The Water Cooler!




Här är den ju, den nyss utlovade helgläsningen. Den är ganska lång. Och på engelska. Men läs ändå. Tack.

 

‘Aaah, can anything taste as good as a glass of water when you’re thirsty?’ I ask after taking a few big zips from my cold, fresh, plastic cup of H2O, while the tank says blubblubblubb.

‘I guess not,’ Mandy says to break the awkward silence after my outburst. Mandy couldn’t stand awkwardness.

‘Agree with you there, mate,’ Paul says, following Mandy’s lead, while giving me the good old “wink and the gun”. That was kind of his thing. He always gave people the “wink and the gun”.

‘Yes! Water! I like water!’ the always cheerful Ganda cries as the turn came to him. Ganda was brought up on the savannas of Africa, the exact country is still a mystery to us, and the fact that you can get water when ever you wish is still a hallelujah moment for him, despite coming here 25 years ago.

‘HOLD ON! Of course there’s better tasting things than water, no matter how thirsty you are.’ Giovanni had spoken. Giovanni is Italian. Giovanni drinks wine. Giovanni is a drunk. Giovanni hates me, and never agrees with anything.

 

It’s funny isn’t it? How you hear about the cliché that people hang around the water cooler all day while at work, telling awkward stories about their awkward friends to awkward colleagues. But just because it’s a cliché it doesn’t mean it’s not true. If there was anywhere we all liked to hang out at work, anywhere we all felt comfortable; it was by the water cooler. Fair enough if the water cooler is the centre of the office, but here it’s not even close to that. It’s in a dark, dusty corner, way in the back of the lunch room, which itself you can only access if you walk down the corridor, make a left, make a right, high five the security guard, and shake it all about.

 

I for one should especially dislike that people hang out by “Coolio”, as I call it, simply because I’m the boss. I’m the chief, I’m the executive, I’m the VP, and I’m the man. I’m the fucking man. I run this place, and I do so with a hand of stone, gently covered in the fur of a kitten.

 

Blubblubblubb. Hans always gets warm water from “Coolio”. He makes tea with it. It kind of ruins the whole purpose of a water cooler, but what can you do? Hans is Hans and Hans he will always be. He’s definitely a bit of an outsider, German as he is. I can’t see that anyone really likes him around here. One time he was asked: ‘Are you actually an ancestor of Adolf Hitler?’ It was Ganda who asked him so no one can be certain if it was a serious question or not, but still, adult bullying at its best.

 

‘So, I walk down the high street, and on my right, in a shop, there’s a guy juggling three oranges,’ I tell Hans and Paul by “Coolio” later that day. ‘So I stop. I go in. They look at me. I look at them. And I tell him: I can do that with four oranges. So the guy says: Oh yeah? Prove it. I never considered he was actually going to make me do it, because I had never done it and had no idea if I knew how to. But I picked up four oranges, started juggling, and it worked.’

‘Amazing!’ Paul says and winks and guns me. Why would anyone who was actually going to kill someone first wink at the person, and then blast his head off?

‘I can do five…’ Giovanni steps into the room.

 

Awkward silence.

 

It was as if Zorro had just challenged Captain Ramon to a duel. It was as if Superman and Lex Luthor were about to settle their differences with a break dance-battle.

 

All three of us wished Mandy would have been there to break the awkward silence as she always did. But she wasn’t. So instead we silently agreed to just stay quiet. It was like one of those moments when you’re on the tube, and a tramp steps onto the train and start telling some made up sob story about his poor old self and his poor old life – everyone just stay quiet and look away, and hopefully he’ll keep walking.

 

Unfortunately, Giovanni was no tramp. Giovanni didn’t keep walking. Giovanni never kept walking. Why could he not just keep walking? I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t like Giovanni. Between you and me, and that’s you an me only(!), Giovanni kind of scared me…

 

I remember clearly the day when we got “Coolio”. Giovanni had just started working with us and with that, he started his quest to challenge my authority. I was in the hallway around midday talking to Ganda about the memo I’d sent out about our new, chilly, water filled friend. I had done the memo future-style, using a different font for each word of the text. There was Helvetica, there was Colibri, there was Colibri Bold, there was Minion (like the filet) Pro, there was Verdana and there was Wingdings – that weird one that replaces each word with a symbol that no one understands, which is probably the reason why everyone thought we were going to throw drinking glasses at each other. Everyone except Ganda though. He understood perfectly well. Since then I still wonder whether I had actually cracked that secret language of his. Perhaps Wingdings is the official language of the African savannas?

