My Chinese corridor companions (I mean they’re Chinese, not the corridor) are enjoying their usual leisurely social lunch, perhaps of steaming noodles combined with beef in ginger and black bean sauce…
…peace which is then RUDELY SHATTERED by the arrival of three MBAs, fresh from a lecture and ALL wanting the incredible luxury of being ACTUALLY ABLE TO EAT SOMETHING in the break between morning and afternoon.
My goal is ambitious enough, given the average MBA’s 90 minute break includes 87 minutes of homework and email: toast. Nothing fancy, just SOMETHING hot to relieve the endless procession of cereal bars.
Minute 6: I enter the kitchen. Gained 30 seconds on the walk back to Lakeside by maintaining a fast clip. Into room, check email, while it’s downloading I head for the kitchen. Hi to Hu, Hi to Ho (like many Chinese, they prefer being addressed by their family names – let’s call them H1 and H2), adjust trajectory to zero in on toaster.
Minute 9: bread’s into the toaster. M’s already in there (the kitchen, not the toaster) bent double inside the fridge teasing out a bag of oven chips.
The toaster warms, far too slowly. C’mon, damnable appliance, I’m an MBA candidate! Got places to go! People to see!
Minute 13. “WHAT???” hollers M. “I THOUGHT THESE CHIPS WERE ALREADY COOKED YOU KNOW! TWENTY FIVE MINUTES??? IS THAT WHAT THEY CALL ‘CUSTOMER FOCUSSED’???”
I deliberately avoid her gaze: I KNOW it’s a reasonable assumption, that the sole British resident of the corridor would know something about oven chips, but the fact is I don’t. No WAY can I get tied down in the minutiae of rectangular sliced frozen potatoes. We’re up to Minute 16, damnit!
E comes in, another of the friendly, approachable Nigerians that permeate the UK’s higher educational establishments. E seems unsure of lunch. What, didn’t she have ANY kind of plan? Get a grip, girl!
“I AM NEVER BUYING THESE CHIPS AGAIN!!!!” repeats M. The Chinese guys, being the helpful sort, dash into the kitchen to survey her eloquently stated frozen-potato visual anomaly. There are now five people in the little room and EVERYONE, BUT EVERYONE, IS IN SOMEONE ELSE’S FUCKING WAY. Minute 18.
“They have clamped several of the cars outside…” begins H1, but stops, giggling at the now-familiar chaos of MBAs on a break. Listen bud, they even clamp the TOASTERS in this joint (ours is firmly fixed to the steel worksurface); they’re definitely going to clamp cars.
Toaster buzzes. Minute 19. Ah, the climactic moan of release. H2 is in the f**king way YET AGAIN. In scenes reminiscent of the film ‘Empire of the Sun’, Asian people go flying as I lunge for my warmed-over Hovis.
“It is overburnt”, remarks the prone H1. Butter and bread come together in an orgy of reconstituted animal fats and reprocessed wholegrain. All I need now is to balance my cup of tea on the plate, and I’m ready to carry the ensemble out of the kitchen zone and back to my room, my laptop, and freedom.
Damn, forgot to boil the kettle.