Coffee, tea, or empty cups?

It was 9 o’clock in the morning as I made my way towards the booth I was manning for the day. Most of the other exhibitors were sipping their Starbucks coffee bought from the store downstairs while some were already pitching their products and services to early birds at the career fair.

After a quick smile and an impassionate greeting to my next door exhibitor who was attending to his displays, the next 10 minutes were spent rolling out the bunting, placing it on its stand, taking out the four boxes full of brochures and flexing my vocal chords for a day of selling and promoting.

I peeked over at my neighbour. The manager was busy attending to his coffee dispenser. His 20-foot long table was empty except for three Chrome-coloured dispensers that he was seemingly tied-up with wiping and polishing to make it shine as bright as the metal beams holding up the Marina Bay Sand Resort outside the window on the horizon.

It was 10 o’clock and the coffee and tea café operator’s table still had neither coffee nor tea on it. The manager have been shifting his three dispensers 3 inches to the front or rotating them 2 inches to the left for the last 60 minutes.

It was 11 o’clock and the store supervisor, and having enlisted his staffs now, was shifting to and fro the tent cards on the table; plus making sure the stirrers were all facing west, that is until he decides to make them face east instead 30 minutes later. There was still no coffee served.

It was 12 o’clock and by then, countless visitors had passed by his booth only to be told; “Sorry the coffee is not ready.” I guess that it was not easy to prepare “the world’s best coffee” as one of its painstakingly 67-degree slanted positioned tent card loudly stated. The staff only started to place the paper cups, apparently with military-precision to an imaginary line.

It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and the hall was already packed. The supervisor was summoned over by a worried-looking staff to the water boiler. From their concerned expressions and agitated gesturing, it was clear that the particular apparatus was not functioning. Four hours since they first set up their booth, there was still no coffee available!

The supervisor quickly ran out of the hall and an hour later, he was back with a brand new identical boiler. His colleague plugged it in and… nope; it did not come alive as anticipated. Lunchtime was already over and still no coffee or tea for people to savour. One of his younger staff suggested he tried inserting the boiler into nearby electrical points to see if it may perhaps be power supply rather than the appliance itself. Hey presto!

“Instead of five hours of fussing over the out-of-line dispensers, the angle of the tent cards, how many cups to each row, and the number of decorative beans on the plate, why didn’t anyone check to see if the water boiler was working?” I asked my colleague and added: “And why not check another electrical power point before rushing out to buy a new boiler?”   

Almost five hours later, one store owner, one overly meticulous supervisor, four staffs, two boilers, three empty tables, and rows of empty paper cups, “the world’s best coffee” is finally available to the world.

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