Lame Adventure 450: Water Cooler Torture

On my first workday morning of the New Year, I was the first member of my department in our office. I went through my usual machinations: turned on my computer, logged in and then approached the water cooler to make a cup of hot tea. Our water bottle was full, but only one drop of water dripped out of the hot spigot of our dual temperature cooler. I tested the cold spigot. Not a single drop emitted there. Bad sign.

I hightailed down three flights to the Accounting department where I filled my cup when no one was looking. Accounting hates my department, Design. They think we’re superfluous; my boss, Elspeth’s vanity project. I did not want to feel guilted into leaving a kidney and a dollar for them so I raced out their back door sight unseen. When I returned to my office, my colleague, Godsend, had arrived.

Godsend: Happy New Year!

Me: I think our water cooler shit the bed!

I bellowed for the company janitor on the Voice-of-God intercom that is heard throughout our entire six-story building and halfway across New Jersey. This was a crisis. He came quickly. I explained the situation. He disassembled our water cooler and discovered that it was frozen solid inside.

The big freeze.

The big freeze.

We unplugged it and waited a few hours for it to thaw. Once the ice melted, I plugged it back in and tried to run water out of it. Nothing flowed.

Debottled and dysfunctional (could double as a band's name).

Debottled and dysfunctional (could double as a band’s name).

The next morning, the water in the well had frozen again. Even though I am not a Water Cooler-ology major from MIT, I guessed that there was something wrong with the thermostat. This would be one of those repairs that would cost more than replacing the unit. It had been in use for the entirety of the ten years that I have been employed in the dual role of Minister of Tile and the Person Who Deals with the Crap No One Else Wants to Handle. It had probably been in continuous use for about fourteen years. I threw myself on the grenade and visited the immovable mountain that is the Accounting department to beg for a replacement. Spewing fountains of contempt, they’re fine if Design is parched.

I return to my desk, Google water coolers. Home Depot is a good source. I see one that I think will work perfectly for us. Elspeth tells me to order it.

Our new cooler arrives on Friday. Our shipping manager unpacks it and I proceed to conduct the setup. The only instructions are a red caution card hanging off the hot water spigot warning not to activate the cooler’s hot switch until after the tank is filled.

Heed this warning!

Heed this warning!

We plug in a new water bottle, wait for it to fill the tank and then I insert the cooler’s plug into the wall socket. Easy peasy.

Ta da!

Ta da!

A cloud of noxious vapor belches out of the cooler’s rear vent directly into my face. The fumes fill our office.

Even though it is nine degrees outside, Godsend opens the windows. I call our cooler’s manufacturer and get through to a technician. He diagnoses that a snafu occurred: it somehow shipped with the off-switch in the on position.

Hidden under this tape behind the black metal grate, the off switch is on.

Hidden under this tape behind the black metal grate, the off switch is on.

Because it seems to be working normally, he is keeping a file on it but will give us a replacement should it eventually malfunction. While I have him on the line, I ask how sanitary it is from the get-go. The conversation gets awkward.

Technician: Most people just pop in their water bottles and start using their coolers right away. [pause and translation: bad idea] They never clean them. [pause and translation: bad idea] No harm in running a few quarts of water through both spigots first.

I heed the message and flush out half the new bottle in a bucket. The stink in our office has faded, but Godsend remains traumatized from witnessing that cloud of vapor explode in my kisser. She has willies similar to the ones she suffered that time we noticed the copper-colored mineral buildup in our old cooler’s well.

Copper-colored much in old water cooler well.

Copper-colored dome in old water cooler well. Ew.

I’m not wild about personally doing a taste test of the new cooler’s water. I call Donald who works upstairs who agrees to be our guinea pig. Before drinking a cup of cold water and a mug of hot tea he tells me that if anything happens to him he has two words for me:

Donald: Screw you.

Me: Thank you for doing this for us.

Donald drinks. Godsend shudders. I check my watch wondering how long before it’s quitting time. He announces that the water tastes fine hot and cold. I get thirsty and try the water. I assure Godsend that it tastes good.

Same color as strychnine, but more refreshing.

Same color as strychnine, but more refreshing.

Me: It’s irrational to fear the water cooler.

Godsend remains unconvinced. I have ways to change her mind.

Psychological ploy.

Psychological ploy.

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44 responses to “Lame Adventure 450: Water Cooler Torture

  1. So I take it that all is going well so far. When will you put Godsend to the test?

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  2. What a lovely tile coaster for your cup of ???. Is it really water?

    Does Donald know Mikey from the cereal commercial years ago?

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    • Are you referring to my cup of strychnine-looking water, Jim? It has yet to burn a tunnel clear through my guts so I think it’s the real thing water-wise.

      I’ve been using that three inch utilitarian ceramic tile forever as my coaster. It’s a discontinued crackle color, iron red. I have a stash of them on my desk here at The Grind. It’s a perfect fit and will likely follow wherever I go whenever I decide to retire. It seems like I’m never going to quit working this gig especially now that we have a new water cooler.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So is the Trader Joe’s hot chocolate really good, V? Our new TJ’s opens next month. And it’s right around the corner from my office. Can’t wait! You were quite resourceful in solving the water cooler crisis – including convincing Donald to be your tester.

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    • Speaking of Donald, Cathy, only he has taste-tested the hot chocolate thus far. If he hated it he didn’t say and he’s not a shy guy. My guess is that it tastes a-okay. It’s a milk product, so I won’t go near it. The TJ’s near where I live is a nightmare. Once a month, I subject myself to the torture of going there to replenish my stash of organic chocolate. The checkout line is five minutes short of forever. I’m sure on your side of Paradise it will clock in at most 45 seconds.

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  4. I always wondered what that spigot on the left is for… Happy New Year!

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  5. Stranded on an island, in a desert, debottled under a dysfunctional fountain spewing contempt in a cloud of noxious vapor you were able to switch a frozen dry spell into a good read.

    Love it!

    R.

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  6. The ploy would work on me. I’m a sucker for hot chocolate.

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  7. You can’t live without water, V! I say it was all worth your trouble. I never would have thought to run water through it first, much less that it would spew noxious vapor. Everything is working properly now because of your good effort. I hope they appreciate you! You deserve comp tickets to the theater, at the very least.

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    • Amy, I was so eager to set it up, concerns about its sanitary state didn’t occur to me until after it belched that horrific vapor right at my face. That was a whole new morning via the asbestos zone. But yes, it’s working like a charm now. The Boss wasn’t in to witness my heroics so I don’t think any comp tickets to even five minute of street theater are heading my way, but I appreciate the suggestion.

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  8. I could not survive without my water cooler at work. I would have tested it for you in a heartbeat. Interesting about the cleansing. And alarming.

    What shenanigans we face at our daily trenches, eh?

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    • Indeed we do face the gauntlet of shenanigans at our Daily Grinds, Audra! Keep an eye on your cooler’s inner spigot. Once it starts resembling a copper penny in color, it might behoove you to clean it.

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  9. Maybe Godsend will come around if nobody dies in a week or two.

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    • Actually, Lois, she began quaffing it today when she realized that I have yet to grow a third arm out of the center of my back. Between you and me: it’s small so very easy to hide under my shirt.

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  10. I agree about the sanitary factor on those office water cooler things. While I love the hot water feature for a regular cuppa, I think swine flu may have originated on the water cooler spigot. My office is mega-downsized so I used that for an excuse to get out of the water club and just use my own little kettle and bottles now. I haven’t been sick since … just sayin’ …

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  11. I hope the cloud of noxious vapour didn’t cause you to develop any unwanted super-powers, LA. They have a bit of a reputation for doing that kind of thing.
    I remember using one of those intercom tannoy loud-speaker things decades ago, as I needed to request someone to move their car as they were blocking someone else in. I’m sure the message reached Iceland, Ireland and Norway, it was that loud. The building shuddered, I tell you.
    Glad to hear you can get a decent cuppa once again though!