 

That was why I was talking to him in the hallway that day. Everyone else had either locked themselves up in their offices, afraid of falling victim of the drinking glass-fight, or suited up in Speedos and banana hammocks and gone out to battle in the lunch room.

‘See symbol?’ Ganda asked me and pointed at one that looked like a coat hanger with a top hat, ‘that mean happy day!’

‘Yes Ganda, I know, I wrote the memo.’ I didn’t really know.

‘Yes! You wrote the memo?!’ Ganda said with his Ganda-smile.

‘I like that we can communicate like this on a…’

Blubblubblubb. Giovanni showed up from around the corner. Giovanni had a fire hose in his hands. Giovanni hosed Ganda and me down good.

 

1. That was the first time Giovanni started annoying us, me, him, her, them, you.

 

‘…I can do five,’ Giovanni repeats himself while grabbing a plastic cup to fill up with water. The silent tramp-tactics clearly didn’t work. Me, Paul and Hans looked at each other from the corner of our eyes, asking the other what do to or say next. No one had an answer.

 

‘What? You don’t believe me?’ Giovanni asks us and punches Hans on the shoulder. I could tell it hurt. It must have. It would have on me. Hans grabbed his bruised shoulder, trying to rub the pain away. Suddenly he got a facial expression like one of those ugly cats with their noses pushed up into their face, like a pig. Hans was crying.

 

136. This was the hundred and thirty sixth time Giovanni was annoying us, me, him, her, them, you.

 

For once I wished Paul would wink and gun someone, either Giovanni or myself, but I wanted the gun to be real.

‘Really? Where did you learn to do that?’ my mouth finally opens.

‘When I was working as a street performer,’ Giovanni answer with a smug grin on his face.

Aaah, so that’s why the tramp-tactics didn’t work. Giovanni wasn’t a normal tramp. Giovanni was one of those posh tramps that didn’t realise that people who kept quiet actually didn’t want to talk to him. He just kept pushing his little tricks in your face to scam you of every possession you’ve got, no matter if it’s your money or your pride.

‘Fine. The weekly fruit delivery should be here this afternoon. You can show us then,’ I say to Giovanni while being surprised of my courage.

‘I will,’ he replies.

‘You shall,’ I reply back.

‘I know,’ he says.

‘You better,’ I say and quickly leave the room. I hear Giovanni mumble as I disappeared through the door, ‘vaffanculo,’ he says out loud. Victory!

 

Our offices are a bit different from others. A couple of years ago when we decided the place needed refurbishment I demanded to get control of the entire design work. The interior designer was tough but I bribed her with a Snickers bar and a free membership to a strip club I had “found” in my pocket. She was a “food loving” lesbian so that day it was like Christmas to her. With my newly gained power, I was going to turn the new offices into an orgy of awesomeness. It was going to become the ultimate office; the coolest work place on earth; the centre of the solar system. Literally.

 

I made it into a sun.

 

My office is, as one would assume, in the middle of the floor with all the others’ surrounding it like sun beams. I’ve got a round room with glass walls so I can see everything going on outside. Unfortunately, it also means that everyone can see what’s going on inside. So I had to stop playing darts during work hours; I had to throw away my robot dog that cheered me up when I was sad (I didn’t, I took it home, I could never throw away “Junior”); I had to learn how to look busy when someone passed by. I tried to tint the glass, but it felt like I was stuck in a dark, black hole so I removed it.

 

‘The fruit is here, what can I get you?’ Paul says as his head pops through the glass door of my office.

‘Nothing, I’ll come with you,’ I answer and start the long walk to the lunch room, to “Coolio” and to Giovanni’s highly anticipated failure.

‘So, you know that cute girl who works down at the coffee shop in the lobby?’ Paul asks me. I didn’t have a clue who he was talking about.

‘Yeah, yeah of course… Do you realise what’s about to happen? We’re about to see Giovanni eat up his own words with a twist of lemon and perhaps a little bit of lime because they are going to be sour!’ I say to Paul.

