don’t drink the water…

Until yesterday, I had never heard of a “boil water advisory”. It sounds like a weather report that got confused with a cooking show. But after a water main broke in our area which affected several towns, I’ve become quite familiar with the term. For some reason, my house wasn’t affected, so we didn’t have to avoid the tap water, though we did stop showering. : ) Oh, don’t panic, we only heard the news AFTER the morning shower round. : )  But when I got to work, I found a different situation.


No, this isn’t from our cafe. This coffee pic was taken in AUS.

Coffee had been made before the water main broke, but after that ran out, we wouldn’t be making any more. And no more fountain drinks could be gotten from the soda machines. Every student that came in and scored some caffeine went out, looking like they’d won the lottery. And then they canceled classes, because the bathrooms, campus-wide, had been closed. Talk about a way to make some of us panic (whatdaya mean I have to go in the woods?).

Thankfully, our restrooms were kept up and running, though we did eventually close early. Not so, Cooper Library. It’s the week before finals, and they closed the library. Wonder how many students panicked over that? Or maybe they just rejoiced over putting the studying off some more.

Today, I expected things to be back to normal, as the break had been fixed. But I wasn’t counting on a 24 hr delay, in order to make sure the town water was safe to drink. I arrived at work to find that there was NO coffee at all, and we still couldn’t use the soda machines. But it’s the coffee that was the kicker, because bottled soda and bottled water could still be bought. Our regular coffee customers, many of them graduate students and professors, came in with their special Clemson mugs… and left uncaffeinated. Or should that be decaffeinated?

In our modern age, the word traveled fast and I saw students standing outside, texting their friends to go elsewhere for their cup of joe. And because of this, life got pretty boring. Fridays are normally slow, but this didn’t help at all. No sticky or sugar-coated counters to clean, no coffee pots to fill up, keeping up with the constant demand for French Vanilla, DoubleBlack, and Hazelnut, and no cups to stock, because they couldn’t drink anything from them.

I’m afraid my sympathies were for the local grad students, as they come across the street several times a day, not just to escape their bubbling experiments (no, I don’t actually know what they do in the chemistry lab) but to see other people, expose themselves to daylight AND get coffee. So, they avoided our coffee-less location, and I felt guilty. Yes, I know it wasn’t my fault, but I know how much some people love their coffee, and if you’re working on getting a DEGREE, especially a Masters or PhD, it can be important! Yep, you guessed it, there are several of those degrees in my family. I know of what I speak.

Instead, my fellow cashier and I discussed how rich I would have become if I had somehow managed to get coffee from my house to the campus, and started a coffee stand (instead of a lemonade stand) outside of Hunter and Sirrine. When we weren’t doing that (don’t worry, we did work, we weren’t lazy!), we teased our co-worker about the Christmas card a student brought him. He thinks we’re all jealous about it, but since it was from a girl, I’m afraid there’s no jealousy coming from me. Besides, he said that card “reflects well on all of us”, which is a wonderful thought to take home with me, but I had to ask him (in a totally innocent voice) how his flirting with all the girls “reflects well on all of us”? I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while.

Despite the word getting out, for the most part, some of the students still hadn’t heard. They trooped in, two by two, in the mid-afternoon, taking the last turn to reach the coffee area, hope in their eyes. Like Oliver Twist, asking for more, they were ever hopeful that we had finally gotten our coffee brewing. One after the other, they left the cafe, drooping with disappointment. I felt like I’d kicked a puppy, after telling some of them that we wouldn’t be up and running until next week (we’re closed on weekends).

Even though some people were nearly brought to tears, no one actually got upset with us, and there were no altercations, though I heard there were a few at the dining halls. So, I’m grateful for the kindness of our customers, not blaming us for what we can’t help.

And since I’m already speaking of coffee and grad students, I recently had to tell some of them that our location closes on Dec. 14. Talk about feeling like you’ve kicked someone. The look of horror I was greeted with… I can still picture it. And being a professor’s daughter, familiar with the habits of graduate students, I know that some of them will probably work on their theses and projects all through the holidays, if they even go home for Christmas. Working their tails off, with no coffee next door. Makes me feel mean, going home to my coffee maker, when they can’t have one in their labs. And they work a heck of a lot harder than I do on those crazy engineering/chemistry projects.

I’m still considering my coffee stand. Or maybe a coffee delivery service.  : )

3 thoughts on “don’t drink the water…

  1. Absolutely start a service! Can you wrangle an air pot from someone/somewhere? Even if you just show up in the lobby of the chemistry building with a little table, some coffee, cups and the acoutrements during the days between semesters, I’m sure that you will make many grad students’ days! I used to make coffee for my studio for the overnight hours (architecture students are forever pulling all-nighters) so no one would have to go out to the Uni-Mart and suffer their stale/burnt coffee at 4AM. It is a great way to just be friendly and to meet people. DO IT!!

    • (I’m passionate about my coffee, can you tell?)
      One more thing: even if your little cart/stand/table is un-manned after the first few times, and buying coffee is by the honor system (so you aren’t sitting there all day), it’ll still garner you much admiration for having thought of them. The winter/holiday break is pretty lonely on campus.

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