Three dirty cups of coffee

I don’t like to brag, but I have a huge desk. It is, without question, the largest desk at my workplace. It’s an L-shaped desk, and how it came to be mine, several species down in the workplace food chain, is a long story and unimportant. What is important is that, if I needed to, I could sleep on top of it. With a guest. When the great flood comes, I’ll be able to set sail on the thing. “Welcome aboard the Queen Murray,” I’ll say.( Wait, I don’t want that phrase getting around. Scratch that…)

My desk, after a recent tidying.

My desk, after a recent tidying.

But, as the saying goes, with great surface comes great clutterability, and the wide open range of my desk tends to fill up with the by-products of my workday: paperclips, pens, batteries, books, restraining orders, headphones, coffee cups, snack containers and various sticky and powdery residues. I look at it sometimes and think I should take a Dustbuster to it, but I like to imagine that this is its natural state, and, as we all know, nature hates a vacuum.

Being a big workplace, we do have a cleaning staff. Once a week or so, Dian comes into our office, straightens up, empties the trash and generally gives the place a critical antiseptic eye. She even cleans the coffeemaker and puts in a clean filter, God love her. Though I’m sure she shakes her head when she sees the balls of paper blowing across the great plains of my desk, she usually leaves it alone. Except for the coffee cups. If I have left one or three sludgy-bottomed coffee cups on my desk, she’ll whisk them away, wash them and store them back with the clean cups. She’ll go so far as to clean the dirty cups that my co-workers and I have carried to the edge of the communal sink and left there.

Let’s stop right there and follow that process: I pick up my coffee cup, make the long expedition around my desk, go to another room and then deposit my dirty cup right next to a water source and supplies of towels and soap.

When my children leave their dishes beside the dishwater, I declare, “Oh, look! We have magic dishwater – invisible to anyone under 20!” Sarcasm is not pretty, but neither are their plates.

I don’t put up with it with my kids, so why do I do it myself?

I suspect that few if any of you reading this have a butler. I bet none of you even knows a single person named “Jeeves,” which is a shame but not the point. In fact, you probably look disdainfully at the so-called 1 percent, though maybe you look wistfully upon the 15 percent because that’s a whole other ball game. I bet you see that pampered life of privilege and think,“If I were rich, I would never expect to be waited on hand and foot, although a silver-plated driveway would be nice.”

However, when something is done for us, it’s startling how quickly we expect other things to be done for us as well. Dian isn’t paid to clean my coffee cups. She does it because she’s kind and probably somewhat appalled. But I’ve come to expect it and I’ve taken advantage of it.

They say that society is only nine meals away from anarchy. It turns out we’re just three dirty coffee cups away from entitlement.

This happens all the time as individuals, in families, in communities, even societies. We’re done a kindness or given a privilege and next thing you know we feel entitled, as if it were a right, even if it we don’t deserve it, and let’s be honest, we usually don’t.

Last week, Dian gave my entire office a spring cleaning, top to bottom. It positively echoes with cleanliness. Thank you, Dian, for your hard work and kindness. I promise to try not to leave my dirty cups lying around anymore, and I promise not to take life’s privileges for granted.

As long as no one takes away my giant desk. I totally deserve that.


A version of this post originally appeared on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.” Click here to listen to the always clean version.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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51 Responses to Three dirty cups of coffee

  1. The desk is primo, but the wallpaper is positively Kafkaesque!

  2. Paul says:

    What a honkin’ big desk you have mister. That must truly endear your charms to the women. A real chick magnet.I may be mistaken but I think it is large enough to register as a territory unto itself – “The Plains of Murray”. It’s certainly bigger than Leichtenstein. I did notice, however, that your desk chair does not have arms – and we know that all chairs have the right to bear arms. Besides, if your desk is gong to be a republic you’ll have to have an army (chair). Ha!

    So, onto coffee cups. The last office I worked in was an open format dispatch office (that’s done deliberately so that dispatchers/managers can all hear what each is saying and include it in ther plan). We did have our own coffee cups (brought from home) but often used the foam cups stacked by the coffee maker. Every day at exactly 3:30 pm, the lead dispatcher would start his line up for the next day while the rest of us finished up the current day. Matching 30 tankers, 50 drivers with 150 customers including all the attending details (even down to stupid stuff like drivers with beards cannot unload at Petro-Can’s Montreal Refinery because they have to be able to be fitted with full gas masks in case of a fire and beards prevent that) is a very ponderful situation. So, every day at 3:30 Blair (the lead dispatcher) would get up from his desk and walk, in a very distracted manner, to the coffee maker and pour himself a coffee in a styrofoam cup while deep in thought. He would then walk in a preoccupied manner back to his desk. This repititious behaviour left him wide open for pranks. Sooo, one day, Blair stepped out for a smoke about 3:15 and while he was gone one of us (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) poked a small, unnoticeable hole in the bottom of the first three styrofoam coffee cups – and we waited. Sure enough, just like clockwork, Blair got up from his desk, walked to the coffee maker, took the top cup and filled it with hot coffee. Being preoccupied, he picked it up and started back to his desk before he realized coffee was streaming out of the bottom of the cup and burning his leg as he walked. He let out a curse, turned and grabbed the next coffee cup and emptied the coffee into that. As he picked it up, coffee ran out the bottom and continued to burn him. Another string of curses and he grabbed a thrid cup and dumped the coffee in there. It too started to leak coffee all over the counter (he was too smart to pick this one up before he checked). With another string of unrepeatable words, he threw the remaining coffee from the cup into the sink, grabbed his ceramic cup from home and poured his coffee. By this time the rest of us were laughing so hard, it was difficult to remain in our chairs (in fact, one guy did roll on the floor, but I think he was being a bit dramatic). Naturally, we then all lined up and poured ourselves coffee in styromoam cups and went back to our desks. .

    • rossmurray1 says:

      You would have remained in your chairs if they had had arms. (Just wanted to bring it all back home…)
      What a mean and wonderful story. Great for April Fool’s Day. Not a single prank did I witness today! What’s going on? Nor did I set one up? What’s going on II?

  3. Amanda Fox says:

    You literally make me laugh out loud Ross, and I’m not just saying that.

    That desk is sweeet, no doubt, but I hear you about the clutter. And nine meals until anarchy? I say less than one meal. I don’t know about yours (but I’d suspect they are the same), when my kids haven’t eaten in over two hours, all hell breaks loose.

    Great post!

  4. Ned's Blog says:

    It doesn’t seem fair that I, a man who lives in an actual tsunami zone and doesn’t even own hip-waders, has a work desk the size of a TV tray and… hold on a second…

    …It has foldable legs! AAAAggghhh. It IS a TV tray!

    Anyway, I should at least be entitled to an inflatable work station. But I’m happy for you, though.

  5. markbialczak says:

    I think a hefty gift card from Tim Horton’s for Dian is in order, Ross. Or a case of Lemon Pledge so she can dust that desk of yours once.

  6. Trent Lewin says:

    Dude, you were on CBC? That’s cool. I love CBC, passionately. I don’t think I knew you were Canadian, but that’s also very cool. You’re also an excellent writer, I have to say, this is the first thing other than your Freshly Pressed post that I read.

  7. I loved this post. As a customer service rep, I deal with a lot of really entitled people basically every day. And I complain about them a lot. And then I go home and take all the things my husband does for me – many of which he totally doesn’t have to do – for granted. Go me. It’s nice to be reminded to look at myself, too. Which I tend to do more when someone else admits fault in themselves.

    Though our cleaning staff is not nearly as efficient. They always rearrange everything on my desk and leave it less organized than it was before T_T; at least they don’t touch my mostly decorative plushies.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I increasingly think entitlement is at the root of a lot of our social problems. Probably marital ones too. 🙂 Glad you think about it. I try to as well. It ain’t easy, though.

  8. If they gave awards for post titles, this would sweep all the categories.

    Has anyone made the “big desk, big cock” joke yet? If not…let me be the first.

    Queen Murray should be your drag name. If it isn’t already, that is.

    I hope you give Dian a fat tip around the holiday season. If you haven’t, you owe her for “a great many back-payments”.

    You name-checked Graham Greene in my comment section and here you mention P.G. Woodhouse. Have you been raiding my bookshelves while I’m at work? Knock it off.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Funny, this morning, I was lamenting that no one had written, “It’s not the size of your desk, it’s how you push the paper,” so now I feel better.

      My brother’s gay, so I wouldn’t want to take that away from him.

      Re tip: I do. I really do.

      Wodehouse? Oh! “Jeeves.” Right. Never read any of those stories but have always been so close. I suppose I should, eh? I often get Wodehouse mixed up with Waugh (whom I have read).

  9. ksbeth says:

    don’t feel bad, my ‘desk’ is an oval shaped rug, and i am generally surrounded by a twitchy gaggle of kindergarteners. our poor custodians have seen it all. i am always apologizing in advance, as well as after, each time we’ve been in the room.

  10. byebyebeer says:

    Phew, I was pretty relieved to read the caption that this was your desk after a tidying up. That looks pretty neat to me. I too have a large desk (though not as big as yours, don’t worry) and fill all available space like it’s a kitchen cabinet or something. My coworker has a similarly sized desk and hers is neat as a pin and frankly I think she does it just to remind me that not everyone is a slob. You’ve somehow inspired me to take everything off and wipe it down and maybe even file some crap. Tomorrow, though.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I had cleaned it off before I went away for a week because I knew Dian was coming in for her annual attack. I also tend to tidy up when my computer crashes because what else am I going to do?

  11. benzeknees says:

    You have such a nice cleaner! I am so pleased you spent a post thanking her! In my home, hubby does all the dishes – I never place a single dish, cup, plate, fork or spoon in the contraption called a dishwasher. Why? Because hubby complained 1 time too many about how I loaded a dishwasher – now it’s his job! I will occassionally take a dish OUT of the dishwasher & put it away in a cupboard, but NEVER put anything in.

  12. chaisme says:

    So true! The most unnoticed aspect is when we leave our homes and move outside( in a hostel or something). At our homes, our mothers do everything for us. Scolds us but gets the job done. And when we have to stay alone, stuff comes crashing(literally) on us when they are left undone, dirty, filthy and what not!

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