‘Good, because I went down there earlier to try and talk to her. And I did. I talked to her. I talked to her for like 20 minutes. But all I could talk about was how my dad grew up on a farm and learned to drive a tractor at nine years of age. I think I was making a connection to the coffee beans and the bags they were shipped in to the factories because they look like the bags potatoes were shipped in and they had potatoes at the farm where my dad grew up,’ Paul goes on.

‘A hundred and thirty six times has he been pestering us now. I remember every single one of them. But no more! I’m putting an end to this today. I’m the big dog here. Not some spaghetti eating, leg shaving, Vespa-driving pansy,’ I say as I walk taking one powerful step after the other.

‘And then, when I realised I was making an arse out of myself, she started talking to me and showed interest in me. And that’s after my potato story. So of course I got scared and I didn’t know what to do… so I slapped her and ran to the lifts,’ Paul continues.

‘This is going to be the best day of my life I think. I’m gonna celebrate all afternoon… wait, what?’ I ask, coming out of my own world.

‘What?’ Paul says, understanding what he had just said.

‘You slapped her?’

‘No I didn’t.’

‘You just said you did.’

‘No I didn’t.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Eh… yeah. I just winked at her and gave her the gun,’ Paul says and start walking faster.

Did he just say he slapped a woman?

 

Awkward silence.

 

‘Hey, are you ready for the show?’ Mandy breaks it when she meets us by ‘Coolio’. Thank god for Mandy. I could marry her just to have her follow me around and break silences.

‘What show?’ Paul and I ask simultaneously.

‘That show,’ Mandy answer and points towards the other side of the lunch room.

 

Giovanni had prepared a stage made out of tables and had put up curtains in front of it so that it looked like a hobby magic show straight out of a 10-year-olds play house. Meanwhile people were gathering in the room, Giovanni’s little assistant, Guiseppe, was running around setting up chairs in rows for people to sit and enjoy the spectacle.

 

Giovanni was in no need for an assistant in his job position, meaning that Guiseppe wasn’t actually hired by the company. He was paid out of Giovanni’s own pocket just to hang around and do this sort of thing, I suppose.

 

‘Get ready for the one, the only GIOOOOOVAAAANNNIIII!’ Guiseppe was up on stage as if he was ready to shout, “Let’s get ready to rumble”. He pulled the curtains away and behind them was Giovanni. In his hands were five oranges. He bowed and took a couple of deep breaths, preparing for the most important juggle in history.

 

He was ready to throw the first orange up in the air. It was all in slow motion now, which was kind of unfair because it would make it easier for him. Then it was time for orange number two. And three. So far everything was going the right way – or wrong in my case. The fourth orange flew slowly threw the air as it left Giovanni’s hand. Suddenly it bumped into orange number two and the whole audience held their breath. Except for me, I was ready to kiss Mandy out of happiness. But somehow, Giovanni managed to steer the orange with his forehead, back into the right position to keep juggling. And as he got into the flow again, the fifth orange was thrown up in the air, and the five-orange-juggle was a fact.

 

I dropped my cup of water on the floor. I was dead quiet. Everyone else was cheering and shouting.

 

137. This was the hundred and thirty seventh time Giovanni was annoying us, me, him, her, them, you.

 

I stood by “Coolio” watching everyone else being happy, or at least pretending to be, for Giovanni and his precious little oranges. Apparently he was the king of the day. “Coolio” was my only friend at that moment. ‘Did you see that? It was amazing!’ Paul comes up to me with a smile as wide as a lorry, and Hans follows behind him.

‘Neeh, it wasn’t that special,’ I say admiring the curves of the water tank and the light blue colour of the plastic. That beautiful, beautiful water cooler.

‘Oh, no of course not,’ suck-up Paul says. ‘You can do it with six right?’ he continues and gives me a couple of fake punches in the stomach.

‘Pretend boxing? What happened to “the wink and the gun”?’ I ask.

‘I felt the urge to beat up Hans here earlier so I tried this, and I think it’s going to be my new thing,’ he answers. Hans didn’t say a word.

‘Hmm. I like it’ I reply, grabbing a new cup and fill it up with some cold, fresh, see through liquid.

 

Blubblubblubb. As the tank bubbled up it suddenly came to me. I knew now what I had to do to beat Giovanni once and for all. I had to beat him in a boxing match. But not just any boxing match. I had to beat him in a video game boxing match.

