Attack of the Kitchen People

Every office has one.

I’m not talking about the Michael Scott-type boss, the guy who keeps trying to make people like him by nicknaming everyone and using “finger guns” when he talks, as in “Hey Biffers, rock that cool idea!” <finger guns>. I’m not even talking about the Loud Talker, the one whose phone conversations can be heard in mainland China on a good day, or even the Too Much Information person, who regales her victims with full-on descriptions of her current ailment or her latest voyage to the toilet.

Be my friend! Please!

And no, I’m not talking (today at least) about the Jesus People, who cheerfully corner you in the washroom, elevator or cafeteria lineup to try to get you to come to their church. Nor am I discussing the Forlorn Food Starer who drifts past your desk at lunchtime, looks longingly at your meal and says mournfully, “Mmmmmmmmm…that looks good.”

No, I am talking about the most nefarious office creature of all, the Kitchen Dweller. This is the person who, for all intents and purposes, is almost never at her desk but rather has taken up more or less permanent residence in the staff kitchen while she prepares a seemingly endless series of lavish meals and snacks, and then returns, post-engulfment, to wash her bottles and dishes at the staff sink, only to repeat the process half an hour later.

Several years back I worked at a mid-size company that boasted an extremely well entrenched Kitchen Dweller, whom we dubbed Kitchen Man, as in “Don’t try getting your lunch bag out of the fridge for a while. Kitchen Man is in there.”

Kitchen Man is away today. Hurray!

The staff kitchen was unusually large, as far as office kitchens go, having been designed for use by people of all ages and abilities. Not only could it accommodate wheelchairs but I’m sure it could have doubled as a hangar for a B52 in a pinch. It boasted a gigantic fridge, two sinks, two microwaves, a toaster, a toaster oven and a large table that could seat seven or eight people.

Alas, Kitchen Man had taken to it like a duck to water. Mornings, normally a time when sleep-deprived office workers shuffle blearily towards the staff coffee maker and exchange a few syllables while adding their milk and sugar, became fraught with irritation and angst as people queued in the hallway with their empty mugs, waiting for Kitchen Man to finish his preparations and muttering, “Doesn’t this guy have a home??”

On a typical day, he would have the fridge door hanging open, so as to facilitate the transfer of ingredients. Two bowls would be on the counter, an open carton of yogurt beside them, and Kitchen Man himself would be hulling strawberries – elbows out, paper towels and hulls everywhere – with the water running in the sink to rinse his knife and spoons. Meanwhile, he would be toasting a bagel and heating milk for his latte in the microwave.

The little dining table, during all this, would also be monopolized by Kitchen Man, who set his little Bodum up there each day in order to brew a fresh cuppa (necessitating the simultaneous monopolization of the kitchen’s one electric kettle). Packets of coffee, paper towels (in case of spills) and a lineup of sugar cubes were in messy attendance.

Eventually management caught onto the fact that Kitchen Man was never doing any actual work, and one day he vanished without a trace, probably to some kitchenless medium-security facility somewhere to be reprogrammed into a useful member of society. We can only hope.

Alas, about six months later, management realized the entire organization was in the toilet  financially, and about a third of the rest of us, self included, were hustled unceremoniously out the door. Most of this is a story for another day, but fortunately for Yours Truly I landed another job a short time later, where I have been more or less peacefully ensconced ever since.

Said peace, however, was rudely shattered about six weeks ago with the sudden appearance of a Kitchen Dweller, a recent hire who seems to have nothing better to do with her days than (groan) hang out in the staff kitchen.

All in a day's work.

At first I thought it was just me. I’d amble in to fill my water bottle and there she’d be, elbows out at the kitchen sink (which houses, thanks to the mouth-breathing designers of same, the only filtered-water dispenser on our floor), washing what looked like a week’s worth of Tupperware containers, plastic bottles, utensils and (bizarrely) paper coffee cups.

(Note to potential Kitchen People: Standing at the sink washing your Tupperware with the water running wastes six litres of water every minute. Five minutes with your fussy little containers means a bathtub’s worth of water has been more or less pissed down the drain while you try to save the environment with your “garbageless” lunch kit. Seriously, grow a brain.)

Anyway, having abandoned the search for water (our department eventually got a cooler, out of sheer desperation over the hours people were wasting, queueing at the sink) I’d go back an hour later to get my morning snack out of the fridge and there she’d be again, spreading out a picnic on the lunch table and bustling purposefully from drawer to paper towel dispenser to fridge to sink. Retrieving my lunchbox meant squeezing past her as she squatted in front of the fridge, assembling an armload of groceries, and my afternoon coffee had to wait till she was done filling up her travel mug and selecting condiments, arms a-waving, from amongst the boxes on the counter.

As I said, at first I thought it was just me — after all, to catch a Kitchen Dweller, one must by definition be in the kitchen oneself, no? But my suspicions were confirmed about two weeks ago by a colleague; we were standing by the counter, waiting for Her Majesty to finish hogging the sink and table and counters. Holding our (still-empty) coffee cups, we were shooting the breeze when the Kitchen Dweller crashed angrily past my friend with an armload of Tupperware, elbowing her in the ribs as she went and shooting filthy looks at both of us.

Grrr. Get away from my dishes.

Clearly we were encroaching on “her” territory, which could mean only one thing (aside from an urgent need to give her a swift boot up the dress): clearly we have a Kitchen Dweller in our midst.

(As a bizarre aside, she is also an Intermittent Bathroom Hogger, and is often found, after feasting, stationed across several of the basins in the staff washroom, paper towels spread over everything, lavishly and ostentatiously flossing her teeth and depositing the bits on the paper towel. Something far more sinister is at work here, I think — perhaps along the lines of a poorly adjusted daily dose of medication?)

Anyway, as word of the Kitchen Dweller’s presence has spread, more and more people are quietly flocking into the kitchen area (or as near as we can get, obviously) to see her in action. As I said, every workplace has one, but, as with Kitchen Man, it is rare indeed to see one so permanently installed in its territory — and rarer still to encounter one who so viciously defends her realm. (It crosses my mind that perhaps she has cubs: I may have to sneak in this weekend and check under the sink for a nest. This would actually explain a lot.)

Sadly, however, the reign of the Kitchen Dweller will likely come to an end before too long, once management realizes her desk is growing cobwebs and the company’s water bills have tripled.

Also the black market in “Kitchen Dweller” T-shirts, pens, mugs and mouse pads will probably give it away.

Order yours today — requests received before month-end will get a free set of Tupperware and a bottle of Joy. All proceeds will go towards either the support of any cubs I find, or an upgrade in Her Majesty’s medication.

Don't leave your desk without it.


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