"You look tired today"
This is what a co-worker told me after startling me out of the rhythm I'd been working since 6:30am, pouring over my gre books before the official start of the work day.
This phrase is essentially a euphemism for, "Wow, you look terrible."
Well of course I do! During a brief vacation to Madrid last week, I managed for the first time in a year to completely divorce myself from my work lifestyle and identity for an entire 7 days (albeit the one evening when I woke up in a sweaty panic over my forgetting to submit our final budget proposal...how bloody boring!). It's definitely challenging to re-adjust to early mornings and late nights when you've spent a week doing nothing but sipping coffee, watching people, and actually conversing about topics other than the latest watercooler gossip.
Of course, jet-lage aside, the real looked I looked exhausted was because I had not yet had my morning cup(s) o' joe, which I normally require even to look at my laptop.
For some strange reason, this office's coffee literally tastes like someone ground up a few tons of manure, slow roasted them for a few hours, and then brewed it with a few hundred gallons of tepid bathwater. The other bizarre part is that the only other option to regular poo-flavored coffee is a kind called "Santa's White Christmas," which for some unknown reason is a combination of vanilla, caramel, hazlenut, coconut, and crap. Whatever marketing genius somehow decided that this combination of flavors somehow suggests a wonderful white Christmas must have been snorting some other white stuff, because drinking it literally incinerates my tastebuds. There's nothing worse at 6:30 am to greedily gulp down that first swallow of life-giving coffee only to abruptly realize that you are having Christmas forced down your gullet two days after Easter. I mean, I know Jesus was a miracle worker and all but let's give the guy a break!
Needless to say, I need copious amounts of dairy/soy product to make this so-called coffee even remotely drinkable, and unfortunately I discovered today I am out of the glorious "Silk" soy milk that masks the odious flavor of the Santa coffee.
Unfortunately, my primal need for caffeination me to resort to savage practices that many humans only adopt under the most dire conditions, Lord of the Flies- style.
Now, normally, I'm not a thief...in fact, I probably haven't stolen something since the time when I was 7 and swiped 50 cents from my Dad to buy Doritos, and after my guilty smile revealed the orangey powder still crusted all over my teeth and lips, was grounded from the library for a week ( you can tell what kind of cool kid I was).
And in most offices, a couple borrowed teaspoons of milk would probably not be that big of a deal, but because of a recent rash of Lean-Cuisine thefts, the fridges have been plastered with signs reading, "If you don't make it, don't take it," and other such threatening messages.
So stealing it was. I first had to do recon in the kitchen, where I knew precious extra milk was tucked away behind the decaying corpse of someone's leftover lunch. Unfortunately, this being early morning, there were tons of people drifiting in and out, so in an attempt to seem inconspicuous, I smiled innocently and exchanged the normal pleasantries about the weather (blah blah--I swear, the only reason people live in Chicago is because they can always use bad weather as a conversation starter, rather than endure an awkward silence or think of something meaninful to say. It's truly a refuge for the socially dysfunctional....this is probably why Northwestern is located here.).
Anyway, after awkwardly finding excuses to wander back and forth from cube to kitch, my moment arrived. Modeling myself after Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment I opened the fridge and gracefully weaved my way through sundry lunches, sodas, and strangely, a box of yogurts labeled "Posionous-Do Not Eat!" to snag the milk, quickly slop a half cup into my mug, slam shut the door, and dash back to my desk without getting caught. No Chinese water-torture or (worse) HR policy meetings for me today, I thought proudly.
I triumphantly slurped my coffee until I looked down and noticed an insidious brown stain spreading across my sleeve where the coffee had spilled during my hasty retreat. I frowned, and although I could feel the caffeine working its magic, the thought occured to me:
While I no felt or appeared exhausted, I still somehow managed to look like crap.