Despite maintenance having seen to it that The Naughty Room now basks in a relentless Saharan heat, work is work, and thus tea is still a staple of Naughty Room life. As all tea lovers know, a proper cup of tea requires milk, and as all Marxists know, invariably the result of needing to add milk to make proper tea is theft. Fortunately though, I need not be drawn into the murky world of bovine juice hustling: I have managed to lobby for milk to be added to my project’s budget, so usually have a decent supply on hand.
"Fuck off stealing my milk," my milk reads as I fetch it from the communal kitchen's fridge. An angry line has been drawn round the bottle, but it is already a good 2cm above the level of milk, someone already seemingly having stolen in. The note is neatly sellotaped on; some time has gone into this. This is not my work; someone else has mistakenly laid a claim to my since pilfered milk.
In my ordered workplace - where we all smile wordlessly at one another and hold doors open for each other whilst ensuring we don’t enter into any form of conversation other than an inane “Hello!” – the communal kitchen is the Wild West. Beneath our polite exteriors, there are some clearly troubled souls in our department, and the kitchen is where all the darkness and concealed rage and mischief can be unleashed.
A note has long been pasted to the wall.
“MSc students,” it reads, “please clean the microwave as leaving it dirty poses a health and safety risk”. (Quite what raises PhD students or staff members above suspicion of splattering the interior with now crusty mircowaveable spaghetti bolognaise, I don't know. I suspect it is just some wag's attempt to get the down trodden minority group to do the cleaning for the rest of us). Some pedant has underneath penned that "You Raise Issues, and Pose Questions".
That is the sort of dynamic of our kitchen environment. We leave the kitchen in a sty-like state, and leave high and mighty notes around, with even higher and mightier defacements. Any normal person would surely write "It doesn't pose a health and safety risk you mong, it just fucking mings".
And so, aside from poor hygiene, we are also plagued by thieves amongst our number, most notably of milk.
I’m pretty sure I am the number one suspect of the most targeted milk theft-victims’ office. The sound of me shutting the Naughty Room door and start shuffling to the kitchen seems to more often than not prompt a goon from their office to bluster out, with some reason to also be going to the kitchen, only to fiddle with the kettle in a confused manner when he finds me nowhere near the milk.
“Alright?” I’ll say, with scant regard for our uncommunicative workplace culture.
“Yes, yes,” he’ll vigorously nod before pointlessly opening a bare cupboard or two, anything to get a stay of execution until he can watch me leave the kitchen.
I’d say something more, but the goon has the very thick neck of a goon who spends his evenings lifting very large weights in an attempt to mask his goonishness. I’m not saying he could have me or anything though readers. I would still win.
I look at my two cups of milkless tea, and again at the note, and scratch my head wondering what to do. I soon realise I am being a bit silly worrying about it; this is, after all, my milk, so I shrug and pour a generous serving into each mug.
A slamming door and approaching feet throws me into panic, and I hop from foot to foot as I try and quickly but quietly put the milk – my milk – back in the fridge. It turns out to be a false alarm. Well and truly spooked – but, you know, not scared of the muscle-bound goon or anything – I guiltily scurry back to The Naughty Room.
Regaining my composure, I pen a note, in elaborate script, in which I touch upon such subjects as the perils of milk theft and the need for heightened vigilance in these light-fingered environs and thank them for their protective concern, but am at polite pains to point out it is in fact my milk.
In the 2 minutes it has taken me to make my way to The Naughty Room, construct my rebuttal, and return to the kitchen, someone has nipped in already.
"Mind your language, oaf" the note reads, having been taped onto my bottle over the previous missive. I again find myself wondering what to do. I don't want my note to be outshone by the work of – presumably - the gloating thief. I have no malice towards the thief – milk comes from expenses (and cows too, obviously) so I’m happy to spread the wealth – and I am rather enjoying the psychological havoc they are clearly reeking on my rival office.
I resolve to sneak out and return in 20 minutes so both notes can have a separate impact. In the meantime, I take my milk, and dilute it with water from the tap until the level is now well above the marked line. That’ll mess with the goon’s fat-neck-squatting head.
5 weeks ago