I eat in the NOS canteen on Sundays. The quality of the food has improved after a ‘regime change’, but it is still only just above the lower limit. Yesterday it was schnitzel with cream sauce, fries and garnish. Most people eat in silence, even while chewing they think through. Logically, they have their feet in the clay. Alblasserdam, Putin, the fighters in Azovstal: they are all entitled to at least one news item. Food is an afterthought at the NOS, the news never takes a break.
When you are done you have to separate your waste yourself.
Plastic, paper, leftover food and ‘other’ all have their own container, after which you have to put your plate on a conveyor belt that then takes it fully automatically to the dishwashers. Then you trudge away lost in thought.
At least, that’s how it usually goes.
There was something new opposite the candy machine yesterday: a ‘compliment tree’. A wooden fake tree. On the side table next to it lay adhesive papers in the form of thumbs and pens.
I read the texts that people had hung on the tree. They were mainly compliments for the diligence and friendliness of the canteen staff, who couldn’t help it either. I read a compliment to the compliment tree itself – ‘what a great initiative’ – calls for an end to the war in Ukraine – ‘stop Putin!’ – and quite a few NOS employees had seized the opportunity for publicly professed office humour. Then, for example, there was a whole bunch of compliments on one Hans. There were also notes with people who said they love Feyenoord, and Ajax, because one note naturally provokes the other.
Should I put a note in it about Vitesse?
About the editors of NRCpeople who never get a compliment?
I suddenly felt the urge to say a lot of thanks.
Arnhem, because I was born there.
My girlfriend and kids that they still stick with me.
I thought of colleague Ernst Jan Pfauth, who became rich with a book of thanks, a book with empty pages, a compliment tree with a cover around it.
And so I just stood there.
Next to me a woman grabbed a paper thumb and a pen.
When she was done she hung the note on the tree.
It said ‘the schnitzel was very tasty!’
By chance I found out that she works in the kitchen herself.
Marcel van Roosmalen writes an exchange column with Ellen Deckwitz here.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of May 9, 2022