With many folks working from home now, some workplace issues have likely fallen to the wayside, whereas new ones are undoubtedly surfacing. For those of us deemed essential, in-person workers, many things about our days look different beginning with mask wearing, sanitizer use galore, gloves, distancing, etc. It’s been a delicate balancing act of doing what we used to while incorporating COVID-19 protocols. What is amusing to me, however, is that some of the minor trials and tribulations of working with other people still exist, pandemic or no pandemic—enter workplace kitchens specifically. Ah-ha, right?! If you’ve ever had a shared eating space, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? 😉
The other day, an email came across my screen with the subject line: Missing Muffin. Immediately, I knew. There’s always one or two culprits at work who seem to help themselves to whatever is in the communal fridge/freezer. If it’s not labelled or zipped up in a lunch kit, or even if it is which is worse yet, the risk of your item(s) ‘disappearing’ is real and frustrating. I personally gave up on putting my things in amongst others and invested in my own mini-fridge and coffee maker years ago for that very reason. Before taking matters into my own hands, I’d lost whole lunches, blocks of cheese, coffee creamer, mugs, etc. and never ONCE caught the perpetrator. These light-fingered folks are indeed sneaky and bold. You have to wonder when/how they are able to ‘scope and scoop’ given that so many people are in and out of the space, but somehow they manage. Maybe the tougher it is, the more they take it as a personal challenge or something?
Stealing someone’s lunch/snacks pre-pandemic was one thing, but now… now, you are just flat out taking your chances with consuming someone else’s food. I mean, what if the owner decided to lick it, say, after they made or bought it? While that might sound like a bit of a stretch, anyone who has had experience in food preparation services knows that there are far worse case scenarios that the rest of us best not ask about. Just the same, there always seems to be a brave soul out there who is willing to hedge their bets and COVID-19 isn’t about to impede their efforts. I wonder if the high for them is the actual abscondment of the items or the notion of scoring ‘free’ food? Hopefully, it’s not done with the intention of ruining someone else’s day, but you never know. I’ve learned to never assume.
What grosses me out the most is the daily state of the workroom fridge. Honestly, there are things living in there that scientists don’t even recognize. Whose are they and how long have they been in there? Yet, when the mass email goes out asking about experiment numbers thirty-two, thirty-three and thirty-four, no one ever seems to know. Funny how that works. The fridge shelves are continually coated in spillages of the sticky variety to which everything else adheres including bits of others’ lunch bags, cardboard boxes, etc. Expired containers are a mainstay as are partially-eaten, half-wrapped items scattered here and there. Why leave one bite or one swig? Obviously, it’s just that they can’t be bothered to throw it out or clean the plate/glass that it is on/in, which brings me to the next common gripe…
Clean-up duty. At each of my workplaces, we’ve been assigned a turn at either weekly or monthly kitchen duties. The sink, microwave and if lucky (or unlucky) enough to have one, the dishwasher become real sore spots, so much so that signs such as, “Your momma doesn’t live here” and “Clean up your own dirty dishes” simply blend into the background. Despite being grown adults, caked-on plates and cutlery, ring-stained glasses and milky substances are a constant in the sink making it difficult to actually use the faucet as intended—you know, to wash things off. Sounding like a broken record, one can’t help but ask, ‘How hard is it to rinse things off and put them in the washer half a foot away?’. Microwaves are just as bad with permanent bits of food and splatters everywhere leaving one to question if they are even safe to use despite their sizzling hot ‘will kill anything’ temperatures. I also wouldn’t trust the universal Dollarstore plastic covers for re-heating since they rarely get cleaned between uses, if ever. Blech!
The loading and unloading of dishwashers could make up an entire post in and of themselves. Everyone seems to have their own idea about where and how things should be placed. Top rack, bottom rack, cutlery handles up, cutlery handles down—you see it all. No wonder items come out dirty half the time between their ‘curing’ time in the sink, their haphazard placement in the washer and the ever-questionable wash buttons/cycles on the machine itself. *If* the dishes manage to come out clean, the handling of them afterward will surely undo the sanitization process hence my argument for cutlery handles up, people. Again, I supply my own cutlery because the thought of all of it, especially now, makes me squeamish at best. The truth is that sandwiches and finger foods such as, cheese, crackers and pepperoni sticks sound better all the time, don’t they? Just be sure to find a functional sink to wash your hands in first!
In case you are wondering if the missing muffin was ever found, it wasn’t. No surprise there, but our secretary whose muffin it was, was pretty upset and she is not one you want to anger. What did unfold afterward was a plethora of follow-up emails; some replies imploring that the sender had NOTHING to do with it, while others skated on thin ice with a joke or two. Interestingly enough, all of my crime show watching dictates that ONE of those replies was a decoy—an attempt at covering up the individual’s guilt by professing their so-called innocence. Anyone who watches Dateline or 20/20 ought to know that that kind of reverse psychology only backfires and points the finger more in the direction of the guilty party. I wonder if the muffin culprit realizes that there is also the sophisticated use of genetic genealogy nowadays which can be used to trace one’s DNA. Even decades later, they could be found out thanks to a distant cousin’s profile on CODIS (the DNA data bank used by the FBI). If I were the ‘taker’, I’d be sure not to leave any prints or samples behind from here on in since our secretary is sure to be watching. In between time, my email reply to ‘Missing Muffin’ included a very crafty solution I’d recently come across: