Teatime at SCS
The greater part of Dad's IT career was spent at Safmarine Computer Services (SCS). Like most corporations, SCS had a kitchen area where staff members could take a break, chat, warm up food, or make themselves tea or coffee.
I remember the coffee machine in the SCS kitchen well, having visited the office quite frequently after school or university classes were over for the day. It stood on a table and was one of those large, ugly plastic jobs with upside-down jars inside for coffee, sugar, coffee creamer etc. The jars were attached to valves which had a sort of butterfly knob on them, and you held your styrofoam cup under the valve and turned the knob once or twice to help yourself to the various powders.
The machine also had a reservoir of hot water, and when you had dispensed your coffee and sugar, you stood the cup in a holder and pressed a button which dispensed the right amount of boiling water for one cup of tea or coffee.
One day at the office, Dad ambled into the kitchen to find one of his colleagues, a woman called Val, making herself a cuppa. She duly turned the various knobs to mix her coffee, creamer and sugar, and then stuck the cup into the holder and pressed the hot water button.
The machine poured her cup of hot water…and then kept on pouring. Val jabbed at the button to no avail. There were two or three extra styrofoam cups on the coffee table, so she quickly removed her cup and shoved another one under the water supply. As that one filled, she removed it and shoved another cup in, and then another.
She got down to her last styrofoam cup very quickly, and began to panic.
“Barney, help!” she cried. “I'm running out of cups and this thing won't stop!”
Dad, never one to abandon a damsel in distress, duly pulled a stack of styrofoam cups from the kitchen cupboard. He handed her about five, one at a time, letting her build up a neat little row of styrofoam cups full of boiling water on the kitchen table – and then he calmly leaned across and switched the coffee machine off at the wall.