Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I always wanted to be a tea lady

I'm sure we've all seen tea ladies in old movies and TV series.

They'd go around in office buildings with their wheeled trolley that had a giant urn of hot water, many cups and saucers, a selection of biscuits or small cakes, along with jars of sugar, coffee and teabags.
A covered jug of cold milk was on there too.
In much earlier days, there'd be a huge pot of tea, because teabags hadn't yet been invented.

In TV shows, these ladies were usually plump, curly-haired and always happy.
They'd go from office to office, hearing snippets of phone conversations and gossip, as they dispensed morning and afternoon teas.
They got to know all the workers,  from upper management down to the lowliest newbie and usually knew everybody's family history and their secrets too.

Fifteen or twenty minutes later, around she'd go again, collecting the now empty cups and sandwich or cake wrappers.

In between the rounds she'd be in the kitchen washing up, wiping down, refilling tea and sugar containers, refilling the urn ready to boil for the next round.

There'd be a lunch room too, where the staff would gather for the longer lunch break, eating at groups of tables, with one table set aside to hold the newly boiled urn of water for the teas and coffees.
Maybe there'd be a tin of biscuits there, a plate of cakes......

I remember one show where the tea lady would take orders for  lunches when she brought around the morning teas and she would nip on down to the nearest deli/takeaway and put in the orders which were then delivered to the lunch room in time for lunch.
Sandwiches, pies and pasties, vanilla slices, kitchener buns, even cups of hot soup in the winters.

I always thought that would be the most fantastic job and I really wanted to do it.

But tea ladies were phased out in favour of impersonal vending machines, where staffers would drop in their coins, push a few buttons and get hot (or lukewarm) generic coffee, or a cup of hot water to dangle a teabag in.
A similar vending machine dispensed wrapped biscuits or cake slices, some had sandwiches prepared god-knows-when, nothing tasting as fresh as before....

Even the pre-ordered lunch deliveries soon disappeared, with staff members dashing down to the deli/takeaway themselves during their morning tea break, ordering their lunch, then dashing down again at lunch time to pick it up.

The staff lunch rooms remained, but without the tea lady to keep things tidied and clean.

People now leave spills, crumbs, wrappers, hastily (or not at all) rinsed dishes and cups in or on the sink, with perhaps different departments "rostered" to do a quick cleanup.

I personally think this is most unsatisfactory, as they clearly don't have the time to spare to do a proper job and their hearts just aren't in it.

"We're more important, we don't ave time for this, we shouldn't have to be cleaning up a kitchen of other people's messes."

If only there was a tea lady, someone who enjoyed this type of work......


  1. That sounds so civilized. I can't remember ever having a tea lady anywhere I worked. Just nasty cafeterias and vending machines. Maybe you could start a business.

  2. I may only be one in twenty people who leave a mess in the work kitchen, but it really spoils it for all. But given a mess will be left, it should be a proper cleaner who cleans it up, or a person who is allocated the job as part of their duties.

    Was it the tv show The Box that had a tea lady?

  3. I imagine the best thing about a tealady would be the reminder to take a break, have a chat and take time to enjoy a cup of tea. I think we would be so much happier at work, if someone reminded us to stop and smell the tea...

  4. I've often wondered how tea ladies keep the urn on the boil while wandering around the workplace as it doesn't take long for water to go cold. Do they have a long electrical cable trailing behind them? :-).

  5. Ah yes, the tea lady. Now that's something I would like to see return. Besides, try having a conversation with a vending machine. After all, the machine never responds when you curse if it takes all your money and dispenses but an empty cup.
    Have a peaceful weekend.
    In kindness, Gary

  6. Those vending machine for tea and coffee are the worst for all sorts of germs.
    The Home has tea ladies and they chat to the residents that are bed ridden and it's good for them to hear what's going on.
    Some things should not be automated.

  7. Just one of my jobs had a tea lady. She was a delight. I can remember her telling me that she had to get a taxi home (she usually caught the bus) on the last day before Christmas because of the numbers of presents she received. And she deserved all of them and more.

  8. Tea lady. Perfect.

    You were born for it.

  9. My hospital had a tea lady, 2 actually. But drinking lukewarm tea out of a plastic mug just wasn't my idea of tasty!


  10. Delores; I can't be bothered with all that starting up a business entails. I may join the hospital's "Lavender Ladies" when I retire from paid work, they're the volunteers who go around with trolleys of magazines and biscuits or chocolates etc to those who are bedbound and can't go visiting the gift shop.

    Andrew; you leave a mess? tsk, tsk. Wipe up your own crumbs, or suggest they hire a tea lady...
    I never watched The Box past the first couple of episodes, so I don't remember if they had a tea lady.

    Signe; I think a lot of places would be happier if a tea lady were still around, but there's just no budget for one anymore and no time either. Everything is rush rush we must have it yesterday. Sad.

    Windsmoke; that's something I never thought about and now of course I'll keep wondering until something else takes over my mind.

    klahanie; vending machines are so aloof, so distant, and too keen to take your cash and give nothing in return.

    JahTeh; I never use vending machines, I carry a bottle of water when out and go home for my coffee, so I get it piping hot and sweet with fresh milk. But I shall look into tea ladies at aged care homes, maybe I can get a position in one. They're volunteers aren't they? Not paid work?

    EC; I only know about movie and TV versions, but tea ladies do seem to be universally friendly, happy and well liked. Just like me....

    R.H. I think so too.

    betweenthewires; there has to be a way to keep the tea water hot and some alternative to plastic cups. Perhaps an insulated version. Then again a lot of hospitalised people aren't allowed too hot drinks in case of scalding.

  11. removalists; welcome to drifting. Just so we're clear...I have no intention of moving so have no need of your services.

  12. You are absolutely spot on River!

    Our 2 tea ladies have just been made redundant after 16 years of service after we moved into our new building!!! We kicked up a fuss with the admin to no avail.

    Now the kitchens on each floor is a mess... sigh...

  13. Hi River,

    I remember the tea ladies; we would pop out to get a lovely freshly brewed cup of tea and a little snack and have a chat and a laugh. We don't have tea ladies now - we don't even have vending machines. We have to make our own tea and if we spend more than a minute doing so, management think we are being unproductive and start whining like the idiots they are.

    And yes - this is one of the gazillion bugbears that constantly nibble at my will to live in the never ending rat race.





  14. The tea lady was phased out before my working life began but oh, wouldn't it make the office a nicer place to be in if she came back?

    Or 'He', provided some nourishment and some eye candy....

  15. drb; I'd certainly like to see tea ladies make a comeback. I think people, and by default, companies, were more productive when staff didn't have to wander around getting their own cuppas.

    Plasman; management...huh!

    Kath; if the job is ever advertised again, you can bet I'll be first in line applying for it. I may have to settle for the next best thing, volunteer in a hospital or nursing home to take cups of tea and magazines around the beds.