Tag Archives: irrational fear

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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Lame Adventure 398: The Million Dollar Migraine

In time for the holiday shopping season there’s an opportunity to own an authentic painting by Pablo Picasso worth one million dollars for $135.

Man with Opera Hat

Man with Opera Hat (Pablo Picasso 1914).

This is for a lottery that will be held December 18 in Paris. Tickets cost 100 Euros or $135. Only 50,000 tickets will be sold and it’s for a charitable cause, a fund-raising project to benefit the International Association to Save Tyre (AIST), a city in Lebanon that has taken a beating in military conflicts for decades. Tyre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its history goes back to the Phoenicians, making it slightly younger than dirt. The money raised would support two cultural initiatives: an arts center and a scholarly institute. This chicken would sooner study art in an infinitely safer place such as sitting on the third rail of the subway track. But possibly, Lebanon will transform into a country of unicorns and rainbows when this arts center opens. Why not donate 135 clams to a worthy cause and have a one in 50,000 shot at owning the ultimate conversation piece?  I don’t happen to have a spare 135 clams, especially during holiday spending season, and the painting lives in France. Here’s the fine print:

Party of first part excerpt.

Sending it stateside in time for a Christmas delivery reeks of hassle. A proxy could prove to be unscrupulous; someone named Jean-Claude d’Oily who might swap it out for a picture that looks more like this.

"Hey, this isn't in color!"

“Hey, this isn’t in color!”

Transporting a million dollar Picasso is complicated. It might behoove the winner, such as someone like myself, to take a trip to France to personally retrieve it. That would eliminate the shipping fee. As a woman of modest means I would need to cut more costs. Another way to pinch pennies is to avoid staying in a hotel. This would be a no time for sightseeing, grab and go operation, where we fly in and fly out. Naturally I would travel with my human shield: Milton.

Milton in his Thinking Cap.

Milton in his Thinking Chapeau.

With Milton in the dual role of protector and navigator — I have no idea where that warehouse in Gennevillieres is; we could inconspicuously transport it back to my humble abode in a Le Bon Marché department store shopping bag. This painting only measures 9 ½” x 12”. In fact, I could easily slip it into my messenger bag. Who would suspect that we would transport a million dollar 99-year-old Picasso in a shopping bag much less a canvas satchel along with a comb, antacid tablets and hand sanitizer?

The French: Can you believe those two stoo-peed Americans with the sanitized hands?

But it is as guaranteed as death, (value added) taxes and middle age weight gain that Milton will give me guff should I try to stuff it in the plane’s overhead bin.

Milton: No, you are not putting your Picasso in the overhead bin! That’s simply unheard of!

Me: Like it’s customary to carry a Picasso out of France in a shopping bag or satchel? Where the hell am I supposed to put it, or should I ask Brigitte Bardot over there?

Milton: Brigitte Bardot?

Me: That flight attendant. The blonde.

Milton: You think she looks like Bardot? Please. Mitzi Gaynor in 1975 if you’re looking at her through cataracts.

Me: Can we stay on topic here? It will be fine in the overhead bin. Let’s not over-think this.

To keep the peace, I’ll place the painting under the seat in front of me. So we get it back to New York without incident i.e., no one gets mugged or murdered. Then what do I do with it? Hang it on the wall in my crappy apartment?

Milton: Before you do anything else, you must insure it!

That means I have to call Geico, get past that annoying Gecko, and research how much they’ll fleece me. I anticipate that phone conversation would be priceless and knowing my luck I’ll be arguing with a customer service drone of indeterminate gender named Begonia. Maybe I could just slip my Picasso into one of those renter’s insurance policies costing $14.25 a month that more than covers all of my other worldly goods worth a combined value of $3,497 when I factor in my spin bike and the three-pack of socks I purchased in October. I could plead ignorance that I had no idea that storing a million dollar painting on a shelf next to my paper towels might increase the cost of my policy 75-fold.

While eating brunch with my pal Lola, who was born and raised in Spain but has lived in New York for decades, I mention this potential life crisis.

Me: My life is a never-ending headache — real or imagined.

Lola: If you win this painting, I’ll tell my sister to pick it up.

According to Google Maps, driving from Spain to France is the same distance as going from New York to Cincinnati, approximately 640 miles.

Google maps NYC to Cincinnati

Google maps Spain to France

Lola: I’ll sell it for you when I’m over there. Buy your ticket.

But I will resist the temptation. If I lose, I would be out the $135 I’m intending to spend on Christmas presents for all those nearest and dearest me: custom made soap-on-a-rope. But maybe you will want to take that one in 50,000 chance. If so, click here.