There’s a cold sweat on my brow, and I didn’t put it there.
My eyes are glazed with hunger, still holding onto some hope for a great lunch. Here I stand, looking at the open fridge in front of me, looking for my signature brown-paper-bag lunch.
It’s gone! It is gone, taken from this fridge. There’s no alternative! I remember putting my lunch together this morning; the cutting of the fixins, the stuffing of it in my bag before leaving home, and putting it in this very fridge when I got in today! What the hell is going on here!?
BEEN STREET KITCHEN SNIPES
It must be one person, because my lunch was fit for one. I didn’t see any ‘open for grabs’ signals waved, or else I would have noticed it. I work close to my office kitchen. My office floor alone has maybe 500 people, all of which are loosely sprawled across a wide landscape of cubicles and private offices. There are two kitchens, one on each side, which means at least half the people out there are suspects, I guess… great…
It was a toasted turkey club sandwich, too. I made it with fresh, organic ingredients. I was really looking forward to that sandwich. I made a special point to oven bake the bacon earlier to give it a “juicy-but-crunchy” texture I like so much. Damn… I want to find the punk who took my lunch.
It took me fifteen minutes to get my lunch from somewhere else. It was raining outside, so that made the experience less enjoyable, but I got something good in the area. I ate by myself, quietly looking out at the city in front of my office window. It was a place of comfort that I and a few coworkers of mine took refuge in when we had little work to do. I knew these guys couldn’t possibly be responsible for my predicament.
I can usually breeze through my workweek when days are good, clear of conflict and change, but when my mind is fixed on something like it was on that lunch today, my day gets slower, rougher, and darker. A rainy morning had turned into sunshine for a brief moment before the clouds came and swept all the light away… and that’s how my day went.
By the end of the night, I could care less about the sandwich, but rather more about catching the guy who got to me. I needed a crafty plan to monitor the kitchen. It seems like a simple plan, really, standing up while doing my job and watching the kitchen. I’ll just lean on my cubicle wall and talk to Joe and Elliot, all the while monitor the head traffic that passes through there.
Monitor; not interfere. My intentions are more sincere. I want to catch them red handed, and I want to catch them as they’re about to enjoy it.
Well, my hard work did pay off as much as I would have hoped, because I have my lunch today, along with a renewed sense of confidence. But I wonder what happened…?
For the next couple days I paid less and less attention to what I brought in for lunch, convinced I would get robbed again at some point, and decided not to give the bastard something I put my heart into. I can safely say that a week later, I’ve let my guard down. It’s Thursday, and I made a salad with some roasted chicken bits from last night, with a ginger sesame dressing I bought.
It’s GONE! My nerves pinch and my tummy makes a wild wailing noise that sounds like a person is dying inside me. Somebody is dying inside of me…me. I am dying inside of me, terror-stricken by this shadow that just takes and takes as it pleases. My paper bag lunch, stolen again…
The next day I left my lunch in the kitchen on the other side of the hall. It was completely out of friendly territory, and out of my sights. I would just trust (in a hope) that it would remain there until lunchtime.
Gone again! It’s a personal vendetta! I’m being victimized by someone with a private grudge on me. What the hell is this all about?! My insides are boiling with stomach acid; I’ve been waiting for that tasty meal, and now I have to deprive my senses for ten dollars and another 15 minutes . Oh, the pain!
Today I am beyond reckoning with. I’m also beyond reasoning with. I think I’ll leave my lunch at my desk for the entire day, no preservation needed, no chilling, no heating, no wetting nor drying required. I’ll have peanut butter and banana sandwiches… with some raisins. I’ll keep everything in my desk. The sheer simplicity of it, the absolute insanity of it!
It’s about 1:20pm and I’m starting to have some free time to eat. I made a peanut butter and banana and raisin sandwich, and left the peanut butter on my desk (along with the sandwich, which I covered with a napkin). I’m just on my way back from the bathroom now…
Boom! My lunch is gone, right off of my desk. My head rises immediately over the cubicles and I look out at the expansive office floor. Where is the bastard? Where’s my lunch?
I walk to where I can see more desks. My nose sniffs the air, looking for leads. Some people are standing in the distance, passing work and gossiping to each other. The rest are on the move. But to where? A woman is walking towards me; another is walking away with a couple of people. Heads bob up for a few moments before dipping back down into cubes.
