The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe

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Tedbear
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2006/02/26 08:24:03 (permalink)

The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe

About a month ago, I returned to the work force, and I have encountered the exact same situations with the office refrigerator that I had dealt with at my previous place of employment. Perhaps others have observed these same problems.

*One problem results from the fact that many employees use HUGE insulated carriers for their lunches. I can well understand the need for these insulated carriers if the person travels a long distance from home to work. I could also understand the use of these carriers if there was no refrigerator at work. But, these people somehow see the need to place these carriers in the refrigerator once they get to the office. When you open the refrigerator, it looks like it is filled with luggage, and, in fact, some of these insulated carriers are the size of small pieces of luggage. My lunch is carried in a small brown bag, and believe it or not, unless I am very quick to get to that refrigerator, it is really difficult to find room for that small brown bag among the "luggage sets" inside that refrigerator.

*The second problem has to do with the smell inside that refrigerator. Even though there is a cleaning schedule posted, it is obvious that few, if any, of the people listed on this schedule have ever bothered to do their scheduled cleaning task. Yes, I know that this represents poor office management, but since the office administrator uses that same refrigerator, it would be rather poor form for me to point out this situation to her. And, since I am only recently arrived, I don't want to get embroiled in the "office politics" that are not yet clear to me.

As a result of these situations, I have actually taken to keeping my brown bag in my attache case until it is time to eat. So far, the winter temperatures have been such that this is not problematic. But, as warmer temperatures approach, I'm not sure that I can continue to do this safely, without exposing myself to potential bacterial outgrowth and resultant food poisoning.

So--does anyone have any suggestions?

(Please don't suggest that I clean the refrigerator, as that is NOT on my agenda. I did not place the forgotten food in there that is now beginning to rot, and I know from experience that when anything is thrown away from an office refrigerator, someone will swear that you threw away good, edible food. As the "new guy" in the office, that is not something to which I should expose myself.)
#1

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    Sundancer7
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 08:49:29 (permalink)
    In our office the policy and procedure was to empty the frige every Friday. Folks that regularly used it rotated. It was mostly complied with. The only foood that was allowed to remain was things like dressings, condiments and things that should remain. Any food that was in bags or containers was emptied and the containers was put in the dishwasher.

    Another problem did crop up on occasion was folks grazing. Small amounts of food did seem to dissappear on occasion.

    I seldomed used the frige as I tended to eat out when I did have lunch which was not every day.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN

    Paul E. Smith
    #2
    Gizmolito
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 09:01:48 (permalink)
    What I do is take a frozen juice box of o.j. or grape juice. It keeps the bologna cold and is drinkable by noon.
    #3
    Sandy Thruthegarden
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 09:29:26 (permalink)
    I work at a mental health clinic and we get a lot of free lunches from pharmaceutical company reps because we have a lot of psychiatrists and nurse prescribers on the team. We end up with huge aluminum pans of stuff that fill up (and smell up) the refrigerator for days. No one takes responsibility for these pans when the stuff starts to go bad. If I had my druthers, we wouldn't have these lunches at all, but some of the docs and nurses insist on having them. On top of that, we have the big insulated carrier problem you mentioned, the wierd stuff people bring from home and forget, and the old condiments that get crusty or leaky. I have found stuff from people who resigned a year ago!

    I put out a memo. The new rule is that I'm pitching the pans after 2 days. Every Friday, we sweep out the fridge and if your stuff isn't labeled and dated, it goes. Old stuff in costly Tupperware will get pitched if it's not marked. I'm not opening any more containers with nasty, fuzzy, funky-smelling stuff, so if you don't want to lose your container, deal with it. We don't have a dishwasher and people already leave unwashed cups and utensils in the sink. Our housekeeping service doesn't do dishes and neither do I, so unwashed mugs and flatware are going out with the trash.

    Our communal refrigerator, and the sink, have been remarkably clean since I put out that memo.
    #4
    Tedbear
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 10:24:48 (permalink)
    While I appreciate the comments, and while I am sure that they were well-intentioned, some of them are just not practical for the "new guy" in the office who doesn't have a position that allows him to issue memoes to the staff. I would love to be able to issue memoes about the refrigerator and the fairly slovenly habits of many of the people who use it, but that task is clearly in the purview of the various supervisors and the Office Administrator. Since they use the same appliance, and since they don't see fit to take action, it is hardly within my job description to do so. Maybe eventually I will be in a position to do so, but not currently!

