I briefly alluded to the tea-making facilities in the office where I work in the introduction to this post about a sudden craving I had for square teabags, but there is another key issue which has an enormous impact on the work-time tea-making experience. Spoons.

Regularly, when I go to make a cup of tea in the kitchen at work, there are no teaspoons in the cutlery drawer. Usually there aren’t any tablespoons either – they have already been used by other tea-makers looking for a teaspoon substitute. Forks are not really suitable (risk of tearing the bag). Some people, out of desperation, use a knife, although I do not really feel comfortable with this method. As a result, I am often reduced to using my fingers, like a savage.

Here, the square bag really comes into its own. Through careful pouring of water and milk, you can ensure that one corner of the bag rises above the surface, like a miniature paper iceberg. This means you don’t have to dip the tips of your fingers in the boiling water. A round teabag is useless in this situation.

The issue of the missing teaspoons is one which is particularly troubling to the facilities team who have been forced to buy new spoons at an alarming rate. A recent email from the head of facilities outlined the problem:

As of Wednesday night we only had 80 tea spoons in the whole building!

In just over 18 months we have spent nearly £500 replacing disappearing cutlery

336 Tea Spoons, 276 forks and 192 large spoons

But no knives have gone missing!!

What can be happening? Here’s some ideas:

Q: Are some being hoarded in desk pedestals?
A: If so let’s have an amnesty and please return them to the kitchen for use by all.

Q: Could they be being thrown away with breakfast bowls/ salad boxes etc after use?
A: If this is the case please don’t. They cost money and the cleaners do not sort through your bins to extract them. Return them to the kitchen.

Q: Could someone be taking them home?
A: Surely not. We only buy budget items so if you are please don’t as it wont impress your friends!

We will top them up at further cost to previous levels but if this rate of loss continues we will have to go to plastic disposable items to solve the problem. None of us want that! It doesn’t look good, it isn’t a very green approach and it still costs money.

As you can tell from the amount of exclamation marks used by the head of facilities, this is quite a serious problem.

In Richard Wiseman’s book Quirkology, he describes an investigation into the topic carried out by Megan Lim, Margaret Hellard and Campbell Aitken of the MacFarlane Burnet Institute For Medical Research in Melbourne:

The team secretly marked seventy teaspoons, placed each of them in one of eight communal kitchens at their Institute, and tracked the movement of the spoons over a five-month period. Eighty percent of the spoons went missing during this time, with half of them disappearing within the first eighty-one days. Additional questionnaire data revealed that 36 percent of people said they had stolen a teaspoon at some point in their lives, with 18 percent admitting to such a theft in the last twelve months.

I’m not wishing to suggest that the people at the MacFarlane Burnet Institute For Medical Research are unusually dishonest (although by their own admission, a third of the staff there are thieves), but I struggle to accept the suggestion that all teaspoon loss is due to theft.

I believe that the truth lies somewhere between the first two suggestions put forward by the head of facilities. Although with both of his suggestions, there seems to be an implication that people are acting maliciously. “An amnesty” for people “hoarding” teaspoons, implies that people are deliberately keeping a number of spoons in their desks (a pre-emptive strike, ensuring a private supply of spoons while at the same time making the problem worse for everyone else. It’s this kind of “every man for himself” mindset which usually gets you killed first during a zombie attack, so be warned, you selfish bastards). Similarly, the “return them to the kitchen” comment at the end of the second suggestion, implies that people are simply throwing the spoons in the bin because they can’t be bothered to go to the kitchen.

My belief is that the spoons are going missing through simple absent-mindedness. Who here has never accidentally thrown a spoon into the bin whilst dropping an empty yoghurt pot into the sink? We should show patience and understanding during these troubled times, not condemnation. Let he who is without sin, cast the first spoon.

EDIT: Oh, I should have mentioned an ironic twist to this whole teaspoon affair. On those few occasions when I go into the kitchen at work and am lucky enough to find a teaspoon in the drawer, I usually have a cup of coffee instead of tea as while forks and knives can be utilised when needed to strain a teabag, they are not suited to measuring out instant coffee granules.

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