Wait! That man over there, the slightly balding man wearing a brown collared shirt. Him! He’s walking kind of fast… what’s his rush?
My fury is rising while I speedwalk after him. He is holding a brown paper bag, and I know from experience that those bags are the same as mine. This son-of-a-bitch took my lunch. He’s not a big guy; I could take him down if necessary. He continues to walk out of my area, and over to a private office in the far corner of the wall adjacent to mine. I can see my work area well enough from over here.
I follow with discretion now. This is what I was waiting for, to catch him in the act. For some reason I’m nervous now. This hunt, so to put it, is about to reach a stunning climax. Furthermore, I’m blowing a stupid whistle like this on a would-be executive. His name was Byrun Bhundiddikush. My demeanor had to be clean-cut.
I am very casual on the outside, but my blood is starting to flood to my head.
Byrun – Hi.
There’s a brief silence.
Byrun – Can I help you?
‘Yeah, I was just stopping by because I noticed you took my lunch.’
Byrun – Oh, right, these things.
There’s another brief silence.
Byrun – Well, I wouldn’t worry about these anymore. You got me, fair and square.
‘What? Is that it? What are you talking about?’
Byrun – You sniped me, man!
‘Sniped you? What the hell are you talking about?’
Byrun – It’s not often a lunch sniper gets sniped himself!
‘You do realize this isn’t the first time you’ve stolen my lunch, right?’
Byrun – Right.
‘Well? Are you gonna’ make me some lunches to make up for it or something? Are you gonna pay me back at all?’
Byrun – Probably not.
‘Are you kidding?’
Byrun – Yeah, I guess I’m not much of a kidder.
‘What gives, man? You’re being such an asshole.’
Byrun – Actually I’m sure it’s you who’s the asshole.
I am a fed up customer at a claims window where nobody cares about your feelings.
‘What? How can you-? Now, listen here, buddy, I won’t bring any names into this, but you’re making this extremely difficult for me. Consider my point of view for a second. Do you see a problem with this? All I want from you is something in return for stealing my lunches and terrorizing me for the last few weeks! An apology would be really great too, but I doubt you’re the type to do that.’
Byrun – Why should I give you anything?
Because you’ve stolen my lunch! Numerous times! What did I take from you? What? Nothin!’
My voice is loud, and people beyond this man’s cube can hear me clearly.
Byrun – Please, let’s exercise a little discretion here, we’re mature adults.
‘I don’t think you are, sir, because we you’re having some real issues resolving our stupid little problem.’
Byrun – What problem?
‘The lunches, man. The lunches.’
I am losing my cool. I am growing sad and tired with frustration. All I want now is my lunch, and he is still eating it.
‘My lunches. You’ve been stealing them from me, and I want restitution.’
Byrun – Right, well the way I see it, if you stop bringing in your lunch like this, I’ll stop taking it.
‘What are you talking about? There are so many people in this office, and a lot of them bring their lunch in, just like me. What makes me so different? Why not take their lunches?’
Byrun – Oh I do take their’s, it’s nothing special. Sometimes people are really on with their culinary skills. But some times, people like you bring in crap. That’s the whole thing with these lunches: sandwiches, soups, salads, leftovers, packaged meals and other crap like this. It’s the containers that really identify people. And it’s important to remember that, Guy, because some of them are really great methods to preserve your lunch in. Lunch boxes, reusable containers, plastic bags, and paper bags. It’s the last of these that really gets my nerves.
‘The paper bag? Is that what this is all about?’
Byrun – Mostly. If you brought your lunch to work in a more eco-friendly container, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place… maybe.
My heart is a grinder, grinding nickels and dimes. The pupils in my eyes have just shrunk to the size of pin heads, and the madness of this man’s perspective is beyond my tolerance. I can no longer handle it.
Byrun –Do you know how much harm you’re doing to our precious forests? Do you know how many paper bags you’ve used to bring your lunch in to work? I’ve been watching you, man. How many more do you use beyond that? The paper is culminating, my friend, and the bodies of several trees are rotting away at your feet. Can you comfortably eat this lunch with that on your conscience?
He eats another bite of my lunch after he says this.
‘Give me your money.’
Byrun Excuse me?
‘You heard me, give me your money. I want payback. Payback for the money I’ve put into those lunches, and the time I’ve wasted with this hunt to catch you, and payback for this failure of an attempt to reclaim my lunch. They never belonged to you, man, and what you are doing is selfish and unfair.’
