Monday, 21 September 2020

Day 189 of self-isolation - the tea trolley

The tea trolley

When I started work at Marconi, the highlight of the day was the arrival of the tea trolley at about 11am. It meant a tea break, but more - cheese rolls. The cheese rolls were fat, crusty, buttered and cheesy. One for the 11 o'clock gap, and two more to be eaten for lunch. 10p per roll. And the tea trolley came round again in the afternoon, with more tea. It was at that time that I discovered that tea and coffee tasted different, because I gave up sugar and found that what I'd been tasting before in both beverages, was the sugar.

Onwards to IWS, and the tea trolley came round morning and afternoon, but no cheese rolls. I got used to that by bringing in my morning snack on the way in to work. A pound of sultanas worked nicely, but I got some strange looks. Better than those smelly cigarettes, I would reply. That was back in the days before people even asked if it was OK to light up, they just did it. Although several years later when it became the convention to ask "Is it OK?" while waving a fag, people were always surprised when I said "I'd rather you didn't".

But then, to the horror of all workers everywhere, the tea trolley was abolished, and replaced with a machine, which (if you punched the right combination of buttons) would deliver up a tepid plastic cup of something that was not completely unlike tea. Nasty. You could also add "milk", which wasn't milk, it was some sort of white powder that was NOTHING like milk. And you could also specify that it be "whipped", which did nothing. This was all in the name of saving money, and a worse economy was never dreamed.

Now - full circle. There isn't actually a trolley, but I get a personalised service from ladysolly, even if it's just a shout of "Make your own coffee!". But the milk is real milk, and I still don't take sugar, and cheese rolls are a luxury of the past, no longer available to the careful weight watcher.


  1. Your automation reminds me of an "optimization" made at our company. We had a couple of great guys in our mail room that would deliver mail daiy an place it into our mailboxes on each floor. At some point, a mail robot was introduced as an optimization. The mail guys still needed to load the mail robot up with mail and then load the mail robot onto the elevator and push the button for the appropriate floor, but after that, it was automated. Well, not really as it just went to the next station, stopped and beeped until someone came over, unloaded the mail from the robot and left it in a pile near the mailboxes. Then the robot went to the next area and did the same thing.

    This so called optimization was absurd and easily cost the company much more money. No humans were replaced as the mail folks were still there doing what they were doing. We had this expensive mail robot that would occasionally break down. But the kicker was that now, instead of mail room salary folks, you had more expensive folks getting up from their daily tasks to unload the mail robot. Nothing was optimized. Corporate waste!

  2. "not completely unlike tea" - Douglas Adams?