    Perhaps there really is no effective way to deal with the problem, other than to bring a frozen item (as was suggested) in order to keep my sandwich cold inside my attache case.
    #5
    ScreenBear
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 10:57:12 (permalink)
    The office refrigerator is a microcosm of the world's problems. It is foul smelling, difficult to comprehend and discern, its challenge overwhelming and daunting. It is the height of selfishness and disdain for one's fellow man.

    Mary Jane doesn't care because no one knows that's her twelve-week-old soufflé growing spores. And she kind of likes that. She'll show all those snobs for not inviting her to the last party. It's her version of Mrs. Haversham's festering cake...a gastronomic metaphor for her disappointment in life.

    Arty don't care either. He is a thief...specifically of milk for his coffee. Hey, what's a little milk? They can afford it.

    Likewise, Harold likes to show off the Samsonite luggage that he won as a consolation prize on a game show. It is his only accomplishment in life. What better place to air his sarcasm than the 'fridge? He brings the trunk even if he's going to go out for lunch.

    But, alas, poor Carol, the angel of the office staff, has tried. Gosh knows she's tried. For thirty years she's attempted to make the refrigerator a better place. But, it's been a thankless, uphill battle...a Herculean undertaking to behold in sorrow. So busy in her tireless efforts, she never did wed.

    Her notes have gone unheeded, their collection a veritable history of man's inhumanity to man. To add insult to injury, her original, very first note, informing that the refrigerator would be cleaned out on Fridays, written on plain lined paper, long before there were Post-It Notes, was recently for sale on E-Bay, stolen by milk-thief Arty.

    Many's the time Carol had to be taken to the emergency room on Friday, sick from inhaling the toxic fumes of old, abandoned food, or to have a shiner looked at, the result of a punch from a co-worker, accusing dear, innocent Carol of throwing out her food.

    Right now, it is the Great Anonymity that keeps the Lunch Room Refrigerator in the Dark Ages. No one is responsible. Under cover of night, thieves and slobs do their dirty work...leaving no identity.

    Indeed, short of a Great Renaissance, we can only hope that some technological breakthrough will show man the way to more civil conduct.

    Though it may seem light years away right now and hard to imagine, just as it may have seemed when we dreamed of one day sending a man to the moon, perhaps some inventor will lead the way. Perhaps some bright mind at either Rubbermaid or Tupperware will one day invent a "Full Refrigerator Office Insert," whereas, instead of the usual set-up of shelves in a refrigerator, those would be removed and replaced with translucent drawers the size of medium-sized safe deposit boxes.

    They’d call it the Office Refrigerator Deluxe. Every person would be assigned a drawer, his or her name clearly indicated in a slot by each door's handle.

    Gone is the anonymity. Man is again responsible for his actions, his obviously littered and dirty drawer a veritable Scarlet Letter to be avoided. And, for the time being, Civilization, or at least the Lunch Room refrigerator, is once again saved. We can only hope.
    The Bear
    #6
    joanie41
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 11:01:58 (permalink)
    I just finished a year of clinical rotations. Basically, I spent 4 weeks at each site, which meant that I was always the "new kid" on the block. I got in the habit of bring a large insulated bag with an ice pack which I loaded with drinks and lunch food. I didn't usually use the refrigerators because they smelled (!) and because it was easier to just keep my libations right by my desk. I saved a lot of money this way, and was able to resist the siren call of the vending machines! Obviously, I was in no position to tell the staff to clean up their messes.

    I think this is the easiest solution. I also use my little black bag of food/drinks when I have a heavy class schedule or plan to spend the day in the library. Works great!
    #7
    NebGuy
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 12:49:05 (permalink)
    Why not go buy your own insulated carrier and keep it by your desk? I did this for years before I started to work from home.

    #8
    Sundancer7
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 12:55:02 (permalink)
    Before my wife retired, actually sevveral years before she retired, I bought her a cheap Walmart small frige for her office. I think it was like $80.00

    Worked just fine.

    Paul E. smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #9
    Sandy Thruthegarden
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 15:57:09 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by joanie41

    I just finished a year of clinical rotations. Basically, I spent 4 weeks at each site, which meant that I was always the "new kid" on the block. I got in the habit of bring a large insulated bag with an ice pack which I loaded with drinks and lunch food. I didn't usually use the refrigerators because they smelled (!) and because it was easier to just keep my libations right by my desk. I saved a lot of money this way, and was able to resist the siren call of the vending machines! Obviously, I was in no position to tell the staff to clean up their messes.

