08 February, 2010

Conspicuous consumption

So here's the thing.

I've written in the past about my excessive consumption of V energy drink, and my tendency to accumulate large numbers of bottles at my desk because I can't be bothered walking the 24 paces to put the bottles in the recycling bin over by the kitchen. As a result, the bottles would tend to only ever get thrown out when my manager told me that I need to get rid of them.

However, for most of last year, I actually became very good at removing my empty bottles daily, always aware that if I failed to, my manager would remind me that I needed to do so. All of a sudden, it was rare for a bottle to sit on my desk overnight. On one occasion she even praised me for having improved so much in the regular disposal of my bottles. However, my manager has been away for the last few weeks, and without her watchful eye, I sadly fell back into old habits.

So this is what my desk looked like when my manager returned from her break.

You see, it seems that while I am too lazy to expend a little amount of effort to dispose of my bottles, I will go to great lengths and expend a large amount of effort in order to not throw out my V bottles in a timely manner. For the last ten or eleven months, I was not disposing of my bottles in the recycling bin. Instead, I had a dedicated hiding place right by my desk where I would stash each day's empty bottles. (There were a couple of times when my manager actually walked into the room while I was in the middle of hiding that day's bottles, and I was certain I was caught, but apparently she never noticed a thing. Although the hiding place would move for a few weeks after each of these close calls, just to be on the safe side.) Then every couple of weeks I would call into the office out of hours, put my accumulated bottle collection in a box, and take them home to store in my garage, waiting for the day when I would cover my desk in V bottles. Fortunately it was timed perfectly, so that I had the exact number of bottles that I would require right at the point when my manager took a sufficiently extended break for the joke to work. (I know there is that one empty space on the desk, but it was always the intention for me to leave just enough room for me to work at the computer - the whole idea of the joke was that I was still trying to work in these severely constrained circumstances.)

When it came time to actually execute my plan, I realised that, since my intention was to drop the bottles off in the recycling bin close to my house once the joke was finished, it would be neccesary to rinse all the bottles. (Always rinse your recycling, kids.) Unfortunately, this was an aspect of the plan I hadn't previously prepared for. So, last Saturday afternoon, I sat in my lounge in front of the TV with a bucket of water, and slowly removed the lids of every bottle, rinsed out the inside of each bottle, put the lids back on each bottle, dried the bottles, and reboxed them all ready for the big event. That took five hours. Add the half hour that it took just to load my car with the boxes, and the nearly an-hour-and-a-half it took to actually set them all up on my desk, and we're looking at a good seven hours of work in just this last weekend for this whole thing. (Plus there's all the time involved in the extra weekend visits to the office to pick up that fortnight's bottle collection, and so on.) All this effort for a five second reaction. Clearing the desk was much faster - they were all gone after about fifteen minutes, although I did have help from the only other person in the office that knew in advance about the plan. (To give her some credit, the whole idea of doing all this came out of a conversation I had with this co-worker, when we were bouncing different ideas around for things that I could do if I started collecting all my V bottles. I'm not actually sure which one of us came up with the idea of doing this, but at the very least she contributed to the idea.)

And I do want to be very clear about one point. This really is my desk. I did this to myself. I didn't inconvenience anyone else but me. And, since my manager gets into work earlier than me, I ended up coming into work much earlier than normal in order to be there before she arrived, and I (rather awkwardly) did some work while I waited. Plus I had my desk cleared by the time I would normally start work, and I then worked a full day from that time, so none of this even took time away from my work. (If anything, it saved time at work, since over the past year it was faster to hide the bottles than it would have been to take them down to the recycling bins if I had been throwing them out - I saved fifteen seconds every day that I could put towards the office's work.)

The thing I liked about the idea was, firstly, the fact that it was in my view a very funny image. I laughed out loud when I actually finished setting it all up and stepped back to look at what I had created, I laughed again when I came into work this morning and saw it all set up. The photos don't quite capture the sheer absurdity of the scene. It really looked silly. But I think it also works because it shows my manager exactly why we need her at work to keep us/me under control, and reminds her exactly why she needed a break from us.

So how did my manager react? Well, her reaction wasn't initially positive - in fact, her first words were a much-more-serious-than-I-expected "you need to get those off your desk NOW," which had me worried I had gone too far. (In fact, I was wondering whether she thought I was planning on trying to work for the whole day with my desk like that. That was never the plan - they were always going to be cleared away pretty much immediately. And trust me - I was trying to work for a while before my manager arrived, and it was pretty difficult with all those bottles constraining your movement, so there is no way I could have lasted a full day.) Later she came into my office and, when I tried to prompt her to admit that it was a little bit funny, she stated that she couldn't possibly say that - but she was smiling at the time, so I don't think she was entirely unamused. (Incidentally, my manager is almost certainly going to read this so, welcome back to work, we missed you, and are glad you're back.)

And, if anyone is curious, there are 413 bottles and 31 cans on the table. (You can see the cans on the middle raised tray to the left, but what you can't see are the cans that are under the phone-book holder, which isn't high enough to fit any of the bottles underneath.) Almost all of these are of the sugar-free variety, but there are 4 normal V and 4 lemon V bottles that I bought on occasions when the stores were out of sugar-free. This equals 152.3 litres of V consumed by myself over a period of a little less than a year. Wow. That's rather a lot. And assuming a price of about $3.00 per bottle (a little lower than the standard price in order to allow for any purchases on special pricing), that means I spent... wow, I could have bought my laptop on one year's worth of V drinks. Hmmm. Something to think about. And then forget about.

And if you're wondering why none of the bottles have labels on them - well, the reason for that predates this whole plan. For some reason, back in late 2008 I just started removing the labels and sticking them together, wrapping each label around the top of the previous labels. Some 15-or-more months later, I now have the thing to the right. It's big, solid, and surprisingly heavy. I still have no idea why I made it, but every time I drink a extra bottle of V outside of work, I still take the bottle in to work just so that I can add the label to this thing, because it would be a waste to throw a perfectly good label away. (And it still annoys me every time I look at it and see the point where they changed the label design.)

Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to go. Countdown are selling bottles of V, 3 for $5 - that really is a great price. Plus I need to go to bed. For some reason I've been having terrible difficulty getting to sleep lately.


Elkano said...


Ethan Tucker said...

Nice to see a major ambition fulfilled! And double thumbs up for the socially responsible act of cleaning the bottles before recycling. But the thought occurred to me: why didn't you just stick them all in the bath and fill it up, or get the garden hose out?

Matthew L said...

But the thought occurred to me: why didn't you just stick them all in the bath and fill it up, or get the garden hose out?

Might have been a bit faster, but not much - I still would have had to unscrew the lids, drain the water out, put the lids back on, and dry them. The time-saving of using the bath instead of a bucket would have been negligible.

In any case, instead of recycling the bottles, a co-worker is looking at trying to make a glass tumbler to basically make pebbles out of the glass. Which, if it works out, would be even better, since I could then have a green glass pebble as a souvenir.

Ethan Tucker said...

The tumbler idea would be nifty. But I still hold out hope of seeing a picture of you on Stuff floating across Wellington harbour en route to work on a raft made from V bottles. Might be a bit hard to navigate, but think of the publicity for recycling!