Inspired by “The Night the Bed Fell,” by James Thurber
One of the most memorable days of my working life occurred the day I made the coffeemaker blow up. A couple of people in the office and my Facebook friends — at least the ones who read my posts — already know about this unfortunate event, and they know me well enough to believe me.
I have a fine relationship with gadgetry. I like them and they like me. My mind has a mechanical bent. I set up my own VCR back in the ’90’s, by following the illustrations in the manual (the text was written in Martian, or something like it). I have set up and successfully operated computers, printers, routers, external hard drives, speakers, telephones, CD players, coffeemakers, microwave ovens, cameras and alarm clocks, without anyone else’s help. Things usually run smoothly for years, until the device gets old and cranky or becomes outmoded, or I become enamored of a newer model.
Occasionally, however, I will require a machine to do something that its wires and gears and holes are not meant to do, and the machine reacts by sending a strong message. That’s what happened between me and a brand new Keurig coffeemaker.
A bit of background is in order. Because her office has very little space and she values peace and quiet and hates distractions, my boss made the decision that she was no longer going to have everyone who reported to her parading in and out of her office, using the coffeemaker, stuffing the little refrigerator to capacity and shoving miscellaneous goodies onto the shelf. Instead, she divided us up into small groups and gave us permission to set up our own little office pantries. Serena and I were assigned together.
Because I sit at the reception desk, out in the hallway where everyone can see everything, putting kitchen appliances at my desk was not an option. Serena had the unenviable job of figuring out where, in her own limited office space, we could put anything. This involved compromise and pleading (“Please, Serena, we HAVE to have a coffeemaker!”), but it was done. Serena ordered a small refrigerator and a cute little Keurig one-cup coffeemaker, along with some of those little pods of coffee and tea, and set everything up in the best (read ONLY) possible places.
The fridge, in its new home underneath a long bamboo shelf/desk, was no problem. We put things in; we took things out; we watched out for bottles falling off the door. We are all used to bottles falling off refrigerator doors. It’s a part of American life, like hot dogs at a summer barbecue. The coffeemaker, tucked over in a corner of that same desk/table, required some thought, because operating it involved choreography. It was only complicated the first few times, though. Once we got used to doing all the steps in the right order, making coffee was a cinch.
What nobody, including the Keurig people, counted on was my determination to get every drop of coffee that I thought was due. On the very first morning that we began using the unfortunate machine, I took a look at my cup of brew and thought, “This isn’t completely full. I’ve been cheated. I need to add more water.”
I walked over to the machine and opened it, leaving the used pod in its holder, because I didn’t want to waste a whole unused one just to get one swallow of coffee. I was convinced that there was enough caffeinated strength left in the used coffee grounds to produce one more slurp. Serena was not at her desk, and I was the only person in the little office. I added a tiny bit of water, closed the machine, put the cup in its place and pressed a button. Like all good mechanical servants, the coffeemaker snapped to life.
I snapped to life a few seconds later, when I heard a pop, turned, and was shocked by the sight of little bunches of coffee grounds all over the surface of the desk and on the coffeemaker, steam coming out of the place where the pod was, and the smell of burning coffee grounds.
What followed is a blur in my memory. I think I uttered a few words that my mother never taught me, after which I made sure the machine was turned off, then sprinted over to the ladies’ room, where I grabbed a handful of paper towels and wetted a few of them in the sink. I must have tried to look as nonchalant as possible as I walked back to where the mess lay, because nobody stared at me or asked me if I was okay. I set to work cleaning up. It was imperative to get rid of all the evidence, because accidental messes are not looked upon kindly in our workplace, especially on desks made of bamboo.
I must have looked pretty manic, because at that moment Serena came back into the office. She said something to me on the order of how I shouldn’t be so upset, or something like that. By that time I was putting the final touches on the cleanup job, hoping that I had done no permanent damage, or at least none that couldn’t be hidden.
I must have done a good job of mopping up, because no marks were left on the desk, the coffeemaker worked okay the next time it was used, and it hasn’t given us any trouble so far.
If there is a moral to this story, it must be something like these:
You can’t re-use a Keurig coffee pod.
Never be a klutz during work hours; do it on your own time.