Occasionally a line would form of coffee addicts needing their fix. Most had the same routine: when one brew cycle was finished, the next person in line would place his or her cup in the machine and press the button. Seventy-four seconds later they’d withdraw their cup, add sugar, carry it over to the cooler, take out the half-and-half, and add that; then leave.
Doctoring the coffee after brewing added a good twenty or thirty seconds to the total coffee preparation time, a substantial increase over the time needed by the machine per se. But the machine’s user waits idly for seventy-four seconds; why not put that time to better use? After several months it dawned on me to change my routine. As soon as the previous user’s cycle ended, I pressed the start button without putting a cup in the machine. Instead, during the first thirty or so seconds of grind-and-brew time, I put sugar and half-and-half into my empty coffee cup, then placed it in the machine. By the time the machine was finished, I was all ready to go, about 25% faster than everyone else.
In hindsight it was an obvious optimization to make, and in an office full of bright, busy engineers I was surprised that I was the only one I had ever observed making it. I did occasionally get some appreciative glances from others on seeing my technique in action, and finally within the past year I’ve noticed my method catching on. It’s gratifying to be a trendsetter, but frustrating to be unacknowledged. At least I can tell you about it.