As they’re used by upwards of 150 people, the two office kitchens can often be quite busy. With one sink, two fridges, one kettle and a limited amount of worksurface to be shared between so many staff, one can often feel a little squeezed.
As a result it seems our usual personal space issues get left at the door when we enter the office kitchen – applying civilised society’s normal rules of comfortable proximity would leave us unable to function. And so, much the same as when using public transport at rush hour, it’s best to just get past the discomfort and get on with it. Sure, you’ll get a bit too close to someone’s armpit and no doubt you’ll step on somebody’s toes, but it’s just the rules of the office kitchen.
During one recent visit I found myself waiting for sink access behind a colleague who drinks a rather suspect green tea which he brews in a special glass teapot. The details and specifics of this teapot’s functionality are as alien to me as that of those cafetier things with the plunger. But from casual glance it looks to contain some sort of seive/strainer in the middle. And though I can only hazard a guess at what it does and why it’s better than a teabag, I am acutely aware that they take longer to clean that a normal cup.
And so as I waited for him to perform his teapot cleaning ritual, with my failing patience getting the better of me I observed the rules of the kitchen and reached around to tip the cold remains of my previous cup down the sink. In doing so - and this is typical of the risks one runs when operating outside the safety-net of conventional society - I very nearly caught my colleague’s special teapot with my cheapo mug. Had they have collided as I briefly anticipated, I imagined one or both of our respective recepticles could have suffered damage. At best, I feared, one of us was leaving the kitchen with an item rendered beyond use.
Luckily they escaped contact and emerged unscathed. I remarked that I very nearly caused a catastrophe with my impatience, that I very nearly broke his posh teapot with my cheapo mug. He seemed rather calm about the whole thing, and made known his confidence that should anything have actually happened, his teapot would have survived.
“I think it’s Pyrex, so it would have been alright”.
And at that moment, that moment of unconditional acceptance, for the first time in my life I became aware of how comforting the existence of Pyrex is.
It’s always been there, Pyrex. It’s one of those brands that you just know you can rely on. The definitive “best”. Every self respecting graphic designer knows that Swann Morton 10As are the only blade worth having in the studio. Every cleaner knows that Henry would laugh Dyson out of existance in a vaccuum-off. Anyone who’s ever eaten fishfingers and chips knows that ketchup other than Heinz might as well be animal effluence. And so it goes, when we head out to buy glass kitchenware we all know there’s only one brand worth having.
Like Tannoy, Hoover, Kleenex and Portakabin, the Pyrex brand has become synonymous with the market sector to which it contributes. To the extent that should they be outsold by a lesser brand, Pyrex will still be the name used. Much as you’d never announce over a public address system that someone needs to vaccuum the torn up pocket disposable handkerchiefs in the prefabricated portable office, you’d never tell someone after a dinner party to make sure they return your microwave and dishwasher-safe large glass oven dish when they’ve washed it. You’d just say “make sure you bring my Pyrex dish when you next come round”.
There’s more to it though. Unlike the products featuring in my rather bizzare building-site security office post night-of-boredom cleanup scenario mentioned above, the Pyrex dish is still seen as the ‘definitive one’. And while people (or as some might call them - ‘idiots’) might incorrectly refer to their inferior glassware as Pyrex while they ‘hoover up’ with what is clearly a Dyson, they won’t be that precious about it. After all, they bought the cheap nasty stuff so they obviously wouldn’t know the difference.
However should their glassware of choice actually be Pyrex, you’ll find quite a bit of brand loyalty and a certain quiet boastfulness about it. Because to buy Pyrex is a conscious decision. The purchaser of Pyrex knows what’s what. One never buys Pyrex by accident. So when, for example, your mum visits and brings you a lasagne, she’ll be very insistent that you remember to return the Pyrex dish it was made in.
“Remember to bring back my Pyrex dish when you’re done”.
“Don’t forget about my Pyrex dish when you’re next up”.
“Make sure you remember to bring my Pyrex dish when you come next, I could do with it – it’s that big square one I brought you the lasagne in, it’s Pyrex”.
And the text message;
“will be in from 3 onward so come any time after remember pyrex dish”
Because Pyrex dishes are special. It’s not ‘cool’ to own Pyrex. It’s not an aspirationally motivated purchase. Unlike an Apple Mac, a 3 Series BMW or a pair of Oakleys - undoubtedly good products who’s qualities are overshadowed by their own often evangelical brand image, there are no lifestyle connotations about one’s ownership of Pyrex. It’s not the one-upmanship of the logo. No. It is genuinely one of the very few brands out there that is still bought purely for its quality and reliability. You’d never show off about the fact that you’d just bought some Pyrex dishes, but you’d definately not lend them out to ‘just anyone’.
Just as my collegue felt safe in the knowledge that his teapot would survive an altercation with my mug, your mum will always know that her Pyrex dish is the definitive one - the only one she’ll ever need - and it’s well worth nagging a forgetful son about.
In the ridiculously far-fetched situation that I was ever in the market for a mixing bowl, I would buy Pyrex. If it meant a special trip to the Cole Brothers (yes, Cole Brothers) kitchenware department, I would still choose Pyrex because Morrisons’ or Wilkinsons’ own products will not do. A big glass bowl without the Pyrex logo on the bottom would be like eating stew and dumplings without Hendersons Relish – illogical and immoral.
I would take comfort in knowing that my glass kitchenware will shrug off being ovened, microwaved, dishwashered or subjected to a strategic missile strike. In fact in all my life I’ve only ever seen one Pyrex dish break. It fell out of a badly stacked kitchen cupboard upon opening the door, causing it to shatter. But not before it broke the floor tile it landed on. True story.