It's the Friday after New Year's Day. I came into the office this morning to pick up a folder, and as I do about 20 times a day, I passed by the break room. The difference was that, this time, there was no food out. We had a holiday party two weeks ago, in which everybody brought "a dessert to pass," but everything's been carted away. And nobody's been in the office this week. I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever seen the entire surface of the break-room table at one time. It is always laden with birthday or holiday treats, often both. And I must say, it was an utter relief not to have to resist temptation while passing by the door. Hasn't this phenomenon of the office snack table gotten out of hand? And isn't there anything those of us who would prefer not to participate can do?
Snack Attack: Has it gotten out of hand? Yes. Is there anything we can do? Yes? Could you pass that plate of double-fudge brownies? Certainly! Without having conducted any formal research, I'm pretty sure that what I like to call the barffet is spreading out like Oprah's hips. And it never seems to go away, just mutates, like one of those soups where you keep adding ingredients over time and some of the ingredients date back to the Carter administration. It's weird how, in an office with, say, 20 people, somebody has a birthday every week - weird, also, that Armistice Day is making a comeback, if only because it helps fill the snack gap between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
What can be done? Well, the first thing you can do is admit to yourself that you're in the minority. In fact, you're like a nonsmoker in 1960, huddling in the corner while everybody blows smoke rings your way. How to pull off a switcheroo and get the snackers huddling in the corner? That's the 64,000-calorie question, and I'd start by trying to understand why offices have turned into grazing stations. The obvious reason is that people like to eat. I mean, duh. The less obvious reason, the one people cite when somebody asks why they have to wade through a vat of spinach dip to get to their desk, is teamwork. That's right, teamwork. You've heard the expression "There's no 'i' in team"? Well, there may not be an "i," but there's a pie.
Food, in other words, is a social lubricant, and a greased-up staff is a happy, productive staff. That's the rationale, anyway. Exactly how we're supposed to happily produce things with a dozen doughnuts sticking to our ribs is never addressed. The point is, we've socially interacted, we've networked, we've formed alliances, we will not be voted off the island. Whereas, those who refuse the snack table's teeming bounty could be voted off. (There's no "trying to watch what I eat" in "team.") Right now, the foodies have the upper hand. And it could be a while before the health cost/benefit ratios catch up with them, as they did with our good friends, the smokers. In the meantime, there's a couple of things you can try.
One, install a water cooler. Charge if you have to (people love to pay for water), but put it in a prominent place other than the break room, a place where people are apt to congregate. Then let human nature take its course. Pretty soon, you'll have alliances of your own and can start voting foodies off the island. Two, make a formal request that the door to the break room be kept closed unless someone is entering or exiting - not locked, just closed. Studies have shown that when it comes to food, out of sight is out of mind. So, by not having to eyeball the craps table every time you pass by the break room, you'll be that much less likely to roll the dice. Oh, and another thing: Ban birthdays. We're all old enough as it is.
If you think there's a "u" in "us," write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, ext. 152. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.