Awkward Moment #29: Mug-gate

The office kitchen.

A place of relaxation and a break from the computer screen, a tranquil yet delicate atmosphere is needed to maintain the balance in this breeding ground for awkwardness. Many unspoken rules command office kitchen etiquette, but the main ones are…

  • Don’t eat anything noisy or smelly
  • You burn it or accidentally eat it, you buy it
  • Never use someone else’s mug.

It was this final unspoken rule, my dear friends, that was callously broken in the office kitchen this week. And it wasn’t just any mug, oh no…

…it was my mug.

My favourite mug, no less. I can hear your gasps of horror already. I know. The nerve.

It was Thursday morning, about ten minutes before the monthly team meeting, where strong tea is crucial to making it through the three hours in full consciousness. Having attended five of these meetings since I started my job, I have discovered that timing the making of a good cup of tea right before the meeting can make or break you.

So, at ten to ten, I head to the kitchen. I go to the dishwasher, expecting to retrieve my orange penguin classics mug, denoting Jane Austen’s Persuasion, from the dishwasher.

But before I even reached it, something stopped me in my tracks. There it was, on the worktop.

Hmm. That’s weird. What’s it doing there? As I moved closer, what I saw shocked me to my very core.

Coffee granules. Waiting patiently to be bathed in boiling water and mixed with milk. In my mug. My bloody mug. My. Mug.

Oh hell no.

How can this be? Everyone knows this is my mug, my obsession with penguin classics is evident to all who know me. I collect them, I have a notepad…IT’S ON MY HANDBAG FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

Somebody is using MY MUG?!

I’m appalled. This is completely inappropriate. That mug should be used for tea and tea only. Who is this person that insists on breaking the rules? I demand to confront this vagabond of unspoken office kitchen etiquette.

And then, there they were. They swept in, took the mug over to the urn, made their coffee and off they went. The worst part? THEY’RE IN MY TEAM.

Crap. Now what? What am I supposed to do? Should I say something? How do people deal with this type of situation?

I stood there inwardly debating my next move long enough to almost miss the start of the meeting. In the end, I reconciled to a plain white mug they keep on the side for spares, like the singles table at a wedding or those without a date. relegated to the benches at a school dance.

My tea tasted horrible.

And so, for the next three hours, in the spirit of being dreadfully British, I said nothing but threw serious eye daggers as I sat across from my mug’s captor, forced to watch as they enjoyed their coffee slowly and painfully.

After the meeting, I waited for them to leave for the day before going in search. I found it abandoned in the sink, still harbouring the last of the cold coffee dregs.

Unbelievable. Couldn’t even finish their drink. No respect.

It’s safe to say, I’m never using that dishwasher again, that’s for sure. Now that I know it’s basically a prime spot for mug crime, my mug is now washed at home and escorted to and from the office every day.

That’ll show ‘em.


Awkward Moment #27: Chocolategate.

Every year around about now, my parents can be found on board a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean.

After 40 years of graft, scrimping and saving to give me and my siblings the best possible start in life, they treat themselves once a year to a fortnight of luxury, and I very generously and altruistically, look after the house and hound.

To say thank you for this act of kindness, my mum comes into my room on the night before they leave.

“I got you something to say thank you for looking after Molly for us.” She presents me with a box of chocolates. Best day ever.

“Aw, mum! You didn’t have to do that, Molly is my dog too. I’m happy to do it!” My subconscious chimes in: What are you doing, fool!? Don’t let her take the chocolate away!?!

“I know, I know, but it’s just something to say we appreciate it anyway.” Phew. “Only, there’s been a bit of a problem…”

“Oh?” Eh?

“…yes, well. You see, the thing is…I started eating them.” Of course you did.

And lo and behold, upon opening the box, I found it to be true. Because she put the empty bloody wrappers back in the bloody box.

She’s a piranha when it comes to chocolate, my mother. She can’t help herself. And that’s how I know we are definitely related.

