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Ethical Eating

Office Fridge Pillagers: The Great Scourge of Modern Civilized Society

If you are unlucky enough to not be independently wealthy, chances are you regularly visit a shared work environment. If you are a human, chances are you will need to eat sometime during the eight to 12 hours you spend in said work environment.

To this end, many benevolent employers provide what is commonly known as a break room, and in that break room there is often a refrigerator.

It is inside of this benign-looking box that the very social fabric that normally binds coworkers together breaks down. For some reason, otherwise normal, law-abiding citizens who would never contemplate theft break free of social mores.

The fridge pillager is perhaps one of the greatest scourges of everyday life for the average working American. His (or her) perfidy knows no bounds.

And maybe the most frustrating aspect of all of this is the reasoning that leads someone to do this in the first place.

Does low blood sugar compromise people's faculties so that they are able to delude themselves into believing, "Oh, maybe I brought this in the morning and forgot about it"?

Just being hungry doesn't seem like incentive enough; could it be a primordial urge? The drive for food -- one of the most basic of needs -- is so strong that it stirs up caveman-esque feelings of resource competition?

Are there, perhaps, people in the world who subscribe to "finders keepers" when it comes to the inside of a refrigerator? Do these people believe that the interior of the fridge is eternally exempt from the concept of personal property? If you put it there, it is legitimately for everyone and you have no right to expect it to be there when you get back.

Or is it just regular old, selfish asshattery -- "You left it. I see it. I'm taking it. Go fuck yourself."

The truth is, unless the perpetrators 'fess up to their reasoning, we'll never know. And, of course, they never will, because the same base impulse that leads them to heartlessly steal food that does not belong to them also fuels in the victim a rage rarely seen outside of an I-95 driver's seat at 5:08 p.m. on a weekday.

Anyone who has discovered his or her food MIA knows the rage to which we refer.

First comes denial. "No, it has to be here. No way someone took it. I mean, [nervous chuckle] what kind of person would do something like that? What kind of low-life, scum-bag, jackassed, selfish lump of worthless human excrement would do something as pathetic and disgusting as take someone else's food?"

(And we haven't even gotten to the rage yet.)

Then comes the rage.

"MOTHER #@!&%$!!! STUPID #@!&%$ #@!&%$!!!! WHEN I FIND YOU #@!&%$, I WILL #@!&%$ YOUR #@!&%$ SO HARD YOUR GRANDCHILDREN WILL WALK FUNNY!!!!"

You stew at your desk over your missing stew. You scan the faces of your fellow office inhabitants -- et tu burrito? Your anger curdles inside you like the soured milk of human kindness, which only reminds you of the yogurt you could be eating.

You stalk the office suspiciously eyeing people you once naively believed were your friends and associates, peeking in garbage cans for "evidence." But that's the thing: Just because you find an empty container of Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt with Honey and a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Orange + Carrot in someone's waste paper basket (and you know who you are!) doesn't really prove anything.

Why food thief?! Why?!?!?!

More important, what are we, good citizens, to do about this criminal underclass masquerading in our midst?

You could label the food with your name in the vain hope that if a person knew the individual from whom they were stealing, they might not. Dream on! The fridge pillager has no soul, never mind a conscience.

We could camouflage the food as moldy or spoiled or worse, but then you run the risk of some nosy do-gooder tossing it out.

No, the only solution seems to be to pack one's lunch in an insulated bag with an ice pack, attach it to one's wrist with a handcuff like a CIA agent transporting microfiche, and content oneself with not-actually-cold-but-not-warm lunch.

And to you, fridge pillagers, because we know you are out there, one day you're going to find yourself sitting on a toilet for hours, moaning, clutching at your writhing innards, and wondering if it's food poisoning or a stomach flu, when suddenly, a light will dawn and you'll know: The pillaged have had their revenge!

You can contact Rebecca Dittmar, Arts & Culture Editor/Food Blog Editor/Rage-Filled-Victim-of-Fridge-Thievery at [email protected].

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Rebecca McBane is the arts and culture/food editor for New Times Broward-Palm Beach. She began her journalism career at the Sun Sentinel's community newspaper offshoot, Forum Publishing Group, where she worked as the editorial assistant and wrote monthly features as well as the weekly library and literature column, "Shelf Life." After a brief stint bumming around London's East End (for no conceivable reason, according to her poor mother), she returned to real life and South Florida to start at New Times as the editorial assistant in 2009. A native Floridian, Rebecca avoids the sun and beach at all costs and can most often be found in a well-air-conditioned space with the glow of a laptop on her face.
Contact: Rebecca McBane

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