Incredible True Tales from the Office Kitchen

Oct 20, 2017 | Stephen Jackson

People get weird around food. I think it’s partially biological, an easy outlet for our long-suppressed animal instinct. It’s also societal — norms and culture surrounding how, what, and when we eat vary substantially across the globe.

But few places get weirder when it comes to food than the shared kitchen at work. Of course, we’re all familiar with the jerk who takes up too much space in the fridge (an entire pizza box for one leftover slice? Really, Tom?) Not to mention a passive aggressive note taped to the cupboard from time to time. But check out this active aggressive note:

Drink Thief Sign

If you look closely, you can see that the culprit returned to the scene of the crime to inform their accuser that they are, in fact, not ashamed of anything at all. (“We’re all in this together!”) The succinct melodrama pictured above made my week while working an office gig last summer.

I didn’t steal this person’s drink, but back when I taught high school I used to steal food from my friend Liz — a biology teacher — all the time. She finally got hip to the fact that it was me that was skimming off the top, and came up with a pretty creative solution: She took to writing “SCIENCE EXPERIMENT — DON’T EAT” whenever she had a particular tasty lunch. It worked, and I only learned of its efficacy when she told me much later. I just figured she was getting into more hands-on learning.

But there are thousands of stories like this one. Curious, I started asking around, and here’s what came back.

The Stink of Shame

“Freshly out of college, green as could be, I felt like I had finally landed an actual grown-up job. This new-to-me office even had a break room, complete with a microwave-equipped kitchenette. I swore to myself that I would use this room for ALL of my lunches, and figured I’d be saving hundreds of dollars by bringing in my leftovers. I started off strong, catching the eye of coworkers who admitted to lunch envy. I felt some pride in the fact that others saw how thrifty I was being. On my second Thursday, I reheated a piece of grilled salmon, and within one hour, found myself sitting in front of HR, who informed me that four employees had gone home that day because of the far-reaching stench I had created in that microwave. I never lived the incident down, and ended up quitting that job eight months later.” — Stan, 37

Fruit Mocktail

“An old coworker of mine one summer went to the Greenmarket in Union Square in New York, where she bought some strawberries. Wonderful, in-season strawberries. The vendor sold them to her in the little green cardboard box, and put them in a bag, and she returned to the office and put them in the fridge to enjoy later. But when she went later that day to open the bag, someone had clearly gotten to them first. They had cut ALL the tops off the strawberries, done who-knows-what with them, left just the tops with the stems, and tied the bag back up.” — Caitlin, 36

A Curse Upon Your Dairy

“I heard this one guy at work used to spit in his milk so that nobody else would drink it. I didn’t believe him so when I saw him in the kitchen one time, I asked him if it was true. He opened up the carton and spit in it right in front of me. Sure enough, I never even thought about taking his milk again.” — Laura, 37

Stolen Cheeseburger in Paradise

“Don’t eat other people’s food. Hawaiians take that shit seriously. I heard a story about a cheeseburger that was eaten out of the break-room fridge on a Friday, and no one was working over the weekend. When the cheeseburger’s rightful owner returned on Monday, he went for his burger for breakfast, but obviously it was gone. Both people still work there. This was 15 years ago. The burger owner is still mad about it and they still don’t like each other. No BS.” — Troy, 34

No More Banana Tacos

This last one isn’t from someone I know, but it was passed along to me and it’s too good not to share. Last week at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, a police report was filed by someone claiming they were robbed of “10 bananas and 12 tortillas from a break room refrigerator”. That’s right, someone called the police over food stolen from the breakroom. “Sometimes it’s out of principle they’ll call it in,” Deputy Chief James Anguiano said regarding this and similar minor incidents. “Maybe it’s happened to them more than once.” The total value of the stolen goods was estimated at $7. As of press time, the suspect remains at large.