It's not like I didn't know about cargo cults. The classic story has isolated Pacific Island tribes building things that look like runways after the end of the second world war, hoping that the cargo planes and their wondrous riches will return: it's the belief that the trappings of an activity are what brings the benefits. And, you can see how they'd made the mistake: folks built runways, and all of a sudden the planes came. Maybe making more offerings of runways and hangars will bring them back after they leave.
And so it was with our departmental coffee machine. Push button, coffee arrives. It says empty grounds, we empty grounds. Then push button, coffee arrives. That stopped working early last week. After emptying grounds, the machine wouldn't recognize that we'd emptied the grounds and refused to deliver coffee. So we tried cleaning around inside the machine, thinking that some sensor or other up in there must be dirty. And, sometimes it worked! But not always. And so we developed more and more elaborate rituals, trying to make the coffee return. But whenever we thought we'd found the trick, it stopped working again.
The repair guy today tells us that there's a not uncommon electrical fault with the machine. If you leave the grounds tray out of the machine for long enough, it resets itself. So the lengthy cleaning sessions worked, not because we'd found the bit that needed cleaning but because the tray had been left out long enough. And just going back afterwards to clean the particular bit found later would never work because the tray hadn't been left out long enough. We can either spend $500 fixing the machine, or just leave the tray out for 5-10 minutes after dumping the grounds. We've opted for the latter.
Off now to perform the morning ritual...push button, wait for coffee, offer homage unto the machine. Next time it stops working, I'll perhaps weave a little wicker coffee cup to put beside the machine to encourage it.
Update: I'd forgotten how much worse that machine's coffee is compared to the stuff I've been buying at the shoppe downstairs. Sigh.
Further Update: Perhaps if I leave gold coins beside the machine, it'll make better coffee. I give money downstairs to get better coffee...