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    • That’s hilarious, Tom, you using a Voice-of-God intercom to make some deadbeat move his or her car! I love it! If inhaling a face-full of toxic vapor momentarily provided me with the capability to fly, I was too busy calling our cooler’s manufacturer to get to the bottom of what had gone wrong. By the time the call was over, I was back to merely mortal me. Alas, another missed opportunity! But, I so appreciate savoring a decent morning cuppa without having to sneaky-siphon water out of the Accounting department’s cooler!

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  12. What a coincidence, I was just shopping on-line for a hot & cold water dispenser this morning. We have two at work. One we own and the other is a rental that costs us $400/yr. We can buy one for that sum or less that hooks directly to a water line, and through the miracle of reverse osmosis, purify it to state that even Al Gore would feel safe to swim in.

    Once installed, I’ll send a bottle up for Donald to test.

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    • You know the two magic words Donald has for you, Russell. Everyone in my department (i.e., Godsend included) is enjoying the new cooler now. The Boss was grateful that she wasn’t around when it blew up in my face. When you get yours, make sure your on-off switch is truly off.

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  13. A few months ago, my office got a new coffee machine. The previous one had been broken for years. This one has choices of about 12 tea and coffee packets that you can insert so it will brew a fresh cup each time. When they came to install the machine, you should have seen how we all gathered around, waiting like groupies at a Grateful Dead concert.
    Enjoy your new cooler!

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    • Several years ago our Big Bossman got bitten by the single serve packet-style coffee machine bug. It didn’t make tea. How discriminating! But no one wanted to clean it and the novelty wore off especially when new gourmet coffee shops opened nearby. So, the coffee drinkers went there. My former sidekick, Greg, was my department’s self-made barrista. Before moving on, he taught Godsend how to brew it, but she hated doing that. Elspeth got her a single serve coffee press. Coffee is so complicated (but this week Godsend’s pounding hot chocolate). Give me the simplicity of a teabag and a dual temperature cooler.

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  14. I love that you have a taste tester now. Will Donald add that to his resume? Shows his teamwork.

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  15. I fill my water cooler with scotch, which freezes at a much lower temperature than water.
    By the way, I gotta get me one of those “Voice-of-God” intercoms.

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  16. As an update to everyone else: I unfortunately foiled the hot cocoa scheme by taking out my not-so-secret reserve of soy milk in fridge.

    … But then I ended up guzzling down water later on because our photography room doubles as a sauna.`

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  17. Congratulations for saving the day! Wonderful post 🙂

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  18. My first time here. Looks like I will be a follower with a lot of reading to do of past blogs.
    I can relate to the water cooler story and being the one to take care of these type of things. I am old so it comes natural to compare the new ways to the old. Google is great, compared to looking through the yellow pages. But I thought hip New Yorkers don’t like the big box stores and support the small mom & pop business? Do you get many godfather comments, V Antonelli?

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    • If there’s a hip water cooler available at the hip water cooler store, I’m not hip enough to know where that is, Tom.

      If you’re referring to the film, The Godfather, when I visited Francis Coppola’s vineyard a few years back and wrote about it then, that’s when I got comments. But since that post, no.

      Thanks for the follow.

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  19. Duuuuuuude I would have never thought to clean that out either, just assumed it was sanitized. When they sent it over to me . Next time we get a new one…which may be soon, I’ll let the water run a bit. And good job on the TJ’s Hot Cocoa … that should definitely work.

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    • Clearly, we both assumed wrong about the sanitation aspect, Guat. My advice: flush it out. I’ve been quaffing it steadily for almost two weeks now and have yet to grow a third arm out of the middle of my back, so I think the water is safe. But Godsend, that stinker, has been making her hot chocolate with soy milk! Finally, she has started drinking the water straight.

      Liked by 1 person

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