If the products in the refrigerator are not yours…
or… be very, very quiet, because the idiots are all around us


It’s right there, on the sign.

“Be very, very quiet, because the idiots are all around us.”

That’s what it says on the refrigerator in our mini-kitchen at work.

Ok… it doesn’t. Actually it says: “If the products in the refrigerator are not yours, then you should not be using it.”

But it might as well be a warning about the idiots that are all over the place, because it’s not just those jerks taking things that don’t belong to them, but others that are posting the signs as well.

Call me silly (and I’m sure you have… and worse…), but I for one believe that if a person is stupid enough… ignorant enough… inconsiderate enough to open the refrigerator in the company break room and then take someone else’s frozen dinner, sandwich or other item, that person will not be swayed to stop by a note on the door. Because the simple fact that this person is willing to steal your brownie is evidence enough that he (or she) doesn’t believe that the rules of common sense apply to him (or her). They do not think for a single moment that your note is addressed to them… they don’t believe it applies to them.

And yet there are these people… not just where I work, but where you work and where your friends work… these people are all over the place… in the kitchen, and someone took their chocolate milk, so they went back to their desk and took the time to create and print a sign, then walked back to the kitchen area to post it. These people think their sign will make a difference.

“You’re mother doesn’t work here.”

“Please remove any food you have left here for more than a few days.”

“Don’t place soda cans in the freezer.”

The list of possible signs goes on and on… but the message is the same…

“Why do I work with such children?”

Posted all over the place.

And then there are probably a few of you that, like me, can’t figure out who these people are writing to.

I have examples…

A few weeks ago a friend of mine brought in a piece of carrot cake from home. She had it in a Tupperware container, with her initials on the lid. When she went to get it for her lunch break, it was gone. She responded by leaving quite possibly one of the greatest refrigerator notes in history, and one of a select few I have ever known to be worth it:

“To the person that took my carrot cake from this refrigerator – I hope you enjoyed it. Could I please have my container back?”

She included her name… it wasn’t an anonymous attack. Again, consider… the person not only stole her cake… the person also took her container and never returned it!

Unfortunately, I think the beauty of her sarcasm was lost on the perpetrator.

Why do I think that?

Because these are idiots. And to twist the intent of a great quote from Douglas Adams a bit inappropriately… never underestimate the existence of an idiot. It’s not just the people stealing the food that have a few cards missing from their deck.

Down the hall from my desk is a small kitchenette. The company is good to us… coffee, water, soda, juice. Not quite the assortment of some companies, but definitely more than other places I know of.

About two or three times a month a box appears from the cafeteria with a yellow sticky-note on top of it. The basics of the note never change, and follow the idea of: “Half of a cheese omelet inside. Made this morning. Help yourself.”

Now, I have to ask because I can’t believe it’s possible. Would you, or would anyone you know, eat this omelet? I can’t fathom it. But this person thinks that, since he (or she) wasn’t going to finish it that maybe one of the co-workers would blindly dig in and enjoy.

And yet, how can you get mad about this? You or I probably would have tossed the remaining portion of the omelet into the trash. This person was considerate enough to say “hey, I can’t eat this entire omelet… donut… slice of chocolate cake… and I thought perhaps you might like it.” The person is trying to be friendly. Trying to be neighborly. Trying to do something nice. Pretty rare indeed.

We all have different values, and the problems associated with merging those differences is never going to go away. It’s not just the people taking the slices of cake that are missing the point, unfortunately quite often it’s the people leaving the notes as well.

And the exceptions like my friend’s note often only serve to prove the rule. The fact is, we all have warped expectations. This whole situation isn’t just an example of the lack of common sense in society or that we are surrounded by turkeys.

No. It’s about our different expectations as well.

The other night Tigg and I went to my sister-in-law’s house for a card night. On the window frame, above the kitchen sink was a note to my niece:

“Amanda – your dirty dishes belong in the dishwasher, not in the sink.”

Now… at our house, Tigg and I are thrilled when Jay and Justin actually gets their dishes to the sink and don’t leave them in the living room or on a dresser in their bedroom. Into the dishwasher too? Baby steps... we look for baby steps.

Different expectations. Maybe we need to post a note.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com