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Swimming the Echo by Brian L. Tucker

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by Brian L. Tucker

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24th of February

Calamari in the Office.


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I bring some revolting (popular opinion, not mine) lunch items into the office:

-sardines in a can (oil, water, hot sauce, and mustard)

-sauteed onions (day old, reheat)

-hot dogs without a hot plate (for reheating, gets a little messy)

-week old chili (without a cover, again, can be messy)

-fried calamari (rings and tentacles)

And-

Today, was calamari in the office! I love calamari. Have you ever fried your own? I agree, reheating any of the above items can be less than pleasant. But, I get to enjoy the fruits of yesterday’s cooking labors. That has to count for something. Right?

I know…I know. “What about those poor souls that have to be around the reheated funk that you’ve created, inside the close quarters where you work?”

My excuse: I bring it all back to the necessity of assuaging hunger pains, not having the ability to drive to lunch, and being in a bind for time.

My reasoning: I planned my lunch a day in advance. It counts for something. I guess I could take it to another wing of the building. But, I mean c’mon, then I’m just some weirdo eating calamari by himself in a remote section of his workplace.

Let me take it all back to the best argument I can give you…it can always be worse than someone’s reheats. It can.

“What can?” you ask.

And my response is simply, “It can be worse than my calamari’s juicy reheated morsels.”

And I’ll paint the picture for you:

I once worked in an undisclosed location where there was little light, little talking amongst co-workers, and cameras on every corner of the building. This nondescript building (many moons ago, I might add) instilled a bit of fear in everyone that worked there. Even the security guards were rumored to look over their shoulders like they might be snatched away at a moment’s notice.

Wait…

That’s an exaggeration. But you get my drift. This was a bad place to spend your business hours working for the man (or woman).¬†Anyways, there was a co-worker that NEVER and I mean NEVER packed her lunch. Didn’t do it. Didn’t plan to ever do it. Instead, she packed or “found” whatever tasteless morsels she had left (or someone else had) over the years and sampled these things to count as her meal-time options for Breakfast, Lunch, and if the day really got out-of-hand: Dinner.

So…she was a scavenger. Plain and simple. She scavenged for sustenance. Some days it was a simple Pop Tart twin pack she found hidden in a compartment of her briefcase or Twinkies hanging by a thread from a previous person’s failed attempt at using the coin-operated snack machine.

She could shake a snack machine like no one I’ve seen before or since.

Anyways…one day she had met the end of her scavenging prowess and came up empty (or, worse than empty in our collective co-worker minds). She found something I can’t believe constituted “Breakfast” to her at 8:45am. [A time when most people are ether making their real breakfasts or deciding to tough it out until the next appointed meal–lunch.] I was in the toughing it out until lunch crowd, when I smelled what she was making.

Popcorn. Act II Movie Theater Extra Butter popcorn.

The clock read 8:48am when the microwave door was opened, the noise of the bag shook over the tops of our cubicles, and the sound of her chair squeaking back into place.

The smell was overpowering. Many people started coughing (those, like me, that hadn’t been fortunate enough to have already consumed breakfast), and those that didn’t head for the bathroom straight away, tried to work on the other end of the floor until the smell subsided.

The problem with Extra Butter popcorn is that it doesn’t evade. As a smell in an enclosed space goes, it only intensifies. I stayed in the bathroom for a good while and kept looking out at the empty cubicles around Act II.

I say all of this (and relive the essence of Butter popcorn before breakfast) to simply state that calamari kept inside an enclosed jar and walked safely back to a fully enclosed office space isn’t so bad.

Right?

Remember this: it could always be worse. It could always be hydrogenated vegetable oil and artificial butter flavoring wafting through the air before 9am.

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