To: BrainyKidz Publishing, 3rd floor (all recipients)

Subject: mugs

Dear 3rd floor,

First of all, I hope everyone had a restful and happy Labor Day weekend. I stopped at Renard’s on the way back from the cabin, so help yourselves to any of the cheese on the top shelf of the fridge! The Wisconsin air was just what I needed to be extra “brainy” this week while I copyedit our new Language Arts workbooks!

I just wanted to send out this e-mail so that we can all get on the same page about kitchen duty and general kitchen etiquette. I have heard complaints from several different people on the third floor, and I thought it would be a good idea to address an issue that has come up again and again. While I realize there are only 35 of us up here, that’s still 35 unique sets of goals, concerns, and limitations that require our sensitivity and best critical-thinking. WOW, talk about drinking the BrainyKidz kool-aid!

(If you’d like to see the complete list of kitchen-related grievances, I shared a Google doc with all of you.)

Some of us here use personal mugs, and though we try to get them back to our desks at the end of the day, we do like to run them through the dishwasher from time to time. When this happens, the correct and courteous thing to do is simply put the mugs in one of the cabinets above the microwaves so the owners of these mugs can claim them. Many of you are very good about this (See, Solve, Do!), and I am personally very appreciative of all the hard work you put into your kitchen duty responsibilities. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Unfortunately, some of these mugs do not ultimately make their ways back to their owners, and this is a problem. I think you can ask anybody on this floor—in this office, even—and they will agree that this is far and away the biggest nuisance we have to deal with on a daily basis. Instead of putting these mugs back in the cabinet, some of you think it is appropriate to fill them up with coffee, rub your mouths all over them, and then return them to the kitchen after the coffee rush hour has passed. I am NOT accusing anybody here. I want to make that very clear. I am just voicing an issue that has been brought to my attention by other people working on the third floor. Personally, it hardly bothers me, but I want to speak up for those among us who might be too shy to say something.

If you are a person on the third floor who has not brought in a personal mug—a favorite sports team, a flag that represents your heritage, Garfield—but you’ve started to notice certain, special mugs you might want to use every day, you need to pay closer attention. If “your” mug is only appearing once every few weeks, that means it belongs to someone else. That means it lives at someone’s desk all the time, except for cleaning time, when you encroach upon it like a hungry vulture and steal away with it to your desk.

Or, you can just think about the other people that work up here on the third floor. For example: perhaps you know that someone in the office is a huge fan of, say, the musical Rent, and then a Rent mug turns up in the dishwasher. You can think about whom on the third floor likes Rent the most (or whatever) and deduce that the Rent mug is considered a personal mug. And you should never use it.

I’ve taken the liberty of making a mug sign-out chart, which is now hanging on the kitchen wall above the toasters. The labels along the left side correspond with the Mug Description Document. The labels along the top are everyone’s names.

(I printed out a PDF version of the Mug Description Document that will stay in a binder in the kitchen, but I also shared a Google doc with all of you.)

So, let’s say Jackie F. sees the Rent mug in the dishwasher or in one of the cupboards. Jackie F. would mark an “X” in the cell that aligns with “Jackie F.” and “RENT.” That way, the owner of the Rent mug will be able to track it down at the end of the day, and then Jackie F. will understand that this mug is definitely not available for public use, should the opportunity present itself ever again.

I am asking that whomever is assigned to kitchen duty takes a mug inventory at the end of each day. It’s not just me asking for this, you guys, I have heard from several people up here that this would be a really great change in kitchen protocol. I made a new Kitchen Duty Task List for the refrigerator, and “mug inventory” is now an item on that list. Mug inventory can be taken by a) referencing the chart above the toasters or b) filling out the Mug Inventory Check List. I think I speak for all of us when I say I prefer you do both.

(I left a stack of blank Mug Inventory Check Lists on the table next to the coffee makers, but I also shared a Google doc with all of you.)

I think that if we are all a little more conscientious of others and aware of our environment, the third floor kitchen will be in great shape. It’s exactly what we promote every day at BrainyKidz, so this should be easy for you. Maybe this will even inspire some of you to bring in your own mugs!

And PLEASE—eat as much cheese as you’d like!

La vie boheme and Happy Tuesday,


Katherine Markovich lives, works, writes, and eats in Chicago. Follow her at @markovichsays to read about what she’s eating and watching. And thinking, too, I guess.

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