Published on February 12th, 2011 | by Ann Rickard0
Its called Lunchroom for a reason
Banning smelly foods from the office desk? Actually, I think it’s a good idea. But not so the other bans BHP Billiton have put in place, especially the use of post-it notes. And one framed photo only on the desk? That’s plain mean. Receiving bossy inter-office memos takes me back to the dark-ages when I first began work at an insurance company in Melbourne. We were constantly receiving bureaucratic memos telling us what we were not permitted to do. One I vividly recall involved the tea trolley, and yes, I am embarrassed to admit that when I first started work there was such a thing as a tea trolley being pushed by an actual person, the much-missed tea lady. Hearing her trolley rattling up the corridor each morning around 10.30 gave rise to the spirit. We all rushed to circle the trolley while she poured stewed tea from a big stainless steel urn. Biscuits, two varieties, one plain, one cream, were available on the side of the trolley. Until the day the hysterical memo came, telling us that some employees had been committing the heinous crime of taking two cream biscuits rather than one of each. The biscuit supply dried up and the culprits were dragged off and put in an oubliette (Oubliette, French word for a deep well-like dungeon with a lid on top. Useful place in bygone years to put vacuum cleaner salesmen when they came knocking.). But back to the less heinous crime of cream-biscuit stealing, to the almost-as-dastardly crime of eating smelly food at your desk. I agree wholeheartedly with BHP Billiton on that one. Anyone who brings last night’s leftover Madras curry to work, heats it in the microwave to revive all the dormant coriander, chilli, garlic, ginger and turmeric so the entire office smells like a Calcutta railway station, should be taken out and lowered into that oubliette with a vat of three day old Rogan Josh dumped on top of him. I feel strongly about this subject because I spent many years working with someone who not only ate strong smelling food, but ate loud food. Sorry, mate, if you’re reading this, but I suffered your loud, constant eating for a very long time, and although I’m not one to bring up old hurts, the BHP Billiton memo has given me the perfect excuse to do so. This person was a healthy eater. A good thing. But a bad thing when the healthy eater grazes all day and you are just a metre away in a small space. Each morning began with a soaring stack of rice crackers. Loud, very loud. Then out came the container of nuts. Nuts are not so loud when chomped individually, but the constant swirling of them around in the container before each one is finally lifted and crunched…well, very loud. Then there were apples. Bags of them. Loud, crunchy apples. Each year I yearned…indeed prayed…for the soft-fruit season to come upon us. But no, it was loud apples throughout all seasons. Then there was the Tupperware container brimming with salad. Salad – harmless enough to eat at the desk you would think. But when it contains onions, parmesan, olives, tuna, garlic…well, you understand don’t you? It would not have been so bad if the lid had been taken off the Tupperware container and the intense-smelling salad consumed in one go. But it was unfortunately not the case. The lid would come off, the fumes would envelop me, the fork would be dipped once, maybe twice, the lid would go on again. This happened at 15 minute intervals throughout the long day. I did not suffer in total silence. I gave hints, sometimes subtle, sometimes in joke form. But the hints were never taken and the loud and powerful food never changed. You may scoff and call me shallow, but I have been left badly scarred by loud, smelly food. I still tremble at the soft hiss of a lid being peeled back. I shake at a threatening rustle in an apple bag. I squirm at the first hint of a swirling blanched almond. So be kind to your fellow office workers, I say, and keep your food tasteless and quiet. A Vegemite sandwich on thin white bread is perfectly acceptable, as long as it’s eaten in one quick go.