“It doesn’t matter where you’re from – or how you feel… There’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.” ― Gabriel Bá, Daytripper
[one_half padding=”4px 8px 0 4px”]Americans are resourceful, especially when it comes to even the briefest moment of leisure. When labor unions first negotiated a 40-hour work week, the only break in the day was for lunch, and even that was brief. That just wouldn’t fly for a workforce that was not only addicted to caffeine, but cigarettes as well. So, it wasn’t long until the coffee break was introduced and workplaces all over the nation were transformed. The break room was introduced, styrofoam cups were invented, and non-dairy powdered creamer was hailed as the best invention of the 20th century. Next came sugar packets, plastic stirrers, and eventually lids with perforated fold-back tabs so the coffee could be consumed without as much danger of a spill.
All because of the coffee break. Ostensibly, vending machines probably owe some of their success to coffee breaks as well, though their initial placement was elsewhere. Coffee breaks have taken on a life, and ingenuity, of their own. While rules vary from company to company, federal law still mandates two fifteen minute breaks for every eight hours worked, in addition to a minimum of 30 minutes for lunch. Even for those very strange and bothersome people who don’t drink coffee, we all need a moment to step away from what we’re doing, stretch our limbs, let our mind relax and wander a bit. A cup of coffee, especially in the middle of the afternoon as we’re starting to hit that post-lunch slump, keeps us fresh.
Efficiency experts, of course, hate any kind of departure from the grind and have tried since the beginning to find ways of minimizing the impact of coffee breaks on production. Carefully positioning of break rooms, staggered break times, and even some humorous attempts at automating coffee delivery have been attempted with varying degrees of success. Evil managers have attempted to bogart coffee breaks as well, delivering new assignments mere seconds before one was about to leave their desk. There’s no end to what mean people will do to keep us from our coffee.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 8px”]Ultimately, though, those desperate attempts at interference are short-lived and we find ways to obtain the hot nectar we so desperately need to survive our work days. Smart companies who at least pretend to care about their employees, or at least do care about retention rates, have installed full-service coffee shops on the premises. Other companies, where such a luxury might be slightly impractical, arrange for custom delivery at scheduled times of the day. Increasingly, intelligent employers, those who bother to understand how productivity really works, understand that the coffee break is crucial to employee satisfaction and the quality of work that they do.
Today’s picture represents how that even someone whose work schedule is more relaxed still needs a moment to step outside and enjoy a cup from the nearest coffee shop, shoes not necessarily being a requirement. Forced outside because of her cigarette, and with no convenient place to sit, she still finds that moment of respite balanced carefully on her toes, alternating between sipping on her coffee and taking a drag from her cigarette. While the scene is rather contemporary, and the pose somewhat unique, she is still engaging in that time-honored tradition that is just as much a part of the industrial revolution as is the conveyor belt.
Coffee breaks are such a standard part of our day now that I fear some may actually take them for granted. Yet, without them a great deal of work and creativity would be lost. Certainly, most photographers I’ve known over the years are totally worthless without a nearly constant flow of caffeine coming at them, and the same holds true for the majority of creatives I’ve met. I’ve also noticed a high number of attorneys and physicians chugging their coffee between court dates or surgeries. Even the most professional people need a break.
And now, having read all this, I think you probably deserve a break, too. Don’t you?[/one_half_last]