 

One could think that with my round glass office I would see a lot of weird things going on around the corridors or in the others’ offices. But I don’t. The strangest thing I’ve seen here happened about six months ago. Not here by the offices though. This happened in the lunch room, of course. Mandy was in there for a quick slurp of water and then Ganda walked into the room with the same goal in mind. They stood there with a cup in each hand looking at each other.

‘So, how are you Ganda?’ Mandy asked.

‘He are fine,’ Ganda replied and asked, ‘how are Mandy?’

‘Mandy are pretty fine too,’ she answered, making fun of Ganda without him even noticing.

‘Is your report going well?’ he asked her.

‘Yep…’ Mandy said.

At that moment I was about to enter the lunch room, but when I stepped through the door I decided to stay in the hallway and just take a sneak peak. You see, even though Mandy hated awkward silences more than anything, even she ran out of words to say to break it once in a while. Because of Ganda’s… let’s just call it “limited skills in the English language”, that was exactly what had happened. And when so does, Mandy turn to her sexuality. When she didn’t know how to break the silence between her and Ganda, she jumped on top of him and started kissing him like there was no tomorrow.

 

I know this because I got a bit too curious and happened to hit the light switch in the hallway with my shoulder. They saw me and Mandy then came and explained what had happened. Since then not a single day has gone by without me trying to have an awkward silence between Mandy and me alone.

 

‘LEEEET’S GET READY TO RUUUMBLEEEEE!!’ Guiseppe is actually shouting the famous fight quote this time. I would like my own “let’s get ready to rumble”-guy too. I wonder how much Giovanni is paying him?

‘I can’t believe this is happening! I’ve never been so happy in my entire life!’ Paul is standing behind my back, holding my arm and jumping of excitement.

‘Win! Win! Win!’ Ganda cheers from somewhere in the back.

Hans is mostly mumbling something in German and punching the air, sort of like Paul does. I’ve always wondered if Hans was kind of “in” to Paul. That would probably ruin the whole Hitler-theory though.

‘Here’s some cold water,’ Mandy says and even pours it into my mouth so that I don’t have to wear my arms out before the most important video game boxing match ever. Since the day I stumbled across her kissing Ganda by “Coolio”, I had leverage on Mandy because she didn’t want me to tell anyone, which meant that she did almost everything I asked her to do. And the water served by her tasted like the liquid of heaven.

‘You’re going down!’ Giovanni says to me while putting his game face on. Giovanni had an actual “game face” – a video game-mask with special glasses that enhanced the contours of the characters, it was awesome. Giovanni was an arse.

‘Care to make it a bit more interesting?’ I ask him.

‘Always! How?’ he replies.

‘If I lose, I quit and the water cooler goes in your office. If you lose, you get fired and “Coolio” comes home to daddy.’

‘DEAL!’ Guiseppe suddenly interrupts. I always hated that little bastard.

‘You heard the man. You’ve got a deal,’ Giovanni concurs.

 

The fight was on. 12 three minute-rounds of artificial violence. A square circle surrounded by soft ropes in white, blue and red. Two buckets with spit. Two white towels. But this wasn’t going to end with someone giving up. This was going to end with a knock-out.

 

After six rounds no one was closer than the other to win. I was sweatier than a fat man trying to make it to McDonalds before they stopped serving breakfast, to be able to get his daily Egg McMuffin. I had to take a water break. I had to talk tactics with “Coolio”.

 

Six cups of pearly water, five rounds and 2.45 minutes later, there was a winner. One fighter was knocked-out on the video game boxing ring floor. The whole room was quiet, until:

‘YOU’RE FIRED…! You’re fired! You’re fired! You’re fired! Get out! From now on “Coolio” will be in my office, and if anyone wants a drink, you’re all welcome!’ I shout across the room, breaking that wonderful silence. Everyone cheered. Except for Giovanni. Giovanni left. Giovanni was gone. Giovanni never came back.

 

Later that afternoon, when everyone had gone home for the day, I was sitting in my office admiring my trophy, “Coolio”, when Mandy suddenly walks into the office.

‘Oh, I thought everyone had left,’ I say.

‘No, I have so much work to do; I’ll probably be here for a while. Just came for some water,’ she answers. ‘That was some fight you won. I’m impressed,’ she continues with a smile.

‘Thanks! I knew I was going to beat him.’

‘Me too,’ she says. But she didn’t know what to do next. We were all alone.

 

Awkward silence.

 

Blubblubblubb. Mandy was lost for words.

 

 



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