Your mother doesn’t work here


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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I want to take a few seconds as we start this effort to direct your attention to a story. In it, you’ll read about the man that called the police… because someone had stolen his Jell-o from the office fridge.

It’s a funny thing, the common areas of a workplace. Coffee pots… water coolers… copier rooms… and, of course, the refrigerator.

There is an unwritten code of respect that goes along with any and all of them… one that comes crashing down because, as we all know, common sense isn’t that common. But of all of the items involved in stepping over the line and showing a lack of consideration for your co-workers, the theft of food seems to be where I begin to lose all ability to offer defenses for the violators of conduct.

Hey… we’ve all seen the letter -- “Your mother does not work here. Please clean up after yourself.” Someone gets fed up, fires off the head’s up from a printer, posts it, and everyone gets a laugh out of it.

A laugh? Sure… because the people posting it are more or less just as ignorant as the blockheads that put an empty pot back on a hot burner.

Seriously, they actually think a person leaving stirrers and empty sugar packets in a puddle of coffee drippings on the counter will pay attention to a letter.

I don’t want to wander too far down the path of unwritten codes, since they are just that… unwritten. Several of them may present no issue at all with you. Many border, or even venture into the territory, of pet peeves. And yet…

I’d like to think we can all agree that there are most definitely lines.

One of my pet peeves? Smelly foods.

I don’t care if you want to eat at your desk or in our shared office environment. But when you head to the microwave or toaster oven to reheat last night’s leftovers and fill the air with a thick haze of whatever it is… yeah, that drives me nuts.

The problem is, in many instances we are not going to come to an agreement about things.

I remember one time I was dropping something off in another department. I stopped to talk to a friend of mine for a minute or so, when I heard a shout come from the kitchen area. Seems that someone could not believe -- and I should probably stress that -- couldnotBELIEVE… that a co-worker had the audacity to brew a pot of flavored coffee and then leave it there with no label or warning that it was a pot of flavored coffee.

Personally, I decided not to push this one. After all, this person probably believes that everyone knows the difference in colors used on different pots to designate regular coffee inside as opposed to decaffeinated… and therefor they could never have poured a cup out of the contents within a decaf pot and wound up with regular.

Or, better still, they are certain that while sitting in a restaurant, right around closing time, that the decaf they ordered actually was decaf served. Yeah. That’s it. Because no restaurant employee would ever decide it was too much trouble to brew a fresh pot because of the one customer that wants decaf at closing time when the decaf pots were already cleaned and stored for closing.

Anyway… the point is… there are certain levels of problems as opposed to inconveniences… and inside those levels we have differences of opinions and personal habits and all sorts of other troubles.

But stealing someone’s lunch? Yeah… that takes a special type of inconsiderate.

That said, I do subscribe to the belief that those that don’t get it, don’t get that they don’t get it.

It’s midnight. The dogs have been rustling about, and the decision is made to get up, head to the back door, and let them out for a few minutes. And while they take care of their business, you decide that late night snack might just be in order. So you open the cupboard… and the fridge… and check the counters. You might wind up with a graham cracker or a couple of tortilla chips, but that doesn’t stop you… still a bit in the fog of sleep… from hoping that perhaps some ice cream, pie or cookies eluded your attention earlier in the evening, suddenly to be found in these quiet moments.

I wonder about that because… let’s face it… beyond coffee, sugar, and some creamers, there often isn’t a steady supply of goodies that are company issued into the inventory of the break room.

And yet, somehow, there are people that open the freezer, see a frozen Smart Ones or two, and think that they just magically appeared for their consumption.

And of course, the business buys coffee and tea. Therefore, that single can of soda or lonely bottle of lemonade must be up for grabs… finders keepers style.

How can you reason with people connecting those dots? (Because the reality is, they are looking at a very different picture than the rest of us once the connecting is done.)

Years ago, I worked in a place where one of my jobs was to take a cart from my department, head down to the cafeteria, and obtain some items to restock our kitchen. Nothing too fancy… but honestly, not too shabby either. Coffee, sugar and cream… absolutely. But also three or four different kinds of juices, some bread, butter and jelly, and then a few saltines and other crackers.

Pretty sweet deal.

That was the exception though… and I knew it then, and know it now. It never left me with the delusions that a Jell-o container was mine for the taking. I never began to look through lunch bag after lunch bag until I found a sandwich I might like.

Maybe it’s just some adult extension of the mine-mine-mine stages of childhood. Not certain.

What I can tell you is that anyone that steals your Jell-o is, quite specifically and truthfully, not just misguided. They don’t see things the way most people do.

The unfortunate thing is that the majority of us need to understand that before we bring our lunch to the group refrigerator… or, make a pot of flavored coffee.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at