This Tale of Office Lunch Theft Has More Twists Than a Telenovela



Working in an office environment, there is an unspoken code of conduct. Well, in most offices, there are official codes of conduct, too, but there are also some unwritten rules we all observe and hold others to. Like you never microwave fish in the communal kitchen, and it's your duty to make more coffee if you drink the last cup. And you certainly never, under any circumstances, steal somebody's lunch.

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So when Twitter user Zak Toscani had the opportunity to watch the fallout of such an offender getting caught in the act, he was unsurprisingly filled with the thrill and excitement a lot of us would feel in the same situation. For one thing, office jobs can be boring, and there's nothing like a little detective work to make things more interesting.

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Second of all, who doesn't love to see justice enacted in a world that's so often unjust? As Zak notes, this wasn't just any lunch but shrimp fried rice, which I think a lot of takeout connoisseurs would agree is one of the higher-quality lunches to have waiting for you in the fridge. It's comforting, salty, and delicious. By tweet two, I was pretty invested in seeing the culprit apprehended.

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Zak provided additional details that made the case all the more intriguing. The food wasn't in the chill chest very long, and there was no evidence it had been consumed. 

"This was a professional hit no doubt," he observed.

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When Zak's colleague returned from reviewing the tape, things went from interesting to honestly a little nerve-wracking. Turns out, he was right in the epicenter of the action. Zak found himself literally seated between the defendant and victim of the lunch burglary.

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The tension must have been unreal. And it was about to get more unreal. Turns out, Lunch Stealer didn't eat the food. She threw it out. She clearly made an effort to hide this senseless act, which seemed to rule out any possibility she mistakenly thought it was her old Chinese leftovers from a previous day. 

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As Zak surely did, I racked my brain for some possible explanations for Lunch Stealer's actions and came up with few plausible ones. The most sensible one I could come with is that the food smelled more pungent than cold leftovers might because it was hot when it was placed in there. Maybe that steamy shrimp was stinking up the whole fridge and she was trying to save everyone else's lunches from a fishy fate? I'm grasping at straws here.

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The victim was equally confused, so much so, he decided not to pursue further action. Maybe I play fast and loose with my life but I'd absolutely be unable to get on with my life until I confronted her. "Why did you do this? I just want to know why!" I'd honestly lose sleep over it, I think.

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Zak provided more clarity around the situation, revealing that our victim prefers his shrimp fried rice cold, which I guess is his prerogative. At least we know he wasn't going to break the aforementioned rule of microwaving seafood in a public kitchen. That's a small comfort in all this. Some people still understand we live in a society with rules.

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I will say I applaud the way the company's HR department treated this matter with the seriousness it warranted, and that they left it in the victim's hands to decide what should be done with this offender. And to his credit, he was more interested in getting to the bottom of the matter than in vengeance. 

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HR nevertheless sent out a reminder that really shouldn't need to be stated, not to take lunches that don't belong to you. It's one thing to lose leftovers you were planning on eating when you forget what day fridge cleanout is. It's another entirely to learn you are working alongside a lawless lunch stealer.

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Zak kept his Twitter followers apprised of every tense moment the next day, when the office criminal came in. And then something equal parts appalling and impressive happened. Our intrepid narrator observed her reading the company-wide email.

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With ice in her veins, the lunch stealer feigned offense that someone would do such a thing!

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Honestly, I'm freaking out right now, and I'm not even there. I can't imagine if this was going down in my tiny office. I would need a Xanax.

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I can picture myself in this scenario and actually hear my chair scooting out from underneath me as I rise and point my finger accusingly. "How dare you! We all know it was you!" While Zak fights the impulse to flee the room, the guy whose shrimp fried rice was lost makes a very