The office water cooler: a staple of the American workplace, a beacon of rest and rehydration, and the great equalizer of an often uneven corporate battleground. Its little gurgle noises can be heard periodically throughout any business day – a comforting yet mysterious reminder that some cliches are classic for a reason, and that, hey, there’s water if you need it. Few people know that those gurgles actually hold significant meaning within the cooler’s culture, and therefore yours.
Here are some of your workplace water cooler’s most popular phrases, translated.
One quick bubble and then two long bubbles
This is just a standard check-in noise; a way for the cooler to let you know it has plenty of water left, should you suddenly need some of its nectar. Nothing to see here, nothing to do. Hope you’re having a nice day.
Three quick bubbles and three long bubbles
Uh oh, there’s trouble afoot! That cooler’s getting low, and it’s time for office manager Devin to hoist up a new multi-gallon and send the empty one to its eternal slumber. He’s put the new tank in the wrong way before, but he’s trying his best… and isn’t that what the office water cooler is all about?
One long bubble and two quick bubbles
Someone may have brushed by the cooler a bit too hard and turned it ever so slightly loose from its trusty receptacle. It’s ok, though, as it’s still in place and ready to get you where you’re going (as long as that place is the bathroom).
Seven quick bubbles with one medium bubble somewhere in the middle
This one sounds pretty scary, but believe us, it’s perfectly natural. This simply means that there’s some excess air caught in the tube between the main water supply and the faucet. All is well, but you should probably double check that Devin put it on right, or this could keep happening. Remember back in April when he first started the job? It was happening like every day.
One long bubble, a little break, and then one really long bubble
This is where it gets interesting. Little gurgles such as this – rare as they may be – have remained controversial within the transcreation field for decades. Some new age interpreters believe this to be a sign of contentment; that the cooler has reached its optimal temperature and liquid mass in perfect unison. Old school translators feel this is a sign that the warranty is about to expire, and it may be best to replace the system before it’s too late. There is no definitive translation in place, but the federal government recently approved a $500,00 research grant for MIT’s Department of General, Non-Open Concept Office Linguistics to further delve into the phenomenon.
Don’t take your water cooler’s loss of words lightly. This could be its silent period, sure, but it’s been quite a while and you haven’t heard a peep. You were on that conference call until 2:30, so were definitely around to hear something. You also got lunch delivered today, so it’s not like you left the office and missed it, either. No, this may be the moment all hydration-conscious employees fear: the end of the line for who’s really in charge around here. Say a prayer and light a candle, for this patron of wet has dispensed its final encore. Or, you know, maybe Devin put it in wrong again. Someone should really talk to him.
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Zach Raffio is a NY based comedian + writer. He is head writer of The Broadway Beat, a Broadway/theatre-based satire publication which Seth Rudetsky has called “truly brilliant comic writing”. He contributes to satire site The Hard Times and co-hosts the podcast PEAKED with HaleyJane Rose and Edward Precht, where each week the trio dives into a guest’s teenage years to decide whether or not they peaked in high school. Guests include Matt and Kim, Jamie Loftus, Ziwe Fumudoh, Zach Reino of Off Book: The Improvised Musical, and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot.