Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who ate my cheese?

posted Thu, 08 Jul 2004

Just what is the etiquette and/or legal status of food left in the break room refrigerator? You know – stuff that has been in the fridge long enough that it appears that the owner has forgotten about it?

Let me give you a hypothetical. Suppose someone at your office is selling tubs of cookie dough for her child’s school fundraiser. (The issue of whether a parent should be selling stuff for the kid is a separate one, as is the greater issue of why on earth the school needs students and parents to sell overpriced popcorn or wrapping paper instead of cutting the spending on football stadiums.)

So she is pushing this stuff. Someone buys a tub, takes delivery, then forgets the dough in the fridge. It’s now two months later. That person might not even be working for the company any more, yet the tub of cookie dough remains.

My people, we don’t waste food. Yesterday I had to throw out a leftover pork chop that I had forgotten about and it just about killed me. Two bouts of food poisoning are about the only thing to convince me that sometimes, discarding food is the better thing to do.

My grandmother is Slovak. A recipe for pupaki calls for day-old bread and has the comment, “Of course you have day-old bread. You are Slovak. You do not throw food away.”

There are some powerful forces working on me here – I cannot deny my genetic heritage.

I also cannot deny that I am a snacker with a sweet tooth who happens to think that food eaten from common areas doesn’t have as many calories as regular food. If the buyer of the cookie dough is not going to take that tub home, she needs to quit tormenting those of us who open the break room fridge once or twice a day in the hopes that meeting leftovers will miraculously appear.

Meeting leftovers – leftovers of food that the company has purchased – are fair game as far as I am concerned and everyone else feels the same way. Some feel it more than others and will hoard that food at their desks, which I think is beyond the pale – the rule is that you eat what you want from what is there at the time, but you don’t store it for later. Otherwise other employees don’t have a fair shot at it.

But the rules are a little more ambiguous when it comes to private property like the cookie dough. Oh, I know, there are those of you who would say there is NO ambiguity – that private property is private property – but I say fie on you. Private property that is left in community property for TWO months acquires a new status.

So what is that status? I have already left a note – or I would, if this were not a hypothetical – on the tub in which I told the owner to bake the darn cookies already or take the tub home.

After two weeks, no answer! The tub is still in the fridge. This cookie dough clearly is without an owner. It has become abandoned property and title has reverted to the group (can it revert if it didn’t belong to the group in the first place?).

Excuse me. I have some cookie dough to eat.

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