At 11:22 every morning, one of my coworkers — I’m not sure which one and I don’t want to know which one because it might lead me to commit an act of aggression against someone I like — creeps into the kitchen and slips one of those frozen macaroni and cheese dinners into the microwave.
You know where this is going, don’t you? Well, you’re right, because before you can say “Poppin’ Fresh,” the entire office smells as though a large mammal from the pachyderm family has taken up residence among us.
How, I wonder — and I’m sure Aristotle grappled with these same metaphysical questions — can one microwavable meal stink up the place so much that it causes people to gag, get the dry heaves and suffer vertigo? Besides, who eats macaroni and cheese that early? It’s like foie gras for breakfast.
It also points to a fundamental inequity in our judicial system as handed down by our forefathers and foremothers, including James Madison, Dolly Madison, Dolly Parton, and Sarah Lee. Something’s wrong with a legal system that condemns New Yorkers who smoke e-cigarettes in public places but allows people to pollute the environment with macaroni and cheese.
I’ve often wondered why this person — who I’m afraid is in management and could subject me to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal — is eating macaroni and cheese at 11:22 in the morning, especially since former Mayor Bloomberg passed laws banning this sort of public health menace. Isn’t this an OSHA violation? What new atrocity awaits us in the unregulated workplace?
Whenever that stench wafts through the office, I feel the urge to rush downstairs to the pharmacy for an inhaler, an air purifier or perhaps a box of face masks. The smell is worse than a case of really bad breath. At least with really bad breath, you can walk away and gag in the privacy of your cubicle or in extremely desperate situations, the storage closet.
Something about microwavable synthetic cheese products, which are probably made from plastics and petro-based chemicals, makes me lose my sense of human decency, along with my appetite. I even hate sitting next to someone on the train who’s devouring a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich while I’m engaged in a truly productive activity, such as reading the gossip column of the New York Post.
The smell makes me want to take that bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with a runny yolk and smash it into his face, but I don’t because I might be in the next day’s police blotter or, worse, have a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich smashed into my face. I guess I should mind my own business and breathe through my mouth.
When I worked in the newsroom, a woman in the features department microwaved a big bag of buttered popcorn at precisely 2:37 every afternoon, and the stench of that artificial butter made us want to go screaming into the streets like zombies with our heads spinning.
At least twice a week, she’d burn the popcorn, and only one thing is worse than the stench of microwavable buttered popcorn and it’s the stench of burnt microwavable buttered popcorn. It smells like the Norwalk sewage treatment plant in August when the Metro-North train crosses the Norwalk River at low tide, and everyone looks around as if to ask, “OK, who did it???”
The odor of burnt popcorn would hang in the air for days, just like the macaroni and cheese smell, which permeates my clothes so much that my wife asks, “Did the air conditioning break down on the train?”
So what should I do about this? Should I start a petition? Should I push for legislation? Should I call the FDA or the NYPD? Or maybe the ASPCA? Or should I instead offer passive resistance and bring in a frozen five-cheese deep dish pizza with pepperoni, garlic and bacon bits and let it sizzle and smolder in the microwave.
Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Bon appétit, everyone, and be sure to hold your nose.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.