The sign read: “The refrigerators will be cleaned out Friday, August 5th. All unlabeled items will be discarded from the refrigerator. Please label any items you wish to keep.”

It happens about once every three months. They clean out the office refrigerators on each floor and throw away all the old items. It has to be done. It’s necessary for obvious reasons. But, this is usually something that occurs on Friday evening or even over the weekend. If you want your prized 2-week old piece of cheese pizza along with the Tupperware you are keeping it in, you had better put a label on it Friday or it won’t be there Monday.

I brought a bit of tortilla soup on the 5th and had noticed the sign earlier in the week. No big thing because I figured I would empty the container by lunch. But, I got caught in a few meetings and didn’t make it to the fridge until 2. I opened to the door to whiteness. Nearly everything was gone to including my tortilla soup. I had no other lunch and hadn’t eaten yet that day. A sinking feeling came over me because my office is nowhere near any food source or restaurant. While it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to skip another meal, there was another factor at play – my glass soup container with the snap-lock lid! It was too nice to throw away! How could they throw everything away at 2 pm or earlier anyway? What about people like me who had been in meeting hell through lunch and needed to take a late lunch?

The sinking feeling gave way to feelings of anger and injustice. Not only was I pissed at the person who threw out my tortilla soup (if they only knew how good my tortilla soup was!), but I was pissed at the very reason someone had to enforce this task. If the people I worked with in organizations were responsible enough to throw out their own old items, the need to clean the fridge would cease to exist.

I stood there, unbelieving, for a minute and then began to develop a sense of indignity. I bolted for the back of the building determined to find my container. Where did they even throw things out around here anyway? I’d never seen anything but the trash cart and a quick examination of the cart upon passing it yielded no results. I continued searching heading towards the rear of the building where I finally found two of my co-workers copping a smoke and three full-sized dumpsters. They coolly watched as I lifted the lids and went dumpster diving (not the first time in my life, by the way) pulling out bags and ripping them open.

I’d like to stop her and personally thank the employee who left 2 avocados in the company refrigerator since what looks like January. They were directly on top of my soup container and at first glance, I thought I’d stuck my hands into fresh shit – a yellow-green shit. My mind froze and I immediately looked at my hand (and container) in horror wondering why would someone shit in a trash bag?!?! A small croak escaped from my lips and instinctively I lifted my fingers to smell, but then stopped. What if it is shit, I thought? Then I wondered why it is instinctive for humans to smell our hands if we get shit on them? Or maybe I am the only one who does this and am some sick bastard in need of psychotherapy. Do we do this to confirm it is, indeed, shit or are we secretly olfactory masochists?

I smelled anyway. And though it stunk, it certainly was not feces. The peels in the bag confirmed my suspicion as I knew no human could shit whole avocado peels and pits. This relieved me in two ways. First, I would obviously not have the revolting feeling one gets when they find they have, indeed, dipped their hand in feces. Second, I wouldn’t have to wonder why someone – one of my co-workers, presumably – had shit anywhere other than the toilette.

In the end, I was able to clean my container and hands. The soup was sealed and still cold. So why not eat it? Plus I had gone to the trouble of sorting through a number of bags and trash before I found it. This prompts me to offer further thanks to the employees who left the moldy sandwich, the half eaten and rotten cantaloupe, the petrified pizza, the blackened cottage cheese and the brown celery in the fridge. My gloveless hands touched them all.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me trash men received free lunches. This was a joke I never got until older. The irony of the joke did not escape me this day.

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