My painful walk into the office was soothed by the fact that it was Friday, which meant one thing – free food. Every Friday since I’d been working in this office – which at this point is four total Fridays – there was a delectable spread of breakfast food in the kitchen. Strawberries, bananas, yogurt, those mini boxes of cereal that have seven Cheerios in them, bagels, and more cream cheese spreads than your taste buds can fathom greeted me every morning on the last day of the week.
The company I’m working for at this point doesn’t own the office – it simply rents cubicles from another company that has a few to spare. You could call it a shared office, but really it was 42 of them and four of us. We barely interacted with the employees of the other company.
After walking in and setting my things down, I gleefully stride to the kitchen to check out my choices this morning. “I could get a bagel with hazelnut cream cheese, but a banana might be a little healthier,” I think to myself. “Or 17 mini boxes of Cheerios.”
I arrive at the spread and step back to check out my options. Bagel it is. I scan the cream cheeses when suddenly from behind me I hear a woman’s voice.
“Not honey. That wouldn’t go well with my bagel,” I think. I focus again on the topping options.
“Hey! Excuse me!”
I turn around to realize that the woman – no, the girl – is speaking to me.
“That’s not for you.”
I blankly stare at her.
“This food isn’t for you guys. It’s ok to have the coffee and tea, but you can’t have the food.”
Amidst my despair, shock, and rejection, I mutter a quick-witted in-your-face-rebuttal.
I walk back to my cubicle dejected and fuming.
“Did she just call me honey? We have never spoken, not once, ever, so her salutation of choice was honey?”
Little did I know the severity of my actions on this fateful Friday morning. Office snacks are sacred. Catholics have the Pope, Panem has Katniss Everdeen, and office employees have their snacks. If a granola bar is so much as stared at for too long by an outsider, even the most docile paper pusher turns into a crazy one-eyed hyenas who will claw at your face to protect their Nature Valley Crunchy Oats ‘N Honey.
Food at corporate lunches, office parties, and company outings is OK – it’s for everyone. But snacks are a different breed. They’re special and not to be taken lightly. Eat a yogurt that isn’t for you and you can be sure to hear about it. “That’s the yogurt guy,” they’ll whisper as you walk to the bathroom. Suddenly you can’t be trusted. Not just with food, but other things too. Cubicle neighbors are locking their drawers when they leave. Women are clutching onto their purses when you pass them in the hall. You find that you haven’t been alone in a room with just one other person since the incident. Your car gets egged in the parking lot and next you thing you know you’re getting demoted to the night shift janitor so that the only snacks you can steal are the gross leftover rice cakes that no one wanted during the day.
All because of an Oikos you mistook to be yours.
Well friends, I don’t want any of you to become a night shift janitor (unless, of course, that’s what you’re aspiring to do, in which case there are easier ways to get the job than being demoted). So I’m providing you with some snack time strategies that, if followed, will allow you to optimize your snack intake and minimize your snack stealing reputation.
1. Only eat a snack if you’re 100% sure you’re allowed to eat it. Trust me on this one. Never assume you’re allowed to eat that red velvet Magnolia cupcake that’s lying out unless you want a stranger to call you “honey”.
2. One serving, no matter how hungry you are. I get it, you’re poor. I am too. College has taught us that free food quickly becomes a no food. If you get there too late you’re stuck with the organic gluten-free pita chips. As much as you want to devour everything in sight, don’t. Fill a plate and go back to your desk. If you’re still hungry, wait until the first crowd clears and go back. The new crowd will think this is your first serving. Plus you can skip the gross stuff.
- Exception: If no one is in sight, devour said food. When someone shows up and mentions how quickly the food went, politely agree. “I know, this place is full of vultures.” Then take a plate with you and act like it’s your first.
3. Food jars are OK if you’re careful. There’s always someone in the office that has a jar of M&Ms on his or her desk. If the food is there, you can eat it. But heed caution – no one likes the guy who comes in and empties the jar. One handful, fatty, that’s it.
- Exception: The perfect storm. If said person has left for the day, didn’t lock his or her office, and no one can see inside, go crazy. It’s their fault for leaving delicious treats out in the open (sort of). Just be sure not to leave any trace of yourself, you stealthy bastard.
4. Keep your prized snacks hidden and your bad snacks out. If there’s a snack you really love and don’t want anyone else to have, hide it immediately. Put it in your drawers so others don’t know it’s even an option. However, if you have a snack you’re trying to get rid of – say, Charleston Chews – publicize it like crazy. Put a big open bowl full of it on your desk. Offer it to those passing by. If you’re really looking to spice things up, put it on someone else’s desk when they’re not around.
- Note: Remember where you put these. You don’t want to sit at a desk you sabotaged and then have to gag down a stale Charleston Chew.
If you follow these four simple guidelines, you’ll be snacking like a pro in no time. There will be days when you won’t even have to bring in lunch because you’ve been snacking strategically since 10am.
Those are the best days.
At the end of the day, my boss pulls the four of us into a conference room for a quick meeting.
“There’s been a few complaints about us lately,” he begins. “First and foremost, someone’s been eating their food. I don’t want to know who–“
“It was me,” I interrupt, annoyed. “I ate their food. I’ve been eating their food. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”
“It turns out they buy the food on their own dime. The company doesn’t pay for it.”
“I didn’t know that. If I had known that I wouldn’t have done it. Or I at least would have said ‘thank you’ or something.”
When the meeting ends it’s time for me to leave for the day. Still frustrated, I pack up my things and head for the door.
On my way out, I pass the kitchen. I glance in and see that there’s some food left. Without a moment’s hesitation, I slip in and snag a leftover bagel.