or so of dosing the coffee. Drink the Steak Sauce coffee in front of other people in The Kitchen Area, make a sour face. Prevent people from drinking Steak Sauce Coffee. Let them smell your cup if they have further questions and watch them make the same face that you are making. Suggest that it’s a problem with “Management” and that you should “not take it anymore” you are the one to “fix it”. It also helps to leave passive aggressive notes on the coffee machine for the week leading up to the recognition. “Who made this?!” “GRROOOSSSS!” Lots of exclamations and lightning bolts. Leave Mr. Yuck stickers everywhere. Systematically make people question their own environment before you sweep in to save the day, which just involves you not putting steak sauce in the coffee anymore. Easy peasy.
Just a warning: This is going to occupy a lot of your time. Maybe a month or more but it doesn’t matter because nothing you do means anything in the full culmination of time, only your personal experiences. That’s my philosophy, anyway. I’m into philosophy. Anyway, watching people drink steak sauce laced coffee and not care is maybe the hardest part of the whole thing.
Announcement: Send out a mass email letting people know that there is something wrong with the coffee packets they insist on buying wholesale from restaurant supply from a no-name company with foreign, possibly socialist, origins. The name of the coffee is “English Home”. Say to others: “More like, English Hospice!” And then high five everyone. As you draw people to your cause, casually suggest that you “know somebody” at the “Warehouse” or other point of origin, maybe a “Port of Call” or “Dynasty Center”(this isn’t a real thing either, doesn’t matter). His name was “Jeff” in this instance, but it doesn’t matter what name you use. Nobody is calling anybody to confirm anything, not ever, because everyone really likes me. I’m trustworthy and I’m honest.
Brief Intermission. You’re going to take a week off to pretend like you’re working on the solution, like you don’t already know how to make the best cup of coffee in the world. But you do, because you backpacked through Seattle with your band. (I’m a drummer, no big deal). It’s not like you have not been perfecting a recipe for the best cup of office coffee that has ever existed. If you must be an artist working in the medium of freeze dried, prepackaged coffee packets, then it is up to you to man-up to the challenge and be the Babe Ruth of Office Coffee. Which I did, and I am.
Recipes: What’s the weather like? Rainy? ⅔ packet House Blend, ⅓ packet French roast. Sunny Late afternoon? ⅓ Hazelnut, ⅔ packet House Blend. Try Friday Power Jam: ⅔ packet House Blend, ⅓ packet Blonde Roast. Most blends start with a ⅔ house blend. That last third leaves room for the muse. Leave insece in the Kitchen Area. Make it a scene you know. Make it cool. Life is for living.
Important: Create a set of arbitrary rules for making the coffee. Make a series of charts, and paste them all over and around the coffee machine. Suggest that the water be a specific temperature, the water not be ‘too metallic’, focus a lot on the consistency of the grounds, though there is no way to control any of this in. It’s just a ruse. A diversion. It will create enough confusion that people will still be trying to make sense of it as you sweep through the Kitchen Area, which you’re going to be doing no fewer than six times an hour. You save the day, whip up a batch of Cream Sunrise Delight, and who’s the hero. Me. I just like helping people, I guess.
Result: Nobody liked it. I’m only telling you this, so that when you start your program, you can laugh at how much trouble I had because, I think we can agree: this thing is fucking bulletproof.
From here things got a little shaky. This isn’t for the faint of heart. The office really wanted to get back to “English Home”. There was an outbreak of post-its championing the cause of “English Home”. I had no idea where they were coming from, it’s an office, nobody talks out loud. It’s just a shitstorm of post-it’s and counter post-its. Easy to ignore at first, until I realized that “Thursday Hammer Time” tasted suspiciously bland, despite my addition of a half can of Red Bull and a teaspoon of Five Hour Energy. “Someone is tampering with my creation, methinks. Frowny face.” That was one of my post-its.
I’d love tell you the office was divided. That I was a champion of the people, but that’s not how History is forged. I was suddenly an outcast. After a while, I realized that the Post-it’s carried the same handwriting. “Wednesday Blue Vixen”, my specialty blend of ⅔ House Blend and ⅓ House Blend (aged 48 hours) was covered over with post-it’s announcing the return of pure “English Home”. It was initialed by the CEO. The C. E. O. This thing went all the way to the top. I wasn’t sweating it, if that’s what you’re worried about.
Being an Outlaw: Look, I’m not going to lie to you: You’re going to get fired. If I got fired, you’re definitely getting fired. But it doesn’t matter. My grandfather ran ‘shine and my grandmother was a Native American. No shit. I’m not laying down for this. Not ever. I’m not letting some limey coffee hut sashay into this country and tell me I’m fired. Besides, you can probably tell, I work out a lot. I’ll kick an ass.
Breaking and Entering. You are going to stay up mixing your special blends in the bathtub. You’re going to mix together ⅔ House and equal parts cayenne pepper and blueberry Fun Dip. You’re going to call it “The Fourth of July” and fill up fifty empty packets of “English Home”. This is a sabotage type deal. Spy stuff. Intrigue. I’m mysterious. Your mom or whoever is going to ask you what you’re doing and you’re going to ignore her because she said you should take this job and quit “The Elders of Cyanide” which is/was the name of your band/lifestyle.
You’re going to need to bribe the Janitor. Tell him you are part of “The Elders of Cyanide” and need his jumpsuit. He doesn’t speak a great deal of English, so just smash the window and switch the coffees before you get arrested.
Getting Arrested: You’re going to get arrested, like any good ‘shine runner worth his salt. But it doesn’t matter and nobody really cares because you don’t work there anymore and your mom sucks, so it just sort of fades into the background of who you are now, who I am now, which is a man set free. I see past the bullshit, you know?
I’m considering living in the wilderness and making ‘shine, maybe growing some pot or buying my drum set back from Gary.
So to answer your question: I’m kinda between jobs right now. But it’s all good.
But enough about me. What do you do with your days, beautiful?
Next Week’s Prompt: Your First Grey Hair.