Strangely, nobody from the office in this guy’s proximity is coming over to investigate. It’s as if this kind of thing happens often.
Byrun – Yeah, I’m fresh out that, but I’ll give you something in exchange.
‘Exchange for what? Exchange for my lunches? Are you going to give me my lunch back?’
Byrun – (laughing) Oh heaven’s no. This crap is great. And I want to give you something better. I want to give you advice on how to snipe for yourself.
‘How to snipe?’
Byrun – Yeah, you know; how to snipe people’s lunches.
I fight back the urge to hop over the desk and strangle this man.
‘No, I want my lunch. I want my lunch back, I want my time back, I want my money back, and finally I want you to get fired.’
Byrun – Well, that won’t happen.
‘You think so?’
Byrun – Yeah, I’m pretty sure about it. Now why don’t you take my advice, and learn how to take a lunch for yourself. I guarantee that after one lunch, you’ll never want to turn back.
‘How about you pay for my lunch, asshole?’
Byrun – Not happening. I can get you a lunch, though. How about that?
I forget about the whole dilemma. I am so hungry and aggravated that all I want at this moment is food, sustenance, and some peace to this whole mess.
‘Get me a lunch… please.’
Byrun – Deal.
Way too quick. He was waiting for some kind of compromise like this, not involving anything except a lunch. He eats more of my sandwich, and takes a moment to breathe.
Byrun – Follow me.
After he finishes my lunch, he gets up and proceeds to the kitchen on my side of the office, but in another wing nearby. He stands next to the printer nearby, watching the traffic around the kitchen. He sees a lot of people using the amenities there, heating up their frozen meals, chatting to one another for that brief time it takes to microwave dish or bowl, filling up their water bottles. I look around him, and notice how invisible he is among the other coworkers. He just stands there, watching the kitchen, and waiting.
In a flash he makes for the kitchen, slowly and casually. Almost like birds in an open square, the coworkers all leave the scene moments before he walks through. He goes up to one of the refrigerators and pulls out a plastic bag, quickly shuts the door and casually walks back towards me.
Byrun – Let’s go back to my place now.
Suave, I have to admit. I notice how cool and collected he is the whole time, briskly swinging the plastic bag back and forth in his hand as he walks back to his corner of the office. I meet him there shortly later with a mixture of guilt and greed in my stomach as he begins to open the bag, look inside, and pull out a tasty, homemade, chicken sandwich, accompanied with carrots and string cheese. My mouth is watering.
Byrun – Here you go.
He gives me the sandwich and carrots, and keeps the string cheese. What a bastard.
Byrun – Now go get your own damn lunch, I’m a busy guy.
He turns his head to throw away the bag, and then pulls his things together on the desk to look like he was working. I had no idea what he was doing.
I feel like I’ve been cheated by a master conman who doesn’t fall back lightly. I feel like this guy has total immunity over any kind of threats and actions I can throw at him. He is certainly an officer at the company, somebody with absolute power, able to fire me without even working in my team or department. Instead, this man has walked all over me, in addition to the employees of this office who bring their lunch in everyday. What injustice!
‘I hope you get caught by somebody bigger than you, and hang on your own burnoose.’
Byrun – I hope you snipe out some really great lunches, man, I really do. I’m excited for you because I think you’ll do alright. Easy, huh?
My heart sinks, and I realize again how much this guy is taking advantage of me.
Byrun – That was the advice. Just make sure you time the entry right or else you’ll get stuck in a tongue-twister with some curious coworkers. And feel free to use another bag to cover it up if you want.
‘If my lunch ever disappears again, I’m coming after you.’
Byrun – Sure. Oh man that was fun; I’m looking forward to when you’re in my shoes. I’m relieved; really, I’m always relieved when things like this are over. Just remember what I told you about those paper bags, ok? Give a little consideration for the Earth.
‘Screw you, man.’
I walk away with a sense of failure in my heart, and with success in my stomach. I’m thankful the ordeal is over, and I can go on with my life. I walk back to my area with someone’s sandwich and carrots, sit over at the nook, and watch the clouds pass behind the skyline. The sandwich tasted amazing. Someone really put some work into it. I wonder if that’s just a coincidence, or if everyone actually puts some effort into their lunches?
And somewhere on the other side of my office wing, a woman is upset because her lunch got stolen.