Awkward Moment #19 : Fisticuffs with a Fir

So there I am, returning to the Sydney Jones library with a clear case of Stockholm syndrome after having already spent the entire day there. I went home for dinner, obviously – one great lesson the Italians taught me, there’s always time for a pasta break – but back to the grind I go. I blame my personal tutor, who also happens to be the head of the Italian department and resident slave driver. I’m not even sure I can speak the damn language.

Having belted it out to Adele in the car journey here (and being laughed at by a guy in a Volkswagen Beetle at the traffic lights – really dude? In that car?), I cough as I walk through the wet leaves that gloss the pavement.

It’s a Monday-bloody-evening. Monday-bloody-evenings are for chocolate-bloody-biscuits and David Attenborough (no bloody for David, the lad). Not Sydney-bloody-Jones. And then it hits me.

Literally. Right in the face. A nearby tree launches a three –branched (weeey) on my head and face and manages to entangle itself in my hair. “Arrrgh…shit-what-th-bastard-” is all I can manage I struggle with my leafy foe, he isn’t letting go without a fight (or a clump of my hair). My glasses fall to the floor and i’s game over. I have lost my sight. I flail my arms around in an attempt to disentangle myself but only manage to get smacked in the face. My bag starts slipping from my shoulder – I’m so glad it’s dark and no-one is around – and I feel a sharp scratch against my neck. Good god, I’m going to lose my head to a Horsechestnut!

Finally I break free. My hair is in a sorry state and my dignity lies in tatters at my feet. I locate my glasses and push them back up my nose. I take a deep breath to recover from my near-decapitation and pause for thought. I fumble for my follicles – still intact, but only just.

I’ve had enough, I can’t live like this. Never again will I look at that tree in the same way; never again will I feel safe when the wind blows. My options are few – and I get really bad hat hair. The everyday danger posed by coniferous criminals must be nipped in the bud – Henry VIII styley.

It’s off with the hair.


Hard Knox.

Remember how tough life was in primary school?
Dodging the emotional land mines that were the 5 minute whirlwind romances. Having to hold hands with a buddy whilst walking to and from official school functions like lunch, or assembly. Life was hard back then, especially in those first couple of years, as any four or five year old will tell you.

I myself was proposed to in the unisex toilets of reception. I was washing my hands after a papier-mâché morning, and suddenly a second pair of hands appeared next to mine. The conversation went a little like this:

“Will you marry me?”
“Do I have to?”
“Well, ok then”. 

And it was love. Our nuptials were announced in a game of Chinese whispers and it was official. The date was set and the plans in motion, my friends even began making daisy chain bunting for the ceremony. Until…heartbreak struck.
Little over 2 hours later, he pushed in front of me in the lunch queue. I instantly felt a fool. I had been played by the biggest player of them all and completely taken advantage of. I broke off the engagement, vowing never to marry him ever again and storming off with my arms folded. Nobody messes ME around.

I have to admit, I was not the cutest of kids, but god damn, did I have style. How many kids do you know who can rock the coconut-box fringe-harry potter glasses-look? Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how hipster you think you are, it’s a gift. For a while, I even went toothless, after an unfortunate first ever visit to the dentist…

My itchy, woollen cardigans were too big for me (obviously rocking the casual, these-are-my-boyfriends-clothes-look), and my socks were unmercifully white beneath my limited edition leather sandals from Clarks. But nevertheless I still made a stand against the misogynistic attitude adopted by the boys, even if that engagement had been my best and only offer…

All the blokes came and went from my life in a flash after that. I was so lonely at one point I considered holding hands with just about anybody. There was the smelly kid (who either ran a marathon everyday or just didn’t wash), the sweaty palm kid (who I would always embarrass by screaming “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwww” and pulling away instantly), and finally there was the fainter (no longer an acceptable way of getting out of a date, guys). This lack of suitors also meant that my only date to the teddy bear picnic was Big Bear himself, and although he may have had excellent banter and fantastic stories, it just wasn’t the same. 

