June 07, 2007

Inconsiderate or Not?

Dear readers, I would like your opinion on something. You can probably guess where I stand on the issue, but I will try to describe it to you objectively.

Our office has a water cooler which uses 5 gallon water bottles to supply the water. Water will continue to flow for a short period of time after the water bottle is empty, but it is never unclear when the bottle is actually empty.

Some people in our office contend that so long as there is water still flowing, then everything is ok and no further action is required.

Others think that the bottle should be replaced as soon as it is empty.

One side makes sense because there really isn't an accurate way to gauge how much water is left in the tubing of the cooler. If water is flowing, then water is flowing and there may be as much as two cups of water remaining.

On the other hand, if one approaches the cooler and the bottle is empty, one logically knows that there is less than the total amount (about two cups or so) that the tubing can hold. Further, if the tubing is empty, then the cooler isn't cooling any water and the person who comes along and has to deal with a fresh bottle of water also has to drink warm-ish water.

Obviously, I fall into the latter camp. My thoughts on this are twofold.

First, there is an office rule, "If you kill the joe, you make some mo'. " Meaning, if you drink the last of the coffee, you make another pot. Opponents hold that they aren't using the last of the water available, they've only used the last of it in the bottle. I also point out that when one is driving one's car and the gauge is on E, you don't continue to drive until the car stops. You find a gas station and fill it up.

Second, not replacing the bottle, in my opinion, displays a crass lack of consideration that absolutely galls me. People who don't pay attention and take due effort to ensure that things run smoothly are people who cause problems. They're the ones who make it harder to navigate the subway or stairs or sidewalk. They're the ones who back up traffic because they don't want to get out of the left lane. They drink all but a tablespoon of milk or juice and put the bottle back in the fridge. They do any number of things that display a fundamental lack of consideration for everything that is going on around them.

My coworker told me that "everyone" agrees with her. She even shook her head in disbelief when I told her that I have never done that before. I haven't and I won't. I will sooner get my water from the tap.

Are my expectations too high here? What do you think, readers?

Update: Although everyone I talk to seems to agree with my position that the bottle should be replaced when it goes empty and not simply when water runs out, I have encountered this sort of situation before. There is no way (within my power or inclination) to get people mind their manners. I have a solution that works for me.

I am of the mind that when people are considerate, things run more smoothly overall. One benefits from a conscientious society but the benefits are indirect.

If everyone replaces the water bottle as soon as they empty it, then everyone will have cold water and no one will find themselves with just a quarter cup of water and having to stop to replace the bottle -- a process that is more frustrating and takes longer than replacing the bottle at the beginning or the end.

If people on the sidewalk will simply walk purposefully from place to place and stand out of the way of traffic when they need to reorient themselves, have a conversation, consult a map or something then foot traffic will move smoothly, quickly, safely, and with minimal jostling and interruptions.

Although this is true, there is an inherent variability to life that sometimes disturbs the best systems and plans. I understand that, but I have little patience for it and an inherent skepticism about how often these things occur. It is far more probable that people are not paying attention and have little consideration for what's going on around them.

I am a rather self-centered person -- far moreso than most people who know me realize. I am extremely conscious of the fact that people are not paying attention to me and are not looking out for my interests. I know that just as they aren't getting in my way on purpose, they're also not getting out of my way on purpose. They're minding their business and that's what I do, too.

By and large I am very conscious of my immediate interests and how my actions affect them. I expect that of other people as well. This means that I walk purposefully. I don't stand in the way because it means I will have to move or I will be jostled. I replace the water bottle because it ensures cool water for the next time I want water and keeps people out of my way when I am ready to come back. I put things away around the office, because I don't want them in the way.

Although my expectations for other people are completely reasonable, it is highly improbable that people will adopt a more selfish outlook and do what makes sense to ensure that their overall environment is conducive to their goals both near, intermediate, and long term.

So, when I encounter problems like this water bottle, it sometimes take me a minute, but I realize there's nothing I can do that will correct other people's behavior, so I stop participating. My solution is this: I won't drink out of the water cooler any more.

My work provides orange juice, soda, and milk to drink. I can also drink water from the tap. So, I don't have to replace the bottle and I don't have to deal with the frustration of other people not replacing it.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at June 7, 2007 03:17 PM | TrackBack

Flibby you are right on - people are totally inconsiderate and getting more so with each passing day - I am with you, one should have enough Base Respect for others to go ahead and heft the new bottle when the old one is empty regardless of how much might still be in the tubes. Good luck with these disrespectful people!

Posted by: Susan at June 8, 2007 07:58 AM

Flibbs, the best way to deal with this situation is to buy a Sub-Zero, stock it completely with Evian and hire an undocumented whose only duty will be to put a new bottle in the refrigerator the moment someone takes one out.

Posted by: Matt Chancellor at June 8, 2007 09:11 PM

I did the very same thing with fridge usage at an old job. Participating in the "communal experience" was so frustrating that simply "left" the community.

Change of subject:
I've just arrived from your soon-to-be-gone "other" blog. Please tell me, will you continue to be anonymous here, or may we use your real name (if that was your real name to begin with - *suspicious glare* *giggle*)?
Also... "Flibby"? How cute!

Posted by: Rachel at June 13, 2007 03:55 PM

Hey, Rachel!

I'm going to go by "Flibby" over here, but, no, that wasn't my real name over there. It was very, very close to my real name, but it wasn't my real name.

Long story.

Anyway, I just posted about the merge. Check it out.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by: Flibby at June 13, 2007 04:20 PM