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Feeding Time at the Corporate Zoo

Ah, lunchtime!  That blissful mid-day hour when you feed your belly and refresh your mind.  Or so I’m told.  The last time I took a lunch hour, it was a 3:30 pm and I took my kids to the doctor.  The time before that?  Hm.  I think I scooted across town to pay the water bill, then rushed back to the office.  We don’t do lunch breaks in my office.  I feel I must clarify, before I’m inundated with ferocious cries about the employee rights and a company’s legal obligations, that we are not REQUIRED to work through lunch.  My company offers and encourages regular breaks.  But the simple fact is, we don’t have time for it.  We’re not really business lunchers, we’re more grab something quickly and try not to be chewing when the phone rings lunchers.

This is all fine and good, but the practice of dining at your desk brings with it a need for rules.  Sadly, these are unspoken rules to date, because we dare not offend each other on the topic of food.  (We are a passionate bunch.)  Also, no matter how much your lunch or your eating habits disgust me, I do not want you to go eat elsewhere, because I have neither the time nor the inclination to cover your work while you’re gone.  However, it becomes more and more apparent that someone needs to lay down the ground rules for eating at your desk.  Friends and coworkers, I will answer your call.  Here are the basic rules of courteous noshing in the workplace.

Rule #1 – Stinky Aromatic Meals should be the Exception

I should not have to suffer through the aromas of your leftovers.  If it smells delicious, it’s going to make me covet your lunch.  If it does not smell delicious, well, don’t be surprised when someone says loudly, “What in the name of God is that SMELL?”  Horrifyingly, I was once guilty of this myself, when I brought a presumably innocent chicken salad sandwich to work.  There’s really nothing like a quiet and neutral-smelling office to make you realize how very much garlic powder you added to the chicken salad.  I learned my lesson and apologized profusely (even though everyone wants my chicken salad.  Admit it.  But I digress.)  Bottom line,  if you must eat strongly aromatic foods at work, your lunch needs to be bookended by warnings and apologies.  I innocently walked out of my office recently to get smacked in the face by the smell of REHEATED FISH.  Unacceptable. 

Rule #2 – Be aware of your leavings.

Canned tuna offers a convenient, affordable and relatively healthy lunch option.  If you don’t warm it up, you’re not likely to offend anyone.  Until tomorrow morning when your trash can is about to grow fins and swim away from its own stink.  That yummy and healthy banana?  Imagine how that greasy rotten peel will smell at 6am.  Unless your office cleaning service is GUARANTEED to empty trash without fail, each and every evening, you must discard your food wrappings responsibly.  Rinse the tuna can out before throwing it away.  What to do with that banana peel?  I’m sure you have a trash can outside, and if you don’t, throw it away in the bathroom.  It might even be a breath of fresh air in there.  Speaking of which…

Rule #3 – Be more aware of your leavings.

Don’t eat things at work that are likely to cause gastrointestinal distress.  Enough said.

Rule #4 – No one likes a Messy Marvin

Clean up after yourself!!  I know it’s your desk.  Leave crumbs on it if you will.  But it’s not your microwave, your fridge or your toaster oven.  You have to share.  And if you care at all about public opinion, be aware that we all know, if your nasty butt is leaving things crusty and funkified in public, then your home kitchen probably belongs on the Discovery Channel and we’re not touching anything you bring to the potluck.  On a somewhat related note, get your leftovers out of the fridge on a regular basis.  No one wants to look at your moldy food.

Rule #5 – You are not at lunch.  You are eating while working.  Answer the damn phone!

If you’re sitting at your desk, your phone is not on Do Not Disturb and your computer is not in sleep mode, then guess what.  You’re not “at lunch.”  You’re at work.  If I can cram a half a granola bar in my cheek and still manage to answer the phone, you can skim your email or manage a few keystrokes whilst you nibble away at your lentils.  Don’t give me the, “I’m at lunch.”  If you’re at lunch, then go somewhere.  Until then, you’re at work and you get no lunch privileges.

Now in a perfect world, everyone would take that restful midday hour to dine at their leisure.  Until then, I beg of you, just make a sandwich.  Or a salad!  I’m a big proponent of cold foods for lunch, as they are mostly inoffensive in all ways.  Soup is a nice option, or you could follow my lead and eschew lunch altogether, opting for a variety of shelf stable snacks that you can nibble on throughout the day.  Just remember…small bites.  No garlic or raw onions.  And in the name of all that’s holy, NO FISH!!

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