I can’t complain about any of the places I’ve worked over the years. Except for a few jobs that I resigned from (Read: Went to work for three days and on the fourth sat in my car in a remote parking lot and bawled my eyes out, sobbing on the phone to my best friend that “I can’t do this!” while inhaling white chocolate macadamia nut cookies) I have been blessed enough to have commendable employers, adequate paychecks and when applicable, KILLER commissions (although it was not coincidental that I rocked my quotas every month so I earned every cent.) If I had to lodge a complaint about any (or all) of my former places of employment, my grievance would always remain the same, the break room microwave.
No matter where I’ve worked or who I’ve worked for, the break room microwave has been the most foul aspect of every workplace.
If you’re reading this at work, please take a second to look around you. These seemingly normal, seemingly CLEAN people who you work with, joke with and maybe even socialize with ARE SLOBS. Yes, lurking among your co-workers is a slovenly pig. And by the probable look of the microwave, you are among a whole herd.
I am the leftover queen. And on days when I don’t have leftovers, you can bet your sweet bippy that I have surreptitiously hidden my Banquet chicken pot pie behind that grouping of frost-laden Hot Pockets that have been in the freezer for six months. No one knows who the Hot Pockets belong to so they never get thrown out when someone finally has the gumption to clean the refrigerator.
Every day, at every job I have ever had, after exactly four hours of work (because I am nothing if not a by-the-book kind of gal. I take my breaks at the appointed time.) I clock out for my lunch hour, which is actually just thirty minutes long. And thank God for that, because after forty minutes of watching daytime tv, I want to take my plastic spork and poke myself in the eye. But with my luck one of the tines would break off and I’d have to be taken to the emergency room, thereby making my day even longer.
After four hours of usually mindless albeit time-sucking work, I am famished. I go to the communal fridge and pull out my Wal-Mart bag of goodies. While the entrée varies, the extras never change: A soda and a Little Debbie snack cake. (Never mind that in a one year time frame I gained thirty-seven pounds by devouring two to three giant Little Debbie treats a day.) Today’s entrée: leftover home-made spaghetti laced with tons of garlic. As I uncover the condensation covered Tupperware, the smell engulfs the room. One can never be too generous with the garlic. My mouth starts to water as I imagine the party my taste buds will attend in one and a half minutes, knowing that the garlic has had time to marinate the whole batch and saturate each and every slippery noodle.
But first: Re-heat.
I carry my beloved spaghetti (home-made sauce, by the way) to the microwave and pop open the door.
And I recoil in disgust.
The inner box of the microwave, the one that will soon nurture my spaghetti back to its former piping hot glory, is covered in everyone else’s culinary spatterings. First I lay eyes upon Joe’s leftover crusty white sauce from last week. Next my eyes dance over to the butter stains from the popcorn that Sonja popped three months ago. The glass turntable is completely covered in a multi-colored greasy film of brown gravy, white gravy, red sauce, white sauce, one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish sauce.
Every color of the rainbow as well as every food group is well-represented in the cookspace of the break room microwave that I apparently share with a group of people who, while appearing amazingly functional at their jobs, are apparently living in wretched squalor based on the condition of this oven. And the stains and smutch are not just from today. Some of this gunk has been there for weeks, if not months.
So why, you ask, is this the first time that I’ve noticed the condition of the microwave? It’s not. But today is the first time that the problem has gone 3D on me. Roosting in the middle of the circular glass plate that gives me assurance that I will not have ice-cold noodles beneath tongue-scorching, day-ruining sauce because it will cook everything evenly, is a new sight. A nasty sight.
There, in the middle of the plate is a white-ish, still liquid enough that I can tell what it is but old enough that it has congealed a bit, splash of New England Clam Chowder. The piece de resistance of this gathering of abandoned food? One perfectly square potato cube sitting beside a lone commercially fished, miniscule rubbery clam floating atop a thick white broth.
I can’t win. Normally I overlook the collection of crusty and clumpy food bits. I turn a blind eye to the microwave ceiling splatterings of Chef Boyardee. But today I cannot ignore it because the mess has taken up residence in the middle of the rotating glass. Smack dab in the middle of where I would normally put my loaded-with-goodies Tupperware, there sits a mushy cube of potato accompanied with a sad-looking unhappy clam. Unavoidable.
A sudden rush of anger wells up from deep within my hungry soul. I work with pigs. That guy I share my Pixie Stix with every day? Is that his mozzarella dangling from the front door? That girl who always talks to me about the latest episode of the Office? Yeah, that’s her crusted ramen pelted all over every wall of the cooking space.
I dwell in my anger just long enough to blame everyone who has ever worked here for the mess that is lingering in the oven. My thoughts are suddenly peppered with horrible, horrible ways to retaliate. I come to my senses, remembering that I only have thirty minutes and just spent the last four minutes steeping myself in angry juice. I must take action.
I grab the nearest roll of paper towels, wet them in the sink and start scrubbing, pieces of cold clam chowder sloshing around everywhere as I scour every inch of the cook box. I even wipe down the ceiling because I know that when heated, whatever food particles that are desperately clinging to it will become pliable and fall into my bowl. And I am not about to eat someone else’s exploded Beefaroni that plummets the short distance and mixes with my sustenance.
I would like to tell you that I totally spring-cleaned the oven but I would be lying. I would also love to tell you that it was due to a time constraint that I didn’t clean it well but again, I would be lying. I didn’t clean it well as an act of pure defiance.
I get the microwave just clean enough to make sure I don’t get some kind of gut-wrenching food poisoning. I punch one minute and thirty on the keypad and wait while my goodies turns a slow circle inside the oven. I can hear the sauce begin to pop and sizzle. I can trace the faint, but-ever-strengthening smell of garlic overload seeping out. Finally it beeps and I open the door to see that my spaghetti has exploded all over the inside of the microwave, leaving me with a few dry, crusty, sauce-covered noodles to sustain me for the rest of the afternoon.
I would love to tell you that I cleaned up my own mess…..