So next time, when you think those kids have got it all, think again – it isn’t all swings and roundabouts. Now, things are a little more mature, relationships are easier to understand, skin’s a little thicker. I’m not saying it gets easier, but we now have the gift of experience. When you get dumped at 24, it just wasn’t right. When you get dumped at 4, you are a social outcast. A love pariah. 

So look on the bright side – at least they don’t have sweaty palms!


The Jungle of the International Supermarket.

There they sit, quietly and cunningly, on every street corner in every town in mainland Europe…waiting. Waiting patiently for people to wander in naively expecting to pick something up that they need…but it’s never that simple. 

Potentially the most terrifying place on earth for an Erasmus student. You walk in and all manner of chaos ensues within seconds of your arrival. Towers of water bottles threaten to engulf you, the fruit and veg section won’t permit you to leave without having some sort of awkward, “I just wanted a banana!” shouting match with the man standing behind the weighing scale. Nobody is man enough to brave the meat counter…

Everybody you meet in a supermarket abroad seems to know something you don’t. This is their territory, and you are the intruder. You wander wearily up and down each aisle, wondering why on earth you decided to put yourself through this torment, and then you realise that your need for food outweighs your British impulse to save face. The labels tell you nothing about what the packages contain, it might as well be written in ancient sanscrit. Four different types of mozzarella present themselves to you in the cheese aisle. Confusion overwhelms you, tears well up in your eyes…you bail. Cheese isn’t necessary. I’ll come back another time. 

Suddenly, your remember what it is you wanted. A small jar of pesto. You look up and see a jar, the last jar in fact, which happens to be perched precariously upon the edge of the very top shelf, far beyond your reach as a normal sized human being but vital to the vat of pasta you plan to make that very evening. There’s only one thing for it – you must ask for help. 

At least, that is what most normal people would do. I could not face the battle with my linguistically challenged tongue to ask the bored, slightly overweight man in a red apron if he could get it down for me. Instead, I jumped, grabbed it and ran like the wind. 

You scan your basket and you realise, I’ve done it! I’ve got everything I need, I have tamed the wild, commercial beast that is Il Supermercato, Hurrah! But do not be so hasty in your celebration. The battle may be over, but you are yet to win the war…

The checkout.

There should be convalescent homes set up for victims of this cruel and unforgiving encounter, and one thing I have noticed on my travels?..It’s always a woman behind the till. She has tired, dull eyes and little to no make up. She doesn’t want to be there serving you, and you don’t want to be there being served by her, so let’s get this over with.  With a shrewd, nasal, impatient squawk she asks if you have the store card, and is a mixture of repulsed, bemused and irritated when you shake your head rapidly to indicate you have no idea what the hell she’s on about. What do you mean, you don’t have the store card? You are ridiculous, get out.

Then she begins scanning your items through, silently judging you with every BLEEP, depending on what each item is Things take a turn for the worse when the rhythmical BLEEP ceases and doesn’t like a specific item.You panic as she snatches it back out of your hands and glares at you, because it is obviously all your fault. How dare you. She taps a few keys angrily and grunts when the BLEEP continues once more. You skin has been saved…but not for long.

It’s time to pay, and your mozzarella, loaf of inexplicably small sliced bread and lonely jar of pesto amount to the most random of figures you could ever imagine. Something with 7 cents on the end of it. You hand her a note of a rounded up value, and she tears it from your grasp. Before sniffing, tasting and practically burning it to check if it’s real, she asks if you have the 7 cents, and gives you the darkest of all death stares. You swallow hard. Is it suddenly very warm in here? Sweat tickles your brow as you shakily reach into the zipped compartment of your wallet and shuffle around for the 7 cents. Luckily, you find a 5 cent and a 2 cent coin nestled cosily next to each other. You reach in to extract them but they won’t budge. They too are scared of this terrifying woman and are refusing to budge – you’re on your own, pal! You look up and laugh nervously. She is not impressed. A queue has formed, and they aren’t impressed either. You try with all your might to remove the coins from the most awkward part of your wallet until finally you manage to prise them out and hand them over with sweaty palms. She examines the two coins carefully, and for a moment you think she might bite one, just to be sure.

Eventually she concedes, and forces the till open. After some note rustling, she reluctantly bids you a half-arsed thank you and good day after slamming down the change on the other side of the counter, an enormous hint to leave a tip. You pick up the coins she has left behind and smile awkwardly as you stalk out of the shop, glad to have escaped with your dignity (if only just about) intact.

Supermarkets. Not many foreigners go in…and even fewer come out.

A Moral Glitch

Insomnia is a freaking bitch,
I wish I could throw her into a ditch.
Or bury her underneath a football pitch
Insomnia is a freaking bitch.

I lie awake at three a.m.,
Sick to death of this mayhem.
My eyes won’t close, I can’t make them.
Please god, let me sleep soon, A-men.

Her words echo around my head.
For god’s sake, can’t I just go to bed?
My limbs feel like they’re made of lead
As the night continues on, ahead.

Why, Sleep, do you evade me so?
Sleep is the step on which I stub my toe.
anger hisses from me, this is a new low,
I’m inches from being crankier than Moe.

Insomnia is a freaking bitch,
To the point where I’m actually considering that ditch.
I’d tie her up in a bag with a clove-hitch
Just one momentary lapse, a moral glitch…
Insomnia is a freaking bitch.

Awkward Moment #7: A Numb Face With Your Filling?

The day begins early and reluctantly. My eyelids decide that they’ve had enough rest for one night and force themselves open at 4.38am precisely. To pass the time, I pick up my copy of 50 Shades of Grey, but I can only take that book in small doses…even if it is in the middle of the night.

I eventually doze off again only to be rudely awoken by my alarm clock at 9.30am. I groan as I slam my hand down to turn it off, only managing to turn it up louder. I pick it up, hurl it across the room at my wardrobe into which it slams and stops buzzing. Ah, peace…

“EEEEEEEEEEEEMMMM!” My mother bellows from the hall outside my room. Ugh, this isn’t happening. I respond with a lie, “I’M UUPPPPP!” as I throw the duvet off me and begin the bone cracking and stretching, a ritual that graces my every morning. After a shower and a quick fumble through my drawers (woof), I get dressed and head down to breakfast, unenthusiastic about upcoming events.

It’s D-Day. D for Dentist. It’s a well-known fact that I don’t like dentists in general, especially because my last one most definitely had it in for me. Every visit I would pay her, I’d leave the room feeling like I’d just gone nine rounds with Haye – at least 2 missing teeth and whole lot of numb facial muscles. She was from Latvia, and often asked me if I could “PLEEZ MEK YEURR MOWTH MOHR WHYYYYD”, which I did, obligingly. My new dentist, however, is much nicer and a lot less crazy. She’s from Lithuania, her English is much more established and she seems to know what she’s doing. In fact, since I’ve been seeing her, I’ve only had one filling…which took place today.

At 11am on the dot, my mother and I stroll into the dental surgery and give our names in. I feel like I’m handing myself in to the Sheriff after having committed no crime. oh, electric toothbrush, we were friends, how could you betray me so?
We take our seats and wait with bated breath for our names to be called. I gaze around the room, psycho-analysing the other patients. A woman with two small children, one in a pram and the other climbing up the magazine table leg. A middle-aged man in a wax-jacket and assault boots, a teenage girl and her mum looking thoroughly displeased to be here, and finally and elderly man in a flat cap. I can’t quite place him, until he spots me, smiles at me and I see why.

