The Little Blue Dell Mug

It really felt like such a relief to get that last post off my chest. I can't say everything is peaches and cream but just to admit that times were tough instead of trying to breeze over it feels more honest. I needed to indulge that to be able to move past where I had gotten stuck over the last weeks.

And now a little story about a little blue Dell mug that caused a Seinfeld-esque series of events to unfold over the last week in a little gray building housing a little Swiss company invaded by a little non-Swiss project team, who really meant no harm but even the German and Swiss have their cultural differences as is the moral of our story.

I arrived at work in the morning a few weeks ago and set about drinking my first cup of coffee. I LOVE that Swiss companies always have great espresso machines as part of standard office equipment; I am like a lab rat pushing the button and waiting for the beans to grind and the cafe creme smell to waft out of the machine. Heaven. But I digress.

Not two sips into my morning coffee, two consultants came running into the room pointing at the desk across from mine. There it is! They had panicked looks on their faces as they approached the little blue Dell mug with the telltale evidence of someone's cup of soup snack - some dried bits of noodles and a spoon poking out.

"Ach so! It was T. (name definitely protected for privacy) who took the mug!"

T. was not at his desk and was missing all the fuss.

The two consultants quietly ushered the mug out, took it down the hallway and the rest of us looked around each other and broke out laughing at the cloak and dagger moves of the Russian & German team.

Flash forward two weeks.

In our project team meeting, with no warning, some power point slides were presented outlining the stress we are causing to the original building tenants and cleaning staff.

The first slide showed the too full parking lot outside the building, license plates of the offending D-Munich and D-Frankfurt cars far outnumbering Swiss plates.

The second slide showed a photo of a yellow post-it note addressed to the cleaning staff: 'Please do not take any of our belongings from this room!'

As was explained in the next slide, this note caused a serious drama in the building cleaning staff, with one threatening to quit!

And last but not least, a slide showing a rowdy rabble of Spanish people who were informally meeting in the common spaces due to overbooked meeting rooms and causing an increase in building noise. Gasp!

The room was abuzz as everyone pondered who wrote the scandalous note, who's rental cars were taking up all the spaces in the lot and who dared to speak out loud in a common area!!

The scene was grim the following day as signs went up all over the kitchen and common areas reminding people not to take mugs from the kitchen cabinet that were not theirs (!), not to use the common areas to talk to each other above a whisper(!!), and not to take up all the car spaces(!!!)

I entered my office this morning and 4 days of garbage were piled over the can and falling onto the floor as the cleaning staff boycotted trash removal yet another day and sadly shook my head at the distressed situation.

As best I can gather, I have pieced together the evidence and here is how I think the events unfolded:
(1) T. was working until very late at night, as always, and wanted a cup of soup since he missed dinner yet again.
(2) He went to the kitchen, pulled the little blue Dell mug out of the cabinet assuming that they were for everybody to use. He made his soup and enjoyed.
(3) He was too exhausted to clean up the mug and put it back, choosing instead to head home and try to get some sleep.
(4) In fact, the mugs were not for everybody to use.
(5) The little blue Dell mug was the big boss's of the lifer Swiss tenants.
(6) He freaked when he came the next morning looking for his mug and launched an APB for his little blue Dell mug.
(7) Mug was found, filthy with a project team member's soup remnants.
(8) An order went out to the cleaning staff to please make sure that if any mugs were found stolen by project team to please immediately clean and return them to the cabinet.
(9) Cleaning staff followed orders and took all mugs.
(10) 3 nights in a row project team member's mug was taken from her desk and stashed in cabinet.
(11) Project team member got mad and left mean note to cleaning staff.
(12) Cleaning staff said you are all F'd up and said enough is enough. I quit!
(13) The mug incident was the final straw after the disorder and chaos in the parking lot(!) and the NOISE in the hall(!)
(14) Project team members reprimanded for causing all this disturbance to peaceful Swiss life.

Ironically, no one had ever told T. about the little blue Dell mug incident. He was chuckling about the Swiss (he is German). I had to break it to him that, in fact, he was the source of the whole fiasco and next time he should just go home in time for dinner.

Another day in the microcosm of a Swiss company.

Posted from Zürich


vailian said...

Lovely post, very funny!
Everyone makes fun of the Germans for being so... German; but compared to the Swiss the Germans are positively... Italian!

ian in hamburg said...


Are those post-its still up? You should take photos and submit them, with story, to passive-aggressivenotes.com.

Randy said...

Funny story, though I have no problems sharing my dinnerware with others, provided they leave some food for me to scarf up.
More misery coming up - rumor of another tenant in our house named Hattie who was found destitute on the beach in NC. I hope things are turning out better for you, but you can always call or e-mail if you want my help,or just to talk!

aimee said...

i laughed so hard at this post. we have had our own share of territorial outrage over mugs but i've never seen the outcome result in a strike. hilarious!

Expat Traveler said...

Should we say... only in Switzerland... What chaos.. And to think if anything actually went wrong what the situation would be like!

lobstah said...

Your silly office foibles are making me LOL!
I'm sorry to read that you are feeling down in your last post :( However, you forgot Dad's favorite words of comfort in your list..."This too shall pass", hee hee.