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......
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