Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red Caps

I recently moved out of a building where I'd worked for almost 10 years. For much of that time, a water cooler sat near my cube. When the water was delivered, several bottles came at once and were placed along a nearby wall. When one ran dry, it was up to the locals to install a new bottle. They were as heavy as 10 gallons of water would be, and they took a good bit of skill and dexterity to not only not hurt oneself, but to keep from splashing water everywhere. They were capped with a plastic top that you removed by pulling on the tab. The caps looked like this:

Red Caps

As a joke, I started to collect them. In my cube, I had more cabinets and drawers than stuff in which to put, so I started throwing the caps into an empty drawer. Sometimes people saw me open the drawer to add another, and they'd either look puzzled or laugh or both. After awhile my co-workers would add to the collection on their own, or show up proudly with a new cap so that I could open the drawer to receive it.

It was how when you start a collection of anything, say things related to the rhinoceros, people start giving you more of that thing: toys, pictures, lampshades, blankets, all depicting the rhinoceros. You become the "Rhinoceros Guy". Soon, you have far more rhinoceros stuff than you ever wanted. Some of it is good or clever, but a lot of it is dumb or cutesy. You begin to dread people giving you more rhinoceros stuff. By the time you tell everyone to stop giving you more, you are totally sick of rhinoceros stuff.

After a few years, my drawer was full. It was completely packed. I considered starting on a second drawer, but resisted the idea. I had to prove to myself that I had some self-control, I guess. People still left more for me, but I would throw them out when no one was looking. In the end, the company stopped paying for deliveries and we switched to a machine that filtered tap water.

Red Caps

While I had my ups and downs with the caps, I never really got sick of them. I might have sometimes dreaded entering my cube to find that a few more had been left for me, but mostly they made me laugh. They kept me company and gave me a bit of individuality in an otherwise flavorless workplace.

When it was time to move, I opened the drawer for the first time in a year or more and rediscovered the caps. I was surprised at my strong feelings. I had a more intense attachment to them than I would have expected. I realized they were really one of the only things of any emotional value in my cubicle. I came very close to packing and taking them to the new building. Some of my co-workers urged me to. In the end, I decided it was better to leave my collection behind and make a clean break with the past.

Red Caps In The Trash

1 comment:

Fred Wickham said...

In the same way people give you red caps, I'm constantly bestowed with solutions to pain. I haven't asked, but people stop by to ask if I've tried thus-and-such (acupuncture, acupressure, mirror therapy, tapping, etc). Our mutual friend, a PhD molecular biologist, sends me articles related to MRSA, pain, general infections, and so on, all the time. I don't mind, but as you say, once you're identified as the recipient, you get more and more.