The Burger Debacle

I’m a bring-your-lunch-to-work kind of guy. When earn your keep in the downtown of Chicago, that’s for the best. Getting a meal at the local food court sets you back at least $15. Any sit down restaurant where you need to tip is $20-$25. I tell you all this to bring some context to my emotional reaction in the narrative that follows.

On the weekend we had friends over, and made burgers. And not just any fly by night, from frozen patties, cow slabs. No, these were preformed but fresh. In a word, following my grill master attentions, these were “delicious.” The company enjoyed them, but we cooked all we had purchased and had leftovers. Having extra is good news for me, of course, because of my thrifty lunch habits. When I went to work Monday, I had four patties to work with. I ate two on Monday for my midday meal.

When I came to work Tuesday, I only brought a few sides with me, secure in the knowledge that I had two remaining burgers to eat that day. I entered the kitchen that morning to find tupperware, that looked suspiciously like the container for my burgers, sitting on the counter and half full of sudsy water, as if someone had been in the process of washing it before I walked in. I opened the fridge to stow my side items, and, my suspicions aroused, checked for my burgers. Indeed, they were not there. The tupperware on the counter, I concluded, had to be mine.

My next investigative action was to determine if the offending party had eaten my burgers or tossed them. I became a trash snooper. Luckily, it was early in the morning, so the containers hadn’t filled with too much offending materials. I set my disgust to the side, and dug in. In the second trash receptacle, I found my two beautiful patties, discarded like so much tossed junk.

A few coworkers were in the break room while Operation Burger Debacle began and expressed sympathy with my cause, though none of them volunteered to search the trash with me. I was, in a word, incensed. With my coworkers words of sympathy in my ears, I finished the half-hearted washing job on my tupperware and stalked back to my desk with the container gripped disdainfully in my hand like a second place trophy held by a perennial champion. I wanted to fling it out a window.

Instead, I found a sticky note and wrote: “Please DO NOT throw away my perfectly good food next time.” I scrawled this message with a sharpie and I can’t vouch for the quality of the handwriting. My penmanship isn’t award winning to begin with, but in this case the t’s were crossed with rage and the i was dotted with acrimony.

I returned to the break room and left the tupperware, with this love note fixed to the top, next to the fridge for the remainder of the day, and then picked it up before I left for the day. I thought my message would then have had time to reach my adversary and communicate my frustration. A thought that proved true, as you will soon see.

That afternoon, I elected to not go out and spend $15 on a Chicago lunch, and instead contented myself with my side items. I may be stretching the word “contented” in this case. My rage burned as hot as the microwave I wasn’t getting to use.

The following day, a Wednesday, I again entered the break room in the morning and opened in the fridge. Inside was a tupperware container that looked identical to mine. My tupperware, as the reader will recall, I had taken home the day before. This new tupperware had a note affixed to its top. I pulled it out and read: “I thought the burgers were mine and threw them out. Please accept these in return.” Inside the container were two burger patties to replace the ones I’d lost.

I immediately called my wife, who like me had raged against the “refrigerator Nazi” the day before. But upon the news of this act of contrition, proclaimed that her faith in humanity had been restored. I must admit to feeling similar sentiments. The person, who remains anonymous to this day, went from fascistic to fantastic in a split second. I continued the communication with my former adversary via sticky note, and wrote that the offering was very kind and thanking whoever had done the deed.

Sometimes little acts of kindness matter a lot. Is there an instant like that in your life?

2 thoughts on “The Burger Debacle”

  1. My story, unfortunately, doesn’t end with a kindness. When I worked at a small company (only 30 employees) we had a lunch thief. The thief didn’t discriminate. Each day a different person discovered their lunch missing. It went on for so many consecutive days, that a detective squad was assembled and – if for example, a sandwich taken out of a bag – they searched trash cans for the discarded paper wrapper or plastic bag, but could never find any evidence. The fact we were such a small office, with 20 of the 30 workers all sitting together in an open bullpen area, made it all the more infuriating that we couldn’t catch the culprit. Each employee started giving the others the side-eyed glance whenever they walked towards the break room. People took to writing warnings and hexes and curses on the outside of their paper lunch sacks. It did no good. The owner of the company, a former Marine with a booming intimidating voice and impressive hulking form, caught wind of what was going on and wasn’t having it. He stomped out into the middle of the bullpen and barked for everyone’s attention: “I WILL NOT TOLERATE THIEVES IN MY COMPANY!” Even the innocent were trembling. Still, the thefts continued. The culprit was obviously confident and brazen. Most of us had resorted to bringing in items that didn’t need to be refrigerated and keeping them at our desks, or eating out for lunch every day (an expensive proposition). Finally, one of the employees got fed up and laced their seemingly normal sandwich with Tobasco sauce and other such painful yet edible items. The thefts stopped. We never found out who it was.

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