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“Free Food in the Kitchen!” - An Anthropological Phenomenon

The minute any food shows up in the kitchen at work, a fascinating anthropological event transpires.

First comes the discovery: Someone walks by and sees the plate, which has appeared as if by magic. The alert is instant, epic, and never detailed. “FOOD IN THE KITCHEN” is broadcast with the aplomb of an archeologist who just discovered a T-rex skull.

But sometimes alliances form. If its you that discovers the food, who do you tell? Is there a group you alert first? Perhaps those working directly above or below you, or maybe an individual. You’ve got the power, and giving a few people a head start can be awfully good office karma.

Once the announcement is made, everyone makes a mad, Pavlovian dash leaving an office full of empty, spinning Aeron chairs. Even if you aren’t sure what’s available you go, just in case it’s something awesome on which you don’t want to miss out. It’s the scarcity that creates the demand.

Because it’s free, and in short supply, it doesn’t matter if all that’s available is cold, soggy onion rings (as was the case most recently in my office.) It might as well be gold dubloons the way people clammer for it.

So you made it, you’re among the lucky first few to get some. Now you have to decide how much to take. What percentage of the whole does each person deserve? You look around, wishing that the announcement wasn’t so loud as however many people are gathered around, that’s by what number the bounty must be split. In a group, you exercise chastity and charity. You take one or two, or just half a slice. But if you’re alone, suddenly you’re entitled to half.

Then it’s over. Like the chaos when a crocodile snags its prey from the river edge, the frenzy ends as fast as it starts, and all is peaceful again with only crumbs left, and maybe a spinning plate.

--
Justin Dickinson

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