Back to the water cooler.

A quick vignette from America's partial reopening.

Water cooler

[SCENE: an office watercooler, on the first day of in-person work since early March]

[the watercooler now has a six-foot boundary marked in tape on the floor around it]

Hey! Good to see ya! Long weekend, am I right?


Go anywhere fun?


Ahh, no, seriously, though, it’s good to be back. Little apprehensive about comin’ back in here, what with the ol’ dangercough still runnin’ wild out there, but boy was it getting tough to work from home every day. Workin’ hard, or hardly workin’, amiright?



You’re looking at the haircut, aren’t you.

Listen, I tried to hold off. Couldn’t get a haircut anywhere, but I thought maybe it might look good long. Be a new look for me, y’know? Get a loose surfer vibe. I’d look like Dan Cortese back in the ‘90s. Remember MTV Sports? Great stuff. Rock N’ Jock Softball and all that. Always admired the hair. A month in, I thought, well, this isn’t quite what I had in mind. Rome wasn’t built in a day, though, I gotta stick with this. 

Got a little antsy a couple weeks ago.

Wasn’t getting the surfer look down at all. Had more of a ‘90s European hockey player thing going on, which, hey, good for you if that’s your thing, but I can’t skate a lick and even if we’re back to business up front, “party in back” still ain’t allowed yet. Don’t want to send the wrong message. Figured it just needed a little shaping and then we’d be back on the road to Handsometown. Just had to steer it in the right direction. I watched a couple of YouTube videos, figured I couldn’t do too much damage.

It’ll grow out in a couple weeks. 

So, you catch that game last night?

Whaddya mean what am I talkin’ about? KBO baseball, baby! Top level of competition in South Korea. The games are on live at 4am every day! I tailgated in my driveway before work this morning. Got some leftover Korean barbecue I’m gonna heat up here in a minute. Now, I’m bettin’ you’re probably a Kiwoom Heroes fan, huh? Lotta people going that route. It’s the mainstream choice. Me? I did my research, and I’m all in on my Hanwha Eagles. Chang Jong-hoon and the Dynamite Bats era, now that’s a legacy.

[yawns] I was up at 2am marinating the galbi.

[leans in, and you lean back] Hey, they haven’t said anything, but… you don’t think the dress code’s still in effect, is it? I mean, listen, between you and me, I enjoy a biz-cazh slack as much as anyone, get me some pleated Gap khaks and I’m good to go for golf or the boardroom. But, uh, stuff on the ol’ slacks rack ain’t quite fitting the way it used to. That ‘rona musta shrunk ‘em all, amiright? Eh? Hadn’t really been a problem workin’ from home, Zoom’s only showin’ the top half, y’know? Bottom half’s gettin’ to run wild and free. It’s like those videos of the sheep runnin’ through towns in England and such, the old waistline’s just returnin’ to its natural state. Maybe we’re the virus, all that. Anyhoo, I go diggin’ in the closet, figure I gotta have somethin’ in here I can wear for day one back in the office. I think they’re pretty sharp, if you ask me.

Went as MC Hammer for Halloween six or seven years back. “You can’t touch this!”, amiright? Ha. Just like the doctors are sayin’. Hammer tried to warn us! [chuckles] Smart fella, that Hammer. 

[lowers voice to whisper] I read on the facebooks that it’s the cellphones what’s causin’ this. 

[normal voice again] That’s a nice lookin’ mask you got there. You make that yourself? Order it online? Looks good on you. I always said, “there’s a face that’ll look great in a mask!” Ha! Ahhh, I’m just joshin’ ya, you got a perfectly fine face, all the stuff where it’s ‘sposed to be. Don’t go sendin’ me to HR now. Yeah, I figured, they’re just gougin’ you for masks these days, why go paying for something they’d probably ‘a been givin’ away three months ago? So I go online, I do some reading, I see that vacuum bags are made outta the same material as N95 masks, I figure, hey, I’m savin’ money, we got vacuum bags in the house already. I can make my own mask.


Probably shoulda used a fresh one, though. Lotta cat hair in this one.

[looks around] You still think we’re havin’ the office Christmas party this year? I just gotta know well in advance. If we’re havin’ Secret Santa again this year I gotta start my whittling in June if I’m gonna finish on time. Startin’ to understand why they’re callin’ this ‘uncertain times’, ‘cause I sure as heck don’t know what’s goin’ on. But hey, that’s never stopped me before, amiright?


Ah, geez, I’m blockin’ you from gettin’ to the water cooler, ain’t I? This whole social distance thing should be easier for me, I mean, I’m married, ain’t I? [chuckles] Amiright? Six feet apart? Sounds like my prom night! Wipe every down every surface ‘cause there’s stuff on it that might kill you? What is this, my frat house? 


[long sigh]

Well, lemme just scoot on over, letcha get in and get your water. Gotta stay hydrated these days, you know. I ain’t drinkin’ that city water, though. [holds up bottle] This right here? Fresh seawater. Watched this video online what said the ‘rona can’t live at the beach. Well, I can’t exactly be workin’ from the beach, now, can I? Nah, I asked, boss said no. But I got the next best thing. Drove down to the Gulf a couple of days, filled some big tanks up. 

Pure seawater, baby. 

[takes big gulp] Whoo, that’s salty. That’s how you know it’s workin’. 

Anyhoo, I’m glad they’ve got us reopening. Any longer at home and I mighta started to get weird.

Hello again! As you may have seen, I announced last week that the Action Cookbook Newsletter will be transitioning to a paid subscriber model. There will be still be three newsletters a week, just as there have been for the last ten months, but starting May 25th two of those will go to paid subscribers; one email each week will remain free for all.

The much-loved Friday newsletters, with recipes, cocktails, recommendations of books, music, movies, TV and more paired with dogs, will be part of the subscriber-only content soon, and as an additional enticement, I’ve created an index of all of my previously-featured foods and cocktails, accessible to paid subscribers. No more trying to remember what newsletter the Kentuckiana Hot Loin was in!

Hopefully you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber; I’ve been blown away by the initial response since announcing the change last week, and hope to keep this momentum going.

Your support makes this newsletter possible, and I greatly appreciate you for it.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)

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