Last week I had a few people around for a dinner party.
Towards the end of the evening, our conversation somehow wound up on the topic of eating in the office. My partner, who owns a small business, begun his usual spiel about how food is banned in his workplace. But rather than roll their eyes along with me, several of our guests nodded sagely in approval.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” said one with a serious nod. “I hate it when I have clients come into our office, and it stinks like a cafe.”
“Oh, totally!” agreed another. “Go outside! Take your food elsewhere! It’s a big world out there.”
I listened on in part shock, part amusement as they continued their impassioned banter about food in the office. It seemed that there was some major feelings going on here.
…and I became suddenly and acutely aware of the smell of parmesan wafting from the kitchen.
I have a confession to make: I am a serial desk eater.
It all begun when I was 18, and I was fired from a reception job with a large property firm for eating a salami sandwich at the front desk. My job was pretty straight forward: sit at the desk, greet clients, answer the phone, and don’t eat sandwiches at the front desk.
It was a lovely office, with this cavernous reception area that echoed every sound, including chewing. It was a Friday, and the reception area was empty. Seizing my opportunity, I carefully unwrapped my sandwich and took a big bite.
By the time I heard the elevator bell ring, it was too late. She was marching over with her high heels clicking on the polished floorboards and before I had time to swallow she was peering down at my crumb-covered face with a look of utter disgust. The best I could do was slink the rest of the sandwich underneath the desk and hope she didn’t mention anything.
Well, she did. I was given my marching orders, and learnt for the first time in my life the seriousness of eating at work.
It really, really p*sses some folks off.
In the years since, I’ve worked for a wild variety of people and places. I’ve worked in retail, fashion, advertising, admin, and banks; each office different from the last.
At some, eating at your desk wasn’t just allowed, it was expected. Encouraged, even. At others, just the hint of a crumb on an otherwise spotless desk was enough to send the office manager into anaphylactic shock.