Again, I extend my apologies to Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish for stealing eight out of nine words from the title of that famous short story. It started out as a story called “Beginners” by Raymond Carver, but, by the time Gordon Lish got through with the editing job, he almost completely re-wrote the story and changed the title. It was published his way, since he was a powerful editor and nobody wanted to get on his bad side. End of American Literature minute.
In my last little article, to be found here, I gave useful tips about how to deal with the availability of workplace restrooms. In this piece, I would like to cover the availability, restrictions and rules governing free food and free coffee.
No employee is ever paid enough. This fact is so well known it must be scientific. I would appreciate it if anyone would steer me toward some genuine research. In the meantime, I am assuming this statement is true. I know it’s true for me. I can always come up with a better compensation plan for myself than any employer can come up with.
Because everybody who works is being paid less than they know they should get, everybody who works is entitled to whatever perks they can snatch from under the eyes of their bosses. Warning: this does not include larceny, a co-worker’s lunch or anything that will seriously piss off other employees. In other words, that brand new all-in-one PC sitting in its box waiting to be installed may not be removed and taken home, unless you hate your job so much that going to jail is preferable to showing up at the office. End of disclaimer. I am not encouraging anyone to commit crimes. Leave that to the professionals.
Food that the company has bought and paid for is another thing altogether. Company food is just waiting to be snatched and devoured. If the food is meant for a meeting with high-end clients, it is imperative for employees to try to snitch some of it. If your boss is trying to impress people, the food is bound to be good, even if it is being served in a conference room.
The first, and safest, way to get your share of free conference room food is to watch the closed door of the room like a cat waiting for a mouse to come out of a hole, and make a quick dash into the room after everyone in the meeting has left the area. If you are clever, you can even dash into the room before they all disappear, claiming it is your turn to clean the room or turn off the equipment in there. Once you are in the room, you can survey the wreckage on the food table and rescue anything that looks untouched and still edible or drinkable. This is the honorable way to get free food.
If the meeting attendees were more hungry than usual, or the company was cheap with the amounts and portions, the honorable way won’t work.
Because the honorable way is a crap shoot, it is in an employee’s interest to learn the second way to grab free nourishment, sneaking it out of the room before the meeting starts. This method requires planning, dexterity and cleverness. It helps to have the assistance of co-workers, although it will be necessary to share the spoils with any accomplices. The method used to filch the goodies depends a great deal on the caterer. If the food is brought in on carts from the company cafeteria, and it is not covered in Saran Wrap, it might be possible to lift it right from the cart, especially if you have made friends with the cafeteria staff and they all know you. If the person wheeling the cart is a hottie, a bit of flirting can earn you a nice culinary reward, if you are not sued for sexual harassment instead.
If the food is covered in cling wrap, and the wrap is left on it even after it is put down on the table inside the conference room, you have a problem. For this, you will need great skill in opening cling wrap without tearing it, grabbing something, closing it up again, hiding the loot and leaving the scene. It is best to practice this at home until you can perform the entire exercise in 10 seconds or less.
When your co-worker comes around with the Girl Scout Cookie order sheet, you are going to look like a stingy jerk if you don’t order at least a couple of boxes. If you ignore everyone’s advice to get Thin Mints and buy a kind nobody likes, just sneak them onto the food table the next time there is a catered meeting. Someone will eat them.
Most offices have a pantry or some other space set aside for that honored, sacred institution: the office coffeemaker.
The job of washing the carafe usually falls, by default, on one of the lower-level female executive assistants. Women have made great strides in the workplace in the last several decades, but anything involving cleaning up remains firmly in the category of “women’s work.” If there is no lower level executive assistant available, the unspoken rule says that any female employee can take over the job. If there is a choice between cleaning up and getting her caffeine fix or not cleaning up and going through minor withdrawal, many women will shut up and wash the f***ing pot.
The quality of office coffee ranges from great to awful. This depends on the boss. If the boss is a coffee snob, the stuff will be good. If the boss doesn’t care what kind of mud is in his/her cup so long as it gives a caffeine kick, it will probably be the cheaper stuff. My thoughts about this tragic situation are: (1) if it’s the end of the pay period and cash is low, hold your nose and drink the free stuff; and (2) at any other time, go to the Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts up the street.
Executive assistants are not required to fetch the boss’ coffee anymore. Some bosses take this more seriously than others. I don’t need to elaborate on this one.
This is the end, at least until I come up with something else to warn everyone about.