Getting stuck in the office kitchen
If you work in an office you will be well aware of the perils of the dreaded office kitchen.
It is a melting pot of pointless conversations, social awkwardness, passive aggressive post-it notes and magically disappearing milk. Some people use it as a refuge to escape their desk for a moment, but others desperately try to get in and out without making eye contact or ending up in a conversation with Dave from accounts about the merits of Arsenal's defensive line in the 1985 FA Cup third round.
If you are about to brave this social minefield, here are a few of the characters and situations you may want to avoid...
The playground crush
Unless you work in a really tiny office or one of those family-only companies, chances are there are a couple of office crushes floating about. Now, you may have one, in which case the kitchen is that awkward moment where you end up in a confined space together for a fixed time trying to make flirtatious small-talk without looking like you are flirting in case you get shot down and have to slink back to your desk. But save a thought for the people who have it worse - those stuck in the kitchen with you.
There is nothing worse than trying to quietly make a cup of tea while two people exchange sexually-charged platitudes 60cm away from you, surrounded by steam pouring out of the kettle they've forgotten they boiled.
The microwave gastronomist
This is the person who takes over an entire work surface and microwave to create their salmon, asparagus and porridge sarnie, all while making the kitchen smell like an over-used gym locker.Yes your food looks rank, yes it smells worse and no we don't want to know what ridiculous fad diet inspired this revolting concoction.
The work pal It's Robin from four desks over. You like Robin, you're on smile, raise eyebrows and upwards nod terms when you pass each other. You know what tv shows you both watch and can make the small talk there. Robin in great. But now you're in the kitchen, there's two people already making tea so you are a whole reboiled kettle away from even starting to make your drink and discussion about the last episode of Game of Thrones is running a bit thin. You are now in trouble. For the record, the best thing to do here is pull the parachute cord and resort to office gossip to paper over the gaps and then make a swift exit.
Captain Obvious "God it's packed in here." "It's bloody horrible outside today."
These are the sort of insightful and analytical public service announcements you can expect from good old Captain Obvious. This person is a sort of self-appointed in-office town crier and feel the need to broadcast something to every room they enter thereby stopping any conversation that was going on or - worse - interrupting the perfectly curated silence you and the other kitchen-dwellers might have achieved.
The unwanted conversationalist
These people should, if at all possible, be recognised prior to your entering the kitchen and then avoided like the plague. They fall into two categories: the 'eye-catcher' and the 'random starter'. The former is obvious enough, they catch you with an innocuous comment and then open the floodgates: "Do you need the milk? Great stuff this, really good for your teeth. Hugh Jackman has great teeth, have you seen The Greatest Showman? Normally I'm not one for musicals but I really loved that one, took the wife twice."
Luckily that pitfall can be avoided with a display of extreme (borderline antisocial) introversion. The same cannot be said for the 'random starter'. If you get caught by this one then, like a bleeding fish in a tank with a hungry Great White Shark, you a screwed. You don't even have to look up and they will pick up midway through a conversation you were probably never having in the first place: "I went to visit my brother in Antwerp yesterday, it's a lovely part of the world out there. I noticed lots of the people have blonde hair, you'd fit right in."
The student housemate
Apparently this individual shifted from student housing back to their parents' basement and has never mustered the social maturity to leave. Either that or they enjoy wallowing in their own filth. Either way they can be found dumping piles of dirty plates into the sink, putting the tap on and then sodding off back to their desk without a care in the world.
The 'married couple' You can spot this pair the moment you walk into any office. It's a duo who are almost inseparable. They spend their days knattering away at their desks in a language which consists of in-jokes and raised eyebrows. They have worked together for so long that they probably use that annoying phrase "work husband" or "work wife" when referring to the other one. As a result, arriving in the kitchen with them is rather akin to sneaking into someone's house and trying to steal a freshly baked bun from their kitchen while they are having breakfast. Somehow these duos manage to make the kitchen their domain. And to make it worse, they will speak to you in the patronising manner which is unavoidable when you are finishing each other's damn sentences.
You can't openly avoid them, but you don't want to be stuck there for a long chat because people will start to talk. Simple greetings, an "everything is fine thanks" and then hand them the milk and leave.
Still photos courtesy of those lovely folks at Pixabay