If you've ever worked in an office with a shared refrigerator, then you know that few offenses inspire the level of outrage provoked by a stolen lunch. Everywhere I've ever worked, at least one lunch has been taken from the refrigerator and the victim of the lunch theft is only slightly less upset than he would have been had his car been wrecked and his house burned down.
The thing about office lunch thefts, though, is that while the hungry victim is always furious, reactions from coworkers will range from mild amusement tinged with sympathy to kneeslapping hilarity. I've never had my lunch stolen, but I've been present during the aftermath of many lunch thefts, and I always find it ridiculously funny. Who steals a lunch? Then, someone always gives the thief the benefit of the doubt: "maybe he didn't know it was your lunch", which always prompts (correctly) the same response: "yeah, but he knew it wasn't HIS lunch". And of course, anger out of proportion to the severity of the offense is ALWAYS funny, as long as you're an onlooker and not the person slighted.
On the second day at my new job, I was once again witness to the aftermath of a lunch theft. I bring my lunch to work almost everyday. (No, my lunch wasn't the one stolen. Because I'd have been SO MAD.) I ate my sandwich, went outside to walk for a few minutes, and returned to my desk. A young intern sits in the cubicle next to mine; she asked me if I'd gone out for lunch. "No", I said. "I ate my lunch and then went outside for a few minutes."
"You didn't eat a ham sandwich, did you?" she said with a stifled laugh.
"No", I said, a bit puzzled. "I had tuna salad on pita bread".
Noticing my blank lack of comprehension at what was obviously a joke, she said "I guess you haven't seen the email".
"No", I said. "I thought you were joking about the sandwich, but I didn't get it."
"Read your email", she said. So I did.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
tee hee hee.
The email, addressed to the entire office, was titled "WHO ATE MY LUNCH?"
In badly punctuated all caps, the lunch theft victim plaintively demanded to know who had taken his lunch from the refrigerator. He preemptively addressed the "maybe he didn't know it was your lunch" defense by suggesting that just possibly, it might occur that a person's lunch was packed by someone else, in which case that person might not know what was in his own lunch and might thus inadvertently eat the wrong lunch. He, the victim, was willing to give the benefit of the doubt and to concede that this lunch theft might have been unintentional. It was ridiculously funny. Not, however, as funny as the next paragraph, in which he identified his lunch, hoping that the thief would come forward and confess. His lunch was:
"A big ham and cheese and lettuce and tomato sandwich on flatbread with a side of Triscuits"
"Big" sandwich just about killed me. And not only because in his all-caps fury, the victim had misspelled "sandwich" as "SNADWICH". But "a SIDE of Triscuits"? Might have been the funniest thing I've ever seen in writing.
The intern was watching my reaction. "Is that not the most awesome email you've ever seen?" she asked.
"Outstanding", I said. "I feel bad that he didn't get to eat his lunch, but that made my entire day."
It got better. At about 2:30 or so, a program manager who'd been in a meeting came walking toward my area of the office. As it turns out, the owner of the lunch sits just a few cubicles away from me (and he probably heard me laughing at his email). The program manager yelled "Hey! How long was that ham in your refrigerator? Because that was the WORST sandwich I ever ate! And TRISCUITS? Are you an elderly woman?" The program manager did, in fact, bring a lunch that had been packed by his wife, and he didn't know what she had packed. Until he read the email, he'd made a mental note to complain to her about the rotten lunch she'd packed him. So not only was he completely unrepentant, he also mocked the lunch that had been so beloved that its rightful owner had sent out an Amber Alert. Becoming serious and conciliatory for a moment, the thief asked the victim if he'd eaten. Assured that he had, the snadwich thief said "Good. So now I can eat my lunch. Because yours was terrible". Hilarious.
Still, I'll definitely write my name on my lunch from now on.