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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lunch and the Lunch Thief*


*Waterbury, CT Republican-American, November 18, 2009

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Written content only
Like most workplaces, we have a breakroom, within which resides two refrigerators. They are placed there for the benefit of employees who bring lunches that might prove inedible after four hours in a desk drawer. In normal terms, the ‘fridge is one of the last refuges of safety and security. One can breeze through in the morning, drop the plastic discount store bag in an open spot, and proceed to the workstation with that confident feeling that your food is safe and secure.

A bag lunch is, naturally, an investment. You have to get up early enough (or stay up late enough) to make the sandwich, or package the leftovers, adding the bonus apple or thing of yogurt. (If you have a better name for those concave foil-topped plastic contraptions, let me know.)

The point being, time was taken; effort was expended. And when the noon hour arrives, there is a certain level of anticipation, even satisfaction in retrieving and consuming our custom-built repast.

But lurking among us are the lowlifes; the scum of the workplace; those whose own needs trump all others. They usually strike on bad weather days. They had planned to go out, but when visiting the window and seeing the driving rain, the blistering heat, or the biting wind, chose to be cowards to the elements.

These are the lazy; the slovenly; the careless individuals who went to bed too late, blithely assuming they’d have time to make lunch in the morning, only to sleep in just a little too long. This is the person you picture sprinting out the door, tie in one hand, electric razor in the other while doing the hop-along-tie-the-shoe-on-the-run thing, and turns a routine commute into something more suitable for Daytona or Indianapolis.

The segment of proteins and amino acids responsible for considerate behavior in our DNA are missing in them. Consequently, when they’re hungry and have no lunch, the whole refrigerator becomes their oyster. And after four hours of anticipation, when we discover our meal to have been filched, we feel violated.

Of course, there are countermeasures if you are a regular victim of the lunch thief. Bringing a lunch that doesn’t require refrigeration is one way. Peanut butter, for one, is almost indestructible. You can bring an insulated bag with a re-useable icepack inside and hide it in your desk.

For the more vengeful (a dish best eaten cold, after all), there is the practice of planting a sandwich in the ‘fridge laced with something creative like prescription-strength laxative or Habañero pepper juice. I never felt the need to go all Jack Bauer on someone, although at my last job, I along with the entire staff was treated to the happy sight of our lunch thief bounding towards the restroom, two hands desperately gripping his backside.

Admittedly, some of us make it too easy. Some folks like to bring in a large bag on Monday containing a whole week’s worth of food. Others bring in a stack of frozen dinners, filling an entire side of the small freezer, then forget about then for the next six months. And then there are the truly absent-minded among us who might bring in a lunch and leave it there.

Forever.

You know what the nastiest job in the workplace is? Cleaning out the breakroom refrigerator. You could turn out a bumper crop of penicillin from the molds that grow there.

Peaceful co-existence in the workplace requires effort from everyone, even in the breakroom. Eat what you bring. Promptly. And if you find yourself on a nasty weather day gazing longingly at someone’s leftover prime rib sandwich, be an adult. Put on your coat and go out. Consider it your penance.

Unless, of course, you like Habañero pepper juice.
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