Yesterday morning I rushed into the office rather early, only to find that the coffee machine seemed to have second thoughts about the direction its career was taking. It refused to serve the same simple function as it had done every day up to that point. The occurrence of such an event is to be expected at some point for people in routine dominated jobs, but I was surprised to discover that the machine could reflect upon its need for self-fulfillment on this level.
Socializing by the coffee machine is a well known cliché, if not an institution, in larger work places, regarded my many as the glue that keeps employees bound together in a web of short breaks, hot drinks, flirting and gossip, fortifying their feeling of being part of something huge and amazing. Surely the breakdown of the coffee machine would be a disaster for the entire division, the consequences of which would eventually reach the infamous bottom line.
As I arrived at this conclusion, I became aware that a friendly looking man in a green sweater was approaching with a cup he had just picked from the stack of brown paper cups that accompany the coffee machine, all bearing the same unbelievably fresh and exciting sounding brand name.
“No no” I warned him. “It will not comply. It want’s something”. He understood. There was something going on with the coffee machine. Like me, he did not opt for returning to his seat, or seeking greener pastures on another floor of the building. We had a responsibility. We had to get coffee.
Together, we examined the small display of the machine, its medium of choice to communicate its current emotional state. The machine clearly demanded a sacrifice of something called “maintenance softener”. We quickly established that none of us had on us even the slightest amount of this substance.
After having starred at the machine for yet another couple of seconds, the man in green decisively turned the key on the side of the machine and opened it. Like curious children we stuck our heads forward into its interior, examining the circuit board, wires and all the other components which had been chosen to spend their existence contributing to the existence of hot drink.
We were looking for something. A button, a switch, a little sign that told us what to do, anything significant. But we found nothing. “Should we pull the plug, and then put it back in?” I asked, starting to search the narrow space between the machine and wall. “It would be better with a power button”, my new friend insisted. And just then, as he said it, I discovered that right by the power plug, mere centimetres above it, there was a switch.
“Should I push it?”
“Yes, do it!”
I turned the switch. Looking at each other in suspense, we waited a few seconds. Then I turned it a second time. Together we starred at the display again. The machine now declared that it would award us free choice among all of the glorious drinks promised by the lettering on its cover.
Eagerly I placed a brown paper cup under the dispenser and pushed a button. Brrrrrr. Brown steaming liquid poured into the cup. We had succeeded! I got my latte with an espresso in it. Even so, I did not return to my desk. The mission clearly was not over until all parties involved had coffee in them. The machine, however, was truthful to its word, and shortly after, my new friend in green departed with a hot cup and a big smile. The machine beeped loudly with pure satisfaction. The day was saved. We had saved it together.
So what is the morale of this story? The point of my story is simply that meeting someone over a shared challenge, and solving it together, may be even better than simply meeting over a hot drink. Surely, the combination of the two is unbeatable! So if you are feeling lonely during your work day, sabotaging the coffee machine should be a hot tip. Just make sure you are able to fix it again!