28 February 2008

Rules of Food Salvage

By the time I finish this entry, the half-pizza sitting in the breakroom will have been there for nearly three hours.
Much like the treasure salvage industry, there are certain rules of etiquette one follows when appropriating finds made in the breakroom or other public tables in the workplace. For example, the pizza did not have a not with it saying “Here! Eat me!,” which complicates the timetable for any eventual absorption into my stomach lining. In cases like this, the default measure for inheritance is the passage of time. If the box is unattended for more than three hours, chances are it is abandoned and therefore mine for the taking free from repercussions or consequence. The problem with this rule is academic; after three hours underneath the lights of the breakroom, whatever pizza remains will probably not be fit for consumption.
In the event of bringing in goods for the consumption of the entire office, a commons-area table can be used for a dispersal point. Usually, an offering like this is brought in with great fanfare, typically something along the lines of “Hey everyone! I made brownies!” At this point, all are free to consume. The line blurs when someone leaves a bag of chips on the table or a half-bag of cookies. The assumption made by foragers such as myself is that the food is to be shared; otherwise, why would it be in a public place? Of course, one runs the risk of inheriting the owner’s wrath if the foodstuffs weren’t meant for public consumption. At this point, further diplomacy kicks in; the offending party will usually apologize and offer to replace the misbegotten goods. Normal relations resume at this point.
These rules don’t stop at the workplace; they can also be enforced at the home. Take, for example, the Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream my wife purchased one evening and, after eating a pitifully small serving, left mostly untouched in the freezer. I fought the urge to devour it, but eventually succumbed yesterday evening. My logical deduction was that my wife, after having sole rights to the ice cream for nearly two weeks, would have eaten it if she had so chosen to do so. I was good – I awaited the passage of time like a proper scavenger. When the time came, I moved with a quick spoon, and struck down the enemy before either Ben or Jerry knew what hit them.
For now, I await the ownership of the pizza, despite the fact that it is probably inedible. Food rewards can offer distractions from the tedium and humdrum that makes a good office run smoothly. It’s the little, unexpected things that can make life interesting, be it a donut with colored sprinkles or a pizza that someone left behind. Either way, we can claim these little distractions as our own. Co-workers are not required to agree on much, but everyone can agree to smile and share joy when there is pizza for lunch in the breakroom, or donuts in the conference room. It’s these little moments of shared joy that make the everyday routine bearable.

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