When I was a teacher one of my favorite parts of the day was the 20 minutes before school started when my teacher friends gathered around the coffee pots in our tiny little kitchen. We chatted about politics, sports, television shows and family life. It was sort of a transitional moment—not quite work, not quite play—as we waited for the school day to begin. The coffee pot was our water cooler, the place where we gathered to share friendships (and gossip).
This morning as I was making my single cup of coffee at my new job, I suddenly missed those moments. Maybe it is because a morning like today we would have been chatting about last night’s episode of “Lost.” Maybe it is because I saw friends from my old job yesterday. Maybe it is because enough time has passed that suddenly the happy memories that I was afraid would awaken sadness in me are now filling me with joy.
I realize how important the water cooler is. I never really understood that saying much before today, but I think I am starting to get a sense. Humans are social beings and we need community and camaraderie. While the proverbial “water cooler” may be actually be a coffee pot or outdoor smoking spot, the idea is that people need interaction with one another. I work in a building full of private offices or small offices with few people. But if you pay attention, there are often people yelling through open doors or milling about in public spaces. I would venture to guess that your work place is the same.
For as much as the boss would prefer that we were working (maybe that’s why we don’t have a water cooler here!?) there is value in a gathering place. We all have them in our public, professional and private lives. They are the places where we form friendships, nurture relationships, flush out theories about fictional television shows and—you know you do it too—talk, talk, talk about gossip.
Where is your water cooler?