The Great Milk Palava of 2015

This is something that has been causing me a great deal of amusement lately that I would like to share with you.

I realise that in order to join me in my amusement, you will need some background to the story. So here ’tis:

I work (among other things) as a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Tasmania. I am located in the chemistry department, which is about a quarter of the way up the hill from the river. However, part of my teaching takes place in the English Language Centre (ELC) which is located in the Old Medical Sciences Building (yes, I know, the name ‘old medical sciences’ is like ‘turn left at the new roundabout where the big tree used to be’) up the top of the campus – I think the OMSB is the very top building on the hill, though there may be a forestry building further up, only accessible by stairs.

So three times a week I pack up my teaching gear and walk the ten minutes up the hill, over the overpass, past agricultural sciences, and up to the OMSB to do my teaching. And while I teach for the ELC, at the moment at least, I don’t really feel part of their clan. (Don’t stress, I don’t have time to be part of another clan).

My story starts with an email, sent to all ELC staff, asking  for someone to please pick up their milk from agricultural sciences rather than the old medical sciences building, as the new milk delivery truck cannot turn around at OMSB and can only get to Ag Science. (I am very sad now, because as I go to write this post, I cannot find the original email.)

When I got the email about the milk, it was news to me! The staff get milk delivered? That doesn’t happen in the chemistry department. Delivered milk is a luxury that I am denied, and these people aren’t even bothering to pick it up? It’s a two minute walk down the hill, people! Pick up your milk!

Anyway, it looked like the people weren’t listening:

Good morning,

Another email about the milk, so I apologise.

I have just had a call from our milk suppliers that the milk delivered on Mondays hasn’t been collected by the Wednesday for the last couple of weeks and they have said that collection is sporadic.

Could somebody please get back to me to confirm who usually collects it on the Monday? I’d like to make sure it is in fact our staff collecting it and perhaps consider another method for the order. I also am aware that there are teachers who teach later in the week who would miss out if I were to cancel the order over there and have it delivered here instead. But that would mean somebody coming over to Hytten Hall. Currently the order is 1 full cream and 1 lite.

Several points here:

Is someone from another department picking up our milk?! That would not be good. Milk rustling in the zoology department! Call the milk police!

Then, point two: it’s important for everyone to know what the order is. Perhaps we have only picked up the full cream milk, not the lite milk. And one what? 1 litre of milk? 1 two litre bottle? It’s all too confusing! Perhaps the milk is not picked up because it’s too confusing!

And as for the Hytten Hall suggestion – no chance! If they can’t get down to zoology, there’s no way someone could walk down the bush path through the jack-jumper infested bbq area and then back up to Hytten Hall. Not going to happen.

A staff member responds:

I can only answer for myself but as a casual and not being present on Wednesday, I cannot collect it.  

I suggest that we order in long life milk once a semester to be delivered to our floor. Officeworks for example could do this with the photocopy paper, or we could order from Coles or Woolworths.  The milk could be stored in the staff room. There is often no milk here on the rare occasions that I want one at break on Thursday.

best wishes

Now here’s a problem solver. We could use long-life milk. There wouldn’t be a weekly issue then, just a once a semester delivery. There are even stores that do this – stores that have trucks that can make it to the OMSB. Let’s do that. Then the poor girl could have her cuppa tea on Thursday after her teaching.

But there’s a complication, and the reason for the tardiness may be discovered in the following email:

Hi

Between Foundation Studies staff and the other people working on Level 3 we usually manage to get hold of a carton of milk each week from else where in the building (OMSB).

 I know that Level 1 still have a crate of milk delivered here (OMSB) each week (mixture of full cream and lite). They must have a different supplier.

I suggest we use the same supplier as Level 1 and have 1 carton of full cream and 1 carton of lite milk delivered with them and then we can just pick it up from the foyer as we did before.

Cheers

It is not the staff’s fault! The truck should be able to go to the OMSB – another truck does. And it gives both full cream and light milk. The supplier is just slack.

And as the staff can go and raid the supply from level 1, there is no need to traipse down and back up the hill. Now that the lift is working, you can get milk without putting in much effort at all. (There is no mention of whether the level 1 staff are happy to lose their milk to level 3 staff. We may never know their true feelings – I don’t think they have the email address list). What would you do? Walk down to Ag Science (and back up – it’s the ‘back up’ bit that’s more of an issue, I feel), or just take the lift to level 1 and steal their milk. Much easier!

Our secretary responds:

Good afternoon

I have just cancelled the milk order for FSP. We will be placing an order for long life milk capsules, which was something we were considering earlier this morning.

I believe there is still some milk at the Ag. Science building, if somebody would like to collect it for this week?

It’s over. The long life milk has been ordered. The whole situation has been neatly resolved. Or has it?

Hi

I’m not sure whether you have already proceeded with the new milk order, but I just wanted to mention that I think Erika meant for us to order cartons rather than capsules of UHT; I’m quite concerned about the waste generated by capsules and how this reflects the university’s commitment to being sustainable…

If it isn’t too late, I would really like to echo Michael’s suggestion that we incorporate our milk order into the SLIMS/SM order for level 1 – I’m not sure how many others would agree with me but I personally would prefer to not be drinking UHT milk on a regular basis.

I know that this isn’t an easy situation for you either so I do appreciate your help.

Nope, not resolved.

This difficult situation remains ongoing. It’s a hard situation for everybody. We may need counselling – at least the secretary probably will. I wonder if her job description included the arduous task of herding cats.

UHT milk is not good, capsules are not sustainable and we are never going to get this situation sorted out. I am wondering how much paperwork will be required to order milk with a different department – it would be crossing departmental budget lines. I’m sure that comes under the heading of ‘impossible’. I am also wondering how much milk these people need? How regularly do they drink the milk? Is this a meal replacement, protein shake kind of situation?

Anyway, as you can see, I am deriving great amusement from the situation and will continue to do so, probably for some time into the future if these emails are any indication. In the mean time, I will go and make myself a cuppa, using the milk I keep in my own personal camping fridge in my office.

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