A Cheesy Way To Treat Co-workers

Katie Young
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Wednesday - August 18, 2005
| Del.icio.us

I knew it wasn’t a mouse because a mouse could not cart away an entire cheesecake with his tiny paws, even if he had help from three or four of his strongest mouse friends.

I also thought chances were slim that the cheesecake grew legs of its own and walked out of the refrigerator because it was cold, or that it did the old “disappearing cheesecake” act like that one sock that always manages to escape from the dryer.

So the only answer, then, was it had been stolen. An entire cheesecake, absconded within the dark of the night — taken from the office refrigerator; no crumb or clue to point us in the right direction.

It happens all the time, so I hear. People’s lunches, carefully packed from the night before, gone before they can be eaten by their rightful owners. But it had never happened to me — until last week.

I took a day off from work and it just so happened that a big Cheesecake Factory cheesecake was left at the front desk under my name by the wife of one of MidWeek’s cover subjects.

Our receptionist wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator with a note that read: “For Katie Young. Please do not touch!”

When I came in the next day, I checked the refrigerator and reported back to the receptionist that I couldn’t find it. It’s hard to misplace an entire cheesecake, so we quickly realized it had been stolen.

“I can’t believe it!” our receptionist yelled.

Neither could I. Call me naive, but no matter which way I try to look at the situation, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could be so low that they would just go in and take something that obviously didn’t belong to them. And not even to take just one piece, but the entire thing!

It was disturbing, indeed, because I look around at the office people I talk with every day and feel some sense of trust in them because we’re all working for the same team. I would never think someone would knowingly commit that kind of crime.

Food theft at work could be looked at from all kinds of legal angles. It could be seen as an invasion of privacy to even look at other co-workers’ lunches. It could be considered trespassing to open up a plate lunch that’s not your own to see what’s inside. And stealing an entire dessert? Well, that’s federal first degree theft, punishable by probation and no refrigerator privileges for a month! Not only that, but violators would have their photos placed on the refrigerator like an FBI wanted poster.

I try to make light of the matter, but it’s no joke. And what burned me even more was it was a thoughtful gift intended for certain people and whomever took it apparently thought nothing of what it might have been there for.

It said, “For Katie Young” on the cheesecake! What if Katie Young was on strict cheesecake diet and I’d die from sugar deficiency if I didn’t have at least five pieces a day?

I was reminded of the Friends episode where Ross’ co-worker eats his Thanksgiving turkey sandwich from the office refrigerator. Ross says something to effect of, “Didn’t you see the note on it that said Ross’ lunch?”

The caught co-worker has no good response. Then Ross gets really upset and says, “Did you confuse it with your own turkey sandwich with a moist maker in the middle?!”

I don’t think the cheesecake thief in this instance confused this cheesecake as his or her own, either.

“Stealing food from the office refrigerator is one of the most common workplace dilemmas, even at high-end corporations,” says Giovinella Conthier, author of Rude Awakenings : Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace. “It’s not a light matter. [Stealing food], may seem petty, but it’s annoying to get your food stolen.”

Yes, it’s more than annoying. What is wrong with people? Have we no shame? No morals? No common courtesy or common sense?

I have a friend who told me at her office, someone ate half of her sandwich from the refrigerator and then put the other half back. And another friend kept getting his lunch stolen so he rigged his burger with the hottest chili peppers he could find to smoke out the culprit.

I was tempted to plant another cheesecake in the refrigerator — this time loaded with one of those exploding ink packs like you see in bank robbery movies — hoping the dessert thief would get greedy and attempt a heist again.

Now there’s a note on the refrigerator door that reads: WARNING: Taking food from this refrigerator that does not belong to you is stealing and is against company policy. Employees of MidWeek & Star-Bulletin that violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action.”

How sad that in the workplace we have to post signs to remind people of what’s right and wrong.

Oh, and by the way, the giver of the cheesecake was U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo’s wife, Tammy. He’s Hawaii’s top federal prosecutor, in case you didn’t know, and Tammy has offered to have her powerhouse husband take on MidWeek’s Case of the Stolen Cheesecake.

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