Fridge Raiders are the absolute worst aren’t they? I’m not talking about those packs of mini meat snacks, but those communal criminals guilty of pilfering other people’s food and drink.
Excitement filtered through our office a few months ago when, after years of begging, we were finally deemed responsible enough to have a kitchen area. Not only do we have access to hot water to make our brews and a microwave, we even have a fridge where we can store our milk, lunch and other goodies! Yes, I know … most of you are wondering why this is such a thrill when you’ve probably had access to such privileges for donkey’s years. But believe me, for me and my colleagues, this has been the most exciting thing to happen in our work environment since the advent of e-mail. However, like most silver linings, there’s always a cloud – and for us it has arrived in the shape of Milkgate.
Apparently, fridge theft is rampant in offices around the world and it seems food and drink just does a disappearing act. And for some people, it provokes intense anger and the rage at having their much anticipated sandwich swiped can send them into apoplectic rage.
Recently, I’ve felt I have been transported back to my student days – those heady days where you had one fridge between about 12 of you in Halls of Residence and everyone named their food with a marker or a sticky note. But labelling your food in a similar way to how animals mark out their territory by urinating doesn’t put all potential food thieves off – oh no, some actually see it as a challenge and an invitation to be even more brazen. In fact, some people even go home and brag: “Today I ate a sandwich called Dave, a yogurt called Katrina and washed it all down with a bottle of Phil.” As students, despite painstakingly naming our food, it still went missing. And it seems the grown up adult world is no better when it comes to petty food theft. In our office, the disappearance of food stuff from the fridge doesn’t really seem to be an issue – but we have Milkgate … the unauthorised taking of the white stuff. When I was at primary school, I have hazy recollections of being Milk Monitor in the days before the late Maggie Thatcher stole milk from the children. A Milk Monitor would come in quite handy nowadays, but instead of handing out bottles and straws, they could guard the fridge to make sure people only take the milk that is their own.
Even since I was a youngster, I have had an abhorrence to milk, which stems from being made to only drink it boiled and hot. However, although I won’t ever drink milk straight, I am partial to a hefty slug of it in my coffee. And so it seems are some of my co-workers. MY milk I mean. To be honest, I’m always happy to share and if anyone asks me if they can use some of my milk, I’ll gladly say yes. Even if they don’t ask, I won’t be bothered as I feel life’s too short to worry about such trivial things. The only time I may get a teensy bit annoyed is when I go to the fridge desperate for my caffeine hit only to find someone has swiped the last of my milk. And had the audacity to leave the empty carton in the fridge to taunt me. But some people get REALLY angry at milk theft and go to great lengths to catch out the criminal.
One of my colleagues was so furious at the recurrent theft of his milk, he has threatened to plant a carton of milk laced with laxatives in the fridge so he can literally flush out the culprit by seeing who legs it across the office in their haste to get to the toilets. I had to chuckle at one of the “deterrent” notes stuck to one of the bottles of milk in the office fridge stating: “Breast milk”. The worrying thing would be what kind of sickos do you work with if it all goes? One colleague told me how at a former newspaper he worked at, the editor would place his milk in the fridge with a label saying: “Editor’s Milk: Do not drink.” Out of principle, it was the first of the milk to be drained. Short of installing a CCTV camera on the fridge or using guerilla warfare tactics, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent people who have no qualms helping themselves to what isn’t theirs. Some people recommend placing the bottle of milk in a carrier bag and tying a knot in it before putting it inside the fridge to make it harder for the thief to get into. Yes, that clever tactic will prevent those who are so desperate for a cup of tea, it has turned them into low-level criminals. Frankly, I could not be bothered with this and all it would do is deter ME from making a brew for myself.
My own solution to this First World problem? I’ve started buying a bigger bottle of milk. That way, when I go to the fridge and find the bottle half empty, at least there’ll be more milk in it. I guess the opportunistic milk thief would describe the bottle as being half full rather than half empty.