COLUMN: Domestics and the office environment

Some day, someone ought to do a study on office workers – specifically as it relates to communal kitchen conduct.

COLUMN: Domestics and the office environment

Some day, someone ought to do a study on office workers – specifically as it relates to communal kitchen conduct.

I speak of two particular behaviours which seem prevalent in virtually any office environment.

One is the widespread phobic aversion to doing dishes.

The other is the habit of abandoning food in the refrigerator.

Office lunchroom dynamics consist of three identifiable groups:

1. The Worker Bees, a small group of domesticated individuals who do all the dishes in the sink, regardless of who put them there. They do so with minimal protest, other than perhaps posting little notes above the sink, ranging from cute: These dishes don’t do themselves, to angry: Don’t leave your dishes for others to do! (You see the fatal flaw in that sign. It merely reinforces the perception that dishes left in the sink will get done.)

2. The Independents – people who quietly do their own dishes, collect their food from the fridge, and ignore everything else.

3. The Others – a cabal of carefree souls who eat, dump their dishes and stroll off. No one really knows who they are, but they generate a full sink every day. They’re also the folks who heat uncovered food in the communal microwave, and when it explodes, they take their plate of chow and vanish, leaving the goo-coated appliance for someone else to clean.

You have to wonder about the Others. Is this behaviour consistent in their private lives? Do they not do their dishes at home? If not, who does? Is this gender-specific? I suspect not.

Or do they only dump and dash at work? If that’s true, it begs the question, why? Is it a feeling of anonymity? Misplaced passive-aggressive resistance to corporate control? Troubled childhood?

Now … go to any office fridge, open the door and peer into the depths.

Almost guaranteed there will be a number of objects at the back that are carpeted in mould, or seaping puddles. There’s a Tupperware container in which something is growing with such robustness it has pushed up the lid, and you’d swear there is a little set of eyeballs staring at you.

These are the morphing remains of lunches, placed there presumably by people who at one time intended to eat them.

Why else bring food to work, if it’s not going to be consumed?

I  have yet to work in an office that couldn’t feed a small community of homeless from the food that expires in the lunchroom fridge.

Yogurt has to be the most popular food in North America that is rarely actually eaten.

I think it’s just a good intentions thing for people wanting to lose weight, or “eat healthy.” You buy yogurt. You feel accomplishment. You’re done. You don’t really have to eat it.

Ditto with leftovers. People take leftovers to work so they can feel good about not throwing them away at home.

So, they put them in the fridge and that’s where they stay, until the office Refrigerator Nazi notices a new life form seeking freedom from its plastic container, and whoosh, into the trash can it goes.

Fruit, same deal. People bring fruit. Nobody eats fruit. They put it in the crisper. Fruit shrivels, sags, leaks and grows a fur coat.

I once found in a company fridge a half-dozen petrified mandarin oranges which, if fired from a cannon, could have penetrated tank armour.

Anyone interested in a petrified egg sandwich? If you can find a clean plate to put it on, you’re welcome to it…