October 15th, 2010
"How's the new job?" friends ask me. I give them some expanded version of "nice." After I talk about all the interesting things I'm learning and people I'm meeting, I have made sure to tell the former coworkers, "Oh, did I mention there's a free employee cafeteria?"
My friend Darin probably gave me the funniest reaction. He paused for two seconds and said, "I hate you."
I laughed. The thing is, the folks at the new office don't get it. They think I'm nutty when I get all excited at lunch time. They think it's quaint that I would so cherish an available food source. They've been there for decades and the novelty's worn off.
One day near noon, I announced I was taking a lunch break and added, "I love the employee cafeteria!" One of the women looked at me and said, "Why?"
I said, "Because I'll never have to starve!"
She kept giving me an odd look. I tried to clarify by explaining life in daily news. "Where I came from, food was a big deal. You don't know when your next meal is coming. I've been re-routed from a pleasant feature story to breaking news about a standoff, and had to stand there until it was over. That could be an hour or four hours. I once stayed on a story for 12 hours," I said. "I learned to carry food and water."
"Twelve hours?" she asked. "What did you do when you needed to use the bathroom?"
"I knocked on stranger's doors."
I am pretty sure this holds true for both TV and print newsrooms, and I'm certain it pertains to all markets except maaaaybe the very largest ones. Maybe if you work at NBC network in New York City they have a killer employee cafeteria. I bet it isn't free, though.
I don't work on-property. I work in an office building, so we have a regular office kitchen like all other office workers. Except, ours is an oasis of tranquility. I swear, it's so civilized.
It's clean, it's neat, and it's well-stocked. There's actually a little section of the counter with snacks and treats that various people bring in. Sometimes there are cold treats. As long as I've worked there, there has been a little crate of sorbet in the freezer.
There is no garbage lying around. There is an actual set of silverware and napkins purchased specifically for dining (not just taken from the bathroom towel dispenser). The fridge doesn't smell. Nobody steals food. There are no passive-aggressive signs chastising mystery food thieves. There are no aggressive signs warning of an impending weekly food dumping.
I don't mean to make it sound like I used to live with wild animals, but newsrooms have a different, um, sanitation standard. Just to be clear, I liked where I came from. I rolled with it. But I can certainly get used to a kitchen with sorbet!
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