Our names are called after just five minutes, and my mum and I enter into negotiations about who will go first (she’s also getting a treatment, which has incidentally prevented her traditional mount of her high horse, giving lectures about my sweet tooth. She now knows that she’s preaching to the wrong choir. Stick that on your candy stick and pretend to smoke it.). Entering the room, we concede that Mum will go first after a quick-fire, best of three rock-paper-scissors tournament. I take a seat opposite the reclining chair of doom and spot the needle. I can’t take my eyes off it, even though every fibre of my being is screaming at me to do so. The dentist mutters something to the dental nurse, who nods, turns and retrieves some form of utensil.

The dental nurse is caked in make up, with enough perfume on to overpower a skunk.

It takes approximately fifteen minutes for Mum’s treatment, after which she is told to rinse and not to eat for two hours until the numbness goes down. My heart starts racing with anticipation, my stomach clenches and I frantically brush my tongue over my teeth (as if it will make any difference). I can feel my face going numb already, almost like half of my jaw is inflating. The dental nurse beckons me over to the reclining chair of doom, and I take a seat, wary of how many screaming children have laid where I am now. The dentist fumbles around with latex gloves, and then tilts my head sideways, sticking a mirror into my mouth. I never know where to look at times like these, so I simply stare at the ceiling, which is partially obscured by the blaring light and the dentists rather prominent chest. She mumbles something to the dental nurse again, who then reaches for a long white pipe attached to a cable. Oh god, what’s going on? She then turns to me and says, “Actually Emily, your filling is very small, so we don’t need to have the injection.” her jaw twists into a smile beneath her mask, but I’m sure I misheard her. “What, sorry?” I ask, the image of a drill coming at me like a pigeon on a mission fixed in my brain. I’m suddenly delusional as I glance around the room. My mother has transformed into a giant molar with giant glasses and short brown hair. She blinks, smiles and waves at me. I look to the dental nurse, who is now a tube of Sensodyne Iso-Active toothpaste, cackling maniacally with her agonizingly perfect teeth on show. The reclining chair of doom has transformed into a large toungue, with iron-clad strips of dental floss pinning me down.

A drill fires up in front of me, and the dentist yells above it. “It’s only a very small filling, I only need to drill for a few seconds only!” Smiling again, she brings the drill closer to my mouth, which is now being held open by a latexed finger. I have half a mind to bite the bastard off. I didn’t sign up for this!

I feel my tooth begin to vibrate, and small droplets of water fire up into the air. For a moment, I’m worried they’re shards of my tooth, but luckily my deliriousness wares off quickly. A few more moments of drilling and then she moves the drill to my front teeth on my bottom jaw. She shouts something to me, but I don’t quite make it out. I can’t even lip-read because she’s got a sodding mask on. I HATE dentists. Suddenly, the drilling starts up on my four front teeth and I squirm in agony. Not only was I not expecting it, but of all the teeth to pick on, she had to choose the four most sensitive in my entire mouth. My hands clench into the lining of the tongue, trying desperately not to move in case the pain gets worse. The drill is so loud, and the look in her eyes is of such great intentness that I’m half expecting oil to spout out of my gums at any moment. The dental nurse has to hold my head in place to keep me still. After the longest twenty-odd seconds of my life, it’s finally over. The drilling stops, the dentist backs away cheerily, saying “All done!”

I sit up too fast, smacking my head on the overhead lamp, and the dental nurse stifles a smile as she moves it out of the way and apologizes. Before anyone has the chance to stop me, I’m on my feet and out the door, the strange coloured rinsing liquid still in my mouth. My mum pays for our treatment at the desk and emerges three minutes later with a long, pink mouth mirror. I point at it in confusion, “Only 55p!” she says cheerily. Her speech is slurred from the injection. I wish mine was.

Dentist visits must always be conducted like a military operation. Get in, do your thing and get out. Otherwise people start to panic, things are said and before you know it, your four front teeth are missing….



(I’m just kidding, she just polished them for me, but it was still traumatising)