    I think this is the easiest solution. I also use my little black bag of food/drinks when I have a heavy class schedule or plan to spend the day in the library. Works great!


    I'm presuming that you did clinical rotations in a hospital or clinic setting? Hospitals are the worst for nasty staff refrigerators. The absolute worst occurence was one of the night unit attendants (who was in medical school) keeping a small deceased animal he was dissecting for class in the staff refrigerator. It was all wrapped up but I couldn't stomach the prospect of putting my ham sandwich next to the critter. But some of the docs and nurses didn't think twice about it.
    #10
    Sandy Thruthegarden
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 16:05:47 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Tedbear

    While I appreciate the comments, and while I am sure that they were well-intentioned, some of them are just not practical for the "new guy" in the office who doesn't have a position that allows him to issue memoes to the staff. I would love to be able to issue memoes about the refrigerator and the fairly slovenly habits of many of the people who use it, but that task is clearly in the purview of the various supervisors and the Office Administrator. Since they use the same appliance, and since they don't see fit to take action, it is hardly within my job description to do so. Maybe eventually I will be in a position to do so, but not currently!

    Perhaps there really is no effective way to deal with the problem, other than to bring a frozen item (as was suggested) in order to keep my sandwich cold inside my attache case.


    Sorry if I missed the part about being the new guy. I get carried away with this topic. I have used one of those cold packs in a plastic bag when I've had to leave my lunch in my car for some reason. It worked great. That way you will never have to open the refrigerator door. I love Sundancer's suggestion of getting your own fridge if you have your own space. Then no one can steal your Coffeemate.
    #11
    dreamzpainter
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 17:40:45 (permalink)
    My last "office" job was way back when Uncle Sam wrote the checks so I've never encountered the problem but I don't understand the mentality of buying and using an insulted carrier then stuffing it in an office frig... Is space in the cubical that scarce? My carrier became a defacto "mans purse" the seperate (noninsulted)pockets holding my wallet, spare glasses, gum, etc..
    #12
    Tedbear
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 18:31:59 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by dreamzpainter

    My last "office" job was way back when Uncle Sam wrote the checks so I've never encountered the problem but I don't understand the mentality of buying and using an insulted carrier then stuffing it in an office frig... Is space in the cubical that scarce? My carrier became a defacto "mans purse" the seperate (noninsulted)pockets holding my wallet, spare glasses, gum, etc..


    No, the space in the individual cubicles is not that scarce. I really think that it comes down to two factors:

    *Pure laziness (not wanting to unpack the lunch "luggage").
    *A general lack of consideration for others, as is so prevalent in society today.

    As to the personal refrigerator suggestion, while it is a good idea, we are prohibited from having any "personal" appliances. The prominently posted rules state that there are to be no coffee makers, cup warmers, etc. There is one microwave (unspeakably filthy, of course) in the lunch room, and the aforementioned office refrigerator. There is not even a coffee maker for general use, most likely because the ONLY source of water for the office is in the lavatories, and one has to go through two combination-locked doors to access the office when returning from the lavatory. We may be secure, but otherwise, the office environment is certainly not very "user-friendly".

    Based on the suggestions offered, I will begin shopping for a small insulated lunch carrier before the warm weather returns, and I suppose that I will wind up putting a small ice-pack into the bag along with my sandwich.
    #13
    Gizmolito
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 19:49:10 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by dreamzpainter

    My carrier became a defacto "mans purse" the seperate (noninsulted)pockets holding my wallet, spare glasses, gum, etc..



    I never thought of it exactly as a man-purse, but that's a perfect description for mine! Not only lunch, but the dry compartment for bills to pay while eating lunch (that's my time), a selection of pills for potential problems after eating lunch, maybe a doughnut or leftover bacon (breakfast on their time, hey I'm still working!).

    I've had to duct tape the inner liner, because I haven't seen this bag again for upgrading to a new model.
    #14
    joanie41
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 20:25:58 (permalink)
    Sandy Thruthegarden, yes I am getting my doctorate in pharmacy in a couple months. In the past year, I have worked at two different hospitals, a home infusion company, two different psych facilities, and two different retail pharmacies! And yes, the hospital fridges were the worst, although these were in the pharmacy area, so it was limited to just that staff. The retail pharmacies generally didn't have space for a lot of lunch stuff (certain drugs must be kept in the fridge) so the insulated bag worked great. And I can't bring myself to regularly spend money on vending machine soda, etc, so I bring my own, and save big bucks doing so. I bring my own bottled water, because some of the sites had terrible faucet water.

    Not sure where I'll end up after graduation, but I'll probably still bring my bag of goodies with me everyday...I'm so used to doing it now that I can't imagine not having it with me!
    #15
    stevencarry
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 23:29:28 (permalink)
    The office fridge is just like a gym locker...don't leave anything you are not prepared to lose.
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    sizz
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/26 23:54:15 (permalink)
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    Tedbear
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/27 06:38:50 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by fpczyz




    Frank--Thanks for that image. That is a pretty good representation of the "lunch luggage" that fills the office refrigerator. Since some people are bringing something that could easily hold lunch for 5 people, that is part of the problem. (Then again, considering the size of some of the butts around there, maybe they really are bringing that much food for themselves!)

    If you can visualize a ~16 cubic foot refrigerator with 4 or 5 of these pieces of luggage in them, you can get an idea of the problem. What I will buy for my own use will be something far smaller.
    #18
    Sandy Thruthegarden
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/27 06:46:47 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by joanie41

    Sandy Thruthegarden, yes I am getting my doctorate in pharmacy in a couple months. In the past year, I have worked at two different hospitals, a home infusion company, two different psych facilities, and two different retail pharmacies! And yes, the hospital fridges were the worst, although these were in the pharmacy area, so it was limited to just that staff. The retail pharmacies generally didn't have space for a lot of lunch stuff (certain drugs must be kept in the fridge) so the insulated bag worked great. And I can't bring myself to regularly spend money on vending machine soda, etc, so I bring my own, and save big bucks doing so. I bring my own bottled water, because some of the sites had terrible faucet water.

    Not sure where I'll end up after graduation, but I'll probably still bring my bag of goodies with me everyday...I'm so used to doing it now that I can't imagine not having it with me!


    Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, Joanie!

    Of course, JCAHO would have a fit if they saw somebody's lunch in the med refrigerator. Sometimes it happens the other way 'round when the med fridge is jam-packed with injectible meds and our Pharmacy Assistant has nowhere to go with the latest shipment of Consta...

    I've been taking a homemade variation of a chef's salad everyday for years. I vary the meat and cheese components and keep a bottle of Garlic Expressions salad dressing (low carb, low fat) in the fridge. We have a water filter at home so I bring a bottle of water. I also keep a bag of raw unsalted almonds or cashews in my desk for snacks. Does keep me away from the vending machine as well as the corner drugstore across the street that has Chips Ahoy and Nutter Butters in "Big Grab" bags near the front door!
    #19
    Tedbear
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/28 07:05:12 (permalink)
    And, on a related topic, how about the co-worker whose lunch almost every day consists of microwaved, overcooked broccoli? In a small office space such as mine, this causes the air to smell like a large fart for quite a while every day.

    One of the workers from another area of the office happened to be near my desk one day, and as she was speaking to me, her face suddenly registered a quizzical look. I knew that she was thinking "who farted?". I pointed to an adjoining desk and I silently mouthed the words, "it's Maryellen's broccoli--AGAIN".

    Later, this same worker from the other area of the office expressed surprise that Maryellen could be so oblivious to the obnoxious smell of that microwaved broccoli. But, as with so many other situations in life, many people today only seem to worry about their own convenience and their own comfort level. At least the smell of that damned broccoli does dissipate after awhile, unlike the odor in the office refrigerator!
    #20
    The Travelin Man
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/28 09:42:09 (permalink)
    Tedbear, we have (well, had) a related issue here. I work in a very small office (of a much larger organization) -- maybe 15 of us total, in the office, every day. Of the 15, only two are guys. At the peak of the fad diets (Adkins, South Beach-style), we had damn near every woman in here on these crazy things. They all got into the habit of eating similar things -- and one of them was a broccoli quiche for breakfast. They would line up and microwave them in succession (our kitchen-area is adjacent -- no wall -- to the work area for our support staff). The place had a foul stench for about an hour and change every freakin' morning, such that I all but needed a gas mask whenever I needed to go back there.

    Fortunately, even these "lifestyle change" diets don't stick around too long and now not a one of them is on it -- thankfully!

    I appreciate any and alls trials with losing weight, but I am not unhappy to avoid that foul stench.
    #21
    Sandy Thruthegarden
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    RE: The Office Refrigerator, and other tales of woe 2006/02/28 18:40:47 (permalink)
    And then there are the diets that encourage the consumption of lots of salmon. Reheated salmon can really stink up a small break room.
    #22
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