Thursday, November 30, 2006

Intolerable Pretense, or How I Learned to Love the Soybean

My favorite thing about working at a company like R. is the absolutely-positively-necessary pretense of being one of those healthily-anorexic (I eat a meal a day!), caffeine-free, vegan-only, marathon-running do-gooders. For the first two weeks I worked here, I skipped lunch because no one left their desks between noon and two o'clock to eat anything. Were the Sunchips in the kitchen really enough? I wondered. It turns out they were (if you had like four bags a day), but then at week 3, I retaliated and started frequenting my beloved 39th Street Au Bon Pain again. God love those chocolate-covered macaroons.

As if the bare-bones organic kitchen were not a fun place already, it only gets better when visiting advertisers meet with the publishing staff. Platters of lunches briefly grace the soy-laden fridge--delicious cheese and (red!) meat-filled lunches, succulent chocolate-covered strawberry lunches, mouth-watering cookie and fudge-toffee lunches. When the leftovers hit the kitchen counter (and let's face it, nobody's eating at these meetings anyway, so these platters are usually still stacked with mountains cheddar), word spreads quietly and quickly, like mono in high school. Within moments, the goods are gone. Disappointed, emaciated women in skinny, fair-trade jeans wander the halls, knowing that if their cubicles were only a couple yards closer to the kitchen, they too would have had a square of cheese or almond cookie.

I once walked into the R. kitchen to find two women standing awkwardly, looking confused and as if their kitchen had somehow changed in ways incomprehensible to them. That's when I saw it--two twenty-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola. They weren't even Diet! There they were, two veritably, sugarily, 180-calorie proof bottles of the pure stuff, black and bubbly. The women stared.

'Where do you think it came from?' the first one asked.

'I've never seen something like that here before,' responded the second.

The first woman picked one of the bottles up and turned it around, making sure it really was what she thought. Apparently she figured it out because she put it down quickly and stepped away as if it were a caffeinated bomb, ready to go off if you held it for too long.

'Well, that's strange,' she concluded.

I grabbed a cookie and trotted back to my cubicle, realizing half-way back that I had forgotten to grab a fresh bottle of Poland Spring. When I returned to the kitchen, the Cokes were gone, and so were the women.

More embarassing still is when the ad and pub execs don't have the decency to stash the leftovers in a discrete place and instead leave them sitting in an open conference room. (Let me quickly add that these conference rooms are without walls and tout big glass windows on all sides in some bizarre Brady-Bunch's-vision-of-the-future design that I'm sure looked good fifteen years ago.) So, all of us on the outside can clearly see that mound of macademia nuts and fudge on display, just beyond the museum-like glass walls.

And that's how R. reduces grown men and women to children with their noses pressed against the window, mouths watering and hearts breaking. Red-faced, editors young and old quickly shuffle into the empty conference room, grab a cookie and run out with their heads down. Yes, I did see you, and no, I won't tell anyone.

Perhaps R. is just trying to compensate for the unhealthy habits of other publishing companies where the caffeinated dregs of coffee are happily slurped and extra-buttery popcorn happily jumps about in a running microwave while an editor munches on Doritos. After all, these were the companies of men who ordered their 3 o'clock scotch and sodas on Fridays from the beverage cart as it tooled around the cubes and whose ordered lunches were Salisbury steaks and not edamame. Then again, R. isn't the company selling off chunks of their properties so maybe they've got a good thing going. Either way, I'll be the intern hawking the kitchen until the next meeting is done.

No comments: