Elle Severe Presents

There’s no such thing as a free Chinese Food Lunch.

In Musings, Random, Rants, Uncategorized on December 7, 2012 by Pabby MFNP


Hide yo ribs, hide yo rice, hide yo ribs, hide yo rice.
-Some unknown lyrical gangster

The first time a Chinese food injustice happened to us we were confused and depressed.  The second time it happened to us we got annoyed and a little angry. The third time it happened to us we were shocked and hurt and made rash public declarations; we swore it would never happen again.  We swore that we would never again be victimized.  Like so many promises in life, these were empty.  Once again, here we were smack dab in the middle of yet another Chinese Food Injustice.  So by the time the fourth and final time it happened to us, we were numb. Despite our many proclamations otherwise, being in this situation felt familiar, almost comfortable.  But how many times can people fall for the same mistake?  We had fallen into the very definition of insanity, being in the same situation but expecting a different result. In chronological order here is the detailed story of the Chinese food Injustices.

Incident 1: The Investment Company Outrage

Elle and I were working at an investment company and we didn’t get paid much but there some weird little perks that when added up, almost made it all worth it.  One of those perks was an occasional catered lunch.  When you live paycheck to paycheck like we did (and sometimes still do, thanks stupid economy and inflation), free food was gold.  And when it was Chinese food, it was platinum, assuming that is better than gold.  One Friday, whispers went through the office about free Chinese food coming for lunch.   Automatically, everyone was reminded of the last time there was free Chinese food and what an amazing feast it was.  That lunch was so good that even just the memory of it provided some sustenance.  It was so perfect that we’d spend the rest of our lives, trying to chase the feelings brought about by that free lunch but we would never get there.  I believe that’s called Chasing the Dragon in some circles. But back to that Friday, smiles were formed.  Spirits were lifted.  Suddenly life at a low salary didn’t seem so bad and what a great way to start the weekend!  But then more whispers went through the office again, this time bearing bad and startling news:  The Chinese food was not going to be for everyone.  And by “not for everyone”, I mean not for our group, specifically.  Our director couldn’t be talked into sharing the cost, so the department right next to us was going to be the only one to partake in the free Chinese food.  Oh and did I mention there weren’t any walls separating us from the other department because yeah, there weren’t any walls separating us from the other department.  With the evident lack of physical boundaries I couldn’t believe we would not be allowed to share the free food. So I checked in with our Director and he confirmed my worst fear.  He said he wanted to show his appreciation in “a different way.”  He had the look of a man that was going to continue on the path he had chosen no matter what:  no matter what the detractors say, no matter what the consequences were, no matter if he knows he could be wrong.  I know this look now that I am a father.  I see it every time I’m with my kids and I happen to look in the mirror.  So that was it.  Done deal.  No Chinese food for Elle and I and the rest of our team.

At around 11:30am the other teams began setting up for the Chinese food.  Long folding tables were set up end to end and the air was electric, people were excited and rightfully so.  When the Chinese food came, there was a sound of unabashed joy in the air.  It smelled delicious and it looked amazing.  Our whole department had to watch while ALL the other teams formed lines giddy with anticipation….this was easily in the top ten most cruel things to ever happen to us in life.  And we grew up in Dorchester. Then Elle and I said that we were not going to be victimized like this so we high-tailed it out of there, went over to the mall and got our own damn Chinese food.  It was a poor substitute.  When you are expecting to have good Chinese food from a real restaurant and for free, no less, only to end up at the mall eating Chinese in the food court out of a Styrofoam container, it’s like expecting to get laid but then having to spend your night watching Skinemax; we were devastated.  At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, it was one of the most traumatic food incidents of our lives, this is even counting Elle’s Ham and Cheese Sub Incident of the early 90’s which is not something I will go into right now because you can only deal with so much trauma in one day.  But I believe we changed that day.  Not unlike any of the attractive female leads in any given romantic comedy, we were burned and didn’t see it coming and from then on, we were scared to trust anything or anyone, pretty much ever again.

Incident 2: Schweta’d

Elle and I eventually moved on from the investment company.   We had healed from our previous Chinese Food Injustice and were enjoying a period of calm in our lives that can only be characterized by describing it as that innocent time right before something very bad happens to you.  That time you look back on and think “I was so happy, unafraid and carefree”.  And then in the blink of eye it happens again and you simply cannot believe you’re here in this place for a second time.

Now Elle and I were working for a large non-profit and enjoying decent paychecks and were finally at a point where if we wanted to, we could always buy our own Chinese food.  If health were not a concern, we could have Chinese at every meal.  But the idea of free Chinese food still really appealed to us.  We always wanted to recapture the glory of that first free Chinese food lunch but also overcome the emotional trauma over that other Chinese food lunch.  Almost like how you still drive by an old girlfriend’s house and look over at it, trying to remember what it felt like back then.  Then eventually you become a realtor and you have easy access to public record and you can see that her mother sold the house back in 1997 so maybe you should stop driving by there, you creep.

But anyway, even though we could afford our own Chinese food, we still liked free food and we still loved free Chinese food.  So when the idea was floated that this year’s holiday party would be catered by a coworker’s father and it turned out that he owned a Chinese food restaurant, it was icing on the cake.

On that day, a few coworkers went to get the food and bring it back to the conference room where we set up.  I remember being overwhelmed and delighted by the sheer number of trays and sternos being set up.  It was magical.  To this day, that Chinese food remains some of the most delicious Chinese food that any of us have ever had.  And there was so much of it.  People went back for seconds and thirds and still there were whole platters left over.  We all talked about it and then made a group decision to put it in the fridge and have it for lunch the next day.

The next day at work people were still cheerful and happy, basking in the afterglow of free delicious Chinese food from the day before and the promise of more that day for lunch. At 11:30am, promptly, the biggest guy in our group headed to the fridge to prep lunch for everyone.  He was graciously going to pull out all the Chinese food and set it up. Everyone was excited. Plates were grabbed, utensils distributed…and then disaster struck.  Our coworker opened the fridge, looked in, pulled out a massive tray of rice and one of lo mein…and that was it.  He yelled “Hey, uh, where’s the rest of it?”, ‘Where’s the rest of it? What does he mean? What does this mean? What’s going on? Where’s the rest of it?!’ Elle stepped up, took a look in the fridge and I could tell we were in trouble. “There’s nothing! It’s all gone! Oh my God! It’s all gone.” There was confusion and outrage.  Some were just saddened to the point of watery eyes.  What the hell happened to all of our leftovers?  Where were the crab rangoons?  Where was the General Gau’s?  Where were the chicken fingers?  What happened to our innocence?  Is that gone, too?

An investigation ensued.  There was a whole lot of she said, she said and then someone, who asked not to be named, remembered seeing a very small coworker named Schweta with several Tupperware containers…word spread like wildfire and by 3pm, in the court of public opinion, our co-worker named Schweta was found guilty of helping herself to trays of leftovers of all of the best stuff.  The chicken fingers, rangoons, spring rolls and General Gau’s.  She left the rice and lo mein.  Wow, thanks Schweta.  Thanks for that.  Schweta, in one fell swoop, had severely, egregiously violated Work Lunch Leftover Protocol. We had previously made a group decision to not touch the remaining Chinese food. A group of over 20 people agreed. And one person, a very small tiny person, no less, stole our food.

Schweta soon moved on to another employer and presumably other food theft opportunities.  No one was sorry to see her go.  However, we were delighted that we could use “Schweta” as verb to indicate some kind of food theft, as in, “I’m going to Schweta that last piece of cake and bring it home.”   Then “To Schweta”  was further defined as not just to steal food because leftovers by and large are fair game in work situations, but to pick and choose the best leftovers, making whatever you leave obsolete since it is useless without the other parts there were taken, even though it was decided that the group would have it the next day for lunch and you were there when it was discussed.  The offense was even more devastating because not only had she stolen food from an entire group of over 20 people, but now all of those 20 people had to go purchase food…through no fault of their own, they now had to spend money on lunch. She stole  AND cost us money. Some people laughed it off and thought it was funny,  Elle and I were not one of those people.

Elle and I had been burned again, but this time by a tiny little girl named Schweta and again, we said “never again”.  Then we were Chef Chang’d.

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2 Responses to “There’s no such thing as a free Chinese Food Lunch.”

  1. Ali says:

    This has to be my favorite one yet. You even managed to bring out the awkward without even being here because I’m giggling like maniac at the Honda Service Center. I’m totally gonna Schweta the first work party left overs at my new job, kinda like beating up the biggest inmate on your first night in prison.

  2. Ryan says:

    The pain in your voice is palpable. I can palp it from here. I haven’t seen such Chinese injustice since… I gotta go back to the Boxer Rebellion.

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