"I don't make coffee" has been one of the first sentences I utter at new jobs. Having grown up through the accepted office tradition that the 'girl' makes the coffee it's always been crucial to make clear that was not part of my job description. As a writer who's made much of my living doing 'day jobs' that pay way more than my royalties I often found, especially in those early years, that I was the low 'girl' on the proverbial totem pole, down on that rung where coffee-making was expected. And I grew up drinking tea anyway so could ignore the coffee pot if I wanted to.
Once the pronouncement was made bosses were usually so startled it never came up again.
It worked much like my first job in a newspaper copy room (way back in the 60s). When editors at the desk wanted copy they screamed over the clatter of the teletype machines "BOY!" and we were meant to run out with the latest news as distributed by AP or REUTERS. I requested during my first week to please not yell BOY since I wasn't a boy. I asked as respectfully as I could when faced with a circle of middle aged, white men, reeking of power: could they risk the extra syllable and yell COPY. I knew I was changing an age-old tradition, but I WAS trying to change tradition simply by being a young woman of color going into journalism; and language is crucial to change, isn't it?
The first couple of times I was on duty they yelled copy and I just sat there. They soon became accustomed to that extra syllable...at least when I was on duty. The same with coffee. In most offices where I worked the coffee making became equally distributed.
Of course, when I drank coffee, especially the last cup in the pot, I then made coffee. I just don't want people to see it as a line on my resume.
This year my new year's resolution is to always make coffee. I've not lost my feminist vision! I have, however, decided to work out a problem created by another co-worker in my office who never makes coffee...NEVER! He'll take the first or the last cup without hesitation. He'll walk over to have coffee and if there is none just walk back with his cup to his desk. And I can see him from my desk so it infuriates me. Everyone else in the office will make coffee, but never him; not in four years.
So I started to become obsessed. He always comes in late so if he wasn't in yet, I'd pour out the last cup...or put it in an extra cup in my office...or drink it... just so the pot would be empty when he got in. Or afternoons I'd make just three cups and email the finance director and bookkeeper and we'd have the coffee. I was obsessed with not letting him take advantage. Of course, this defect is just symbolic of a number of other ways that he takes advantage of his co-workers or simply opts out of team spirit...from never taking the mail even if he's the last person in the office...always being late...finding ways to get out of office clean up days, etc. So the coffee is just the last straw, or the last plastic stirrer!
I realized, however, that playing that game was really unsatisfying and he remained oblivious. So I resolve in 2011 to make coffee whenever it's called for and not worry about his consumption. It may end up providing him with coffee but I no longer want to feel like I'm deliberately trying to do him out of it. It made me feel mean-spirited and petty. I know that he won't change his ways...he's been asked to and he just doesn't and he knows there are no consequences.
I don't want the wonderful idea of making a pot of coffee for my co-workers to be ruined by one person who's a jerk. Preparation of all food and beverages should be done with love. That was one of the reasons I didn't want to be the 'girl' making the coffee in an office. There was no love in that, only servitude as if I agreed to devalue my professional self.
Making the coffee with love for my fellow co-workers feels good. I just have to learn to release those negative feelings about that one guy's poor manners and lack of team spirit. Ultimately the change will help me feel less of that futile anger and to learn...I hope...to embrace generosity no matter the circumstance.
Human beings are imperfect, unlike cats.