The Secretary, the Worm, & the water cooler: A morality tale in three acts

You may remember Worm from our post a couple weeks ago: a high school teacher with a reputation as a scavenger. I mentioned there was a shady incident involving him and the water cooler.

Prepare yourself. Here it is in all its gory detail.

Act 1

Scene: Break room of a suburban high school. Near the door is a reverse osmosis water cooler with instant hot and cold spouts. It is nectar of the gods for the 15 staff members who together pay its annual lease. (Their district office would not approve it as a budgetary item, saying the brown water from the tap was–this is a direct quote–“fine.”) The Worm is  filling his mega slurp cup. The Secretary, who pays the monthly invoices and therefore knows exactly who chipped in for the water cooler, enters.

Worm: (greeting her) Hey good buddy.

Secretary: What are you doing?

Worm: Filling my cup. Hey, were you the one who made those cupcakes? They were good. I had three.

Secretary: (conflicted; should she say something?)

water cooler

Worm: Course they were the last three! Haha! You snooze, you lose!

Secretary: (decision made) I don’t remember you paying to use the water cooler.

Worm: (acts flusteredmoves to sink – sloshing water on floor – starts pouring water down drain) Fine… I… I just won’t use it then!

Secretary: Oh come on, you had to know! It says so right there (points to sign on cooler).

Worm: (still pouring water, it’s a helluva big cup) All right, fine. Just tell me this — how much is the lease?

Secretary: What?

Worm: (still pouring) How much do you pay? What’s the total cost?

Secretary: A month or a year?

Worm: (finished dumping water, now filling cup at fridge dispenser) Gimme the annual cost.

Secretary: Three hundred and twenty a year, plus tax.

Worm: And how much does each person pay?

Secretary: (points at sign again) Twenty for the year. You know that—

Worm: Okay, so you need 16 people to cover it. What happens when you get more than that?

Secretary: (pauses; briefly impressed with his math skills) What do you mean?

Worm: What if more than 16 people pay for it? What happens then? What happens with the extra money?

Secretary: (keeps her voice steady) If there’s money left over, it would lower the price for everyone.

Worm: Well, I’m not going to do it.

Secretary: What?

Worm: I’m not going to pay, so I just won’t use it anymore.

Secretary: (sighing) Fine.

Worm: Fine.

Secretary: Fine.

(Worm leaves, from the hallway we hear one last “Fine”)

Scene 2: Secretary reenacts the incident for her coworkers in the front office: the receptionist, the other secretaries and clerks, even a few Administrators. They are universally charmed by her performance and outraged at the audacity of the teacher. The verdict is unanimous. The Worm is the worst.

Act 2 – The following day.

Scene: Secretary is at her desk; Attendance Clerk approaches.

Attendance Clerk: Guess who I just saw using the water cooler?

Secretary: I don’t know, who? … (gasps) … He wouldn’t!

(They pause as Worm walks by, carrying his full mega-slurp cup. They wait until he’s out of view.)

back of worm

Secretary: Why that little–

Attendance Clerk: He’s such a–

Secretary: I’m gonna kick his sorry little–

At this point the dialogue takes on a more profane nature than this blog typically uses. Therefore, we will fast forward to Scene two.

Scene two: Secretary relays information of Worm’s misdeeds to her previous audience. Her acting is top-notch and the judgment against Worm is swift: He’s guilty as hell.

Scene three: Secretary is at her desk composing an email to Worm. It takes several revisions. Finally she decides on a direct approach. Just two lines:

Hello _______,

Since you decided to continue using the water cooler, I'll need you to pay $20 for the year. Please submit it by the end of the day tomorrow.

Thank you,
Secretary

*send*

Scene four: Nighttime.

Secretary is home, telling Husband of her day. He rubs her back, says things like, “He’s the worst,” and “I’m sorry you have to deal with jerks like that,” and so forth.
Flash to Worm at home, watching TV. Wife calls him to dinner. It’s Hamburger Helper, the Stroganoff one. His favorite.
Back to Secretary, now in bed tossing and turning. At 2 a.m. she puts her robe on and sits at a window. She sighs heavily.
Now we see Worm in bed. Sleeping. Undisturbed.

Act 3 – The third day.

Scene oneSecretary is at her desk, completely absorbed in her work, when suddenly she is struck — PLOP — by a wadded piece of…. money?
She looks up in time to see Worm walking away. She looks at the wadded money on her desk: a $20 bill.
She laughs.

Scene twoHer final performance, she makes it a good one. She tells each audience member not to look at her, just pretend they are working. Then she walks by and tosses the wadded money at them.
Does it hit them a little harder than the original? Perhaps.
Does she stomp away a little more childishly? Definitely.
Yet all are astonished, outraged on her behalf, and immensely entertained.
Could we ask for a better ending? No. We could not.

Moral of the Story

Let us consider: In this Water Cooler saga, who behaved best?

On the one hand, we have Worm. He knowingly used something that other people were paying for, with no intention of paying himself. When confronted, he grew defensive and went so far as to hint Secretary was using the money to fund her lavish lifestyle. He then lied by promising he wouldn’t use the water cooler, then turned right around and used it again. Eventually he paid, but he did so childishly. Never once apologizing or admitting any wrongdoing.

What a Worm.

On the other hand, what did our Secretary do? (You know it was me, right?)

It’s true that Worm mistreated me, but he only mistreated me. Whereas I abused him to everyone in the front office. I gleefully told of his misdeeds and every time I told the story, it grew in detail. I tore the little man to shreds. Sure, I withheld broadcasting it to his fellow teachers, but — oh, hey there! — I’m now splashing it on the internet.

Truth is, I kinda hate myself a little bit over this. For one thing, I hate that I let it bother me so much. It’s a flippin’ water cooler, for crying out loud! No one was being harmed. Not really, anyway.

For another, I know that if I had the chance for a do-over? Um… yeah… I’d probably behave the exact same way. I mean, how could I not?! It was funny, and I’m all about funny.

But the thing that bothers me most? He was the one who made the first attempt to make amends. (The encounter I described in the other post actually came after the Water Cooler Incident.)

All this means is that… *gulp*… *gritsteeth*… Worm comes out ahead. He behaved better.

Damnit.

worm victorious