Do your duty, clean that coffee cup

Kitchen cop Alice Watkins gets into a lather about dirty mugs.

You might think that since dishwashers were routinely installed in modern office kitchens, arguments about unwashed coffee mugs might be a thing of the past.

But its sad to say that these old arguments have simply been replaced by new ones.

Who didnt unload the dishwasher? Who didnt put their cup in? Who, horror of horrors, sneaked a dirty cup into a machine full of clean ones?

In my workplace, the fact that the dishwasher program does not have functions including "collect used cups from bench", "stack cups in machine", "switch on machine" and "unload machine" does not seem to compute, or is studiously ignored.

I cannot fathom why some of my colleagues brilliant scientific minds still seem to believe in a good fairy who magically clears up after them.

If they cant be bothered to make an effort themselves, why cant these bright sparks use their combined cutting-edge expertise to develop a really useful techno gizmo to do all the dirty work, a sort of high-tech 21st-century tea lady? Or should that be e-lady?

Sometimes there isnt a clean cup to be found in the kitchen. This can be a real trauma for caffeine addicts deprived of a fix; it must surely contribute to lost productive time.

Cups and mugs seem to go on adventures; if only they could tell. Odd unwashed cups are found on top of shelves, under desks, in peoples offices and frequently they migrate to other departments kitchens throughout the building. Sometimes cups disappear for weeks on end and then mysteriously return spawning bacterial cultures capable of becoming biological weapons of mass destruction.

It seems my office kitchen is not an isolated case. As my job frequently takes me to various corporate city offices, I have been able to conduct some research.

At one office the aroma of freshly brewed coffee precedes a uniformed waitress gliding into the meeting room. She arrives silently with Danish pastries, biscuits, speciality teas and English china cups. After morning tea, she discreetly whisks the empty cups and plates away. Sadly this is a rare luxury in office cafe society.

More typically, I wander with my host to the staff kitchen to make a mug of instant coffee. A familiar scene greets me. There is characteristically a full dishwasher no one has bothered to empty; a pile of cups, occasionally rinsed, adorns the sink; a kitchen bench is littered with coffee rings, sugar grains, the remains of someones lunch, and various unwashed cups and mugs.

On the wall of the kitchen there is typically a neatly presented notice typed in a large bold font. It occasionally features a few colourful graphics to aid the dish-lexic executive. This notice politely, yet firmly, cajoles kitchen users to keep the kitchen tidy and reminds them to use and empty the dishwasher.

We coffee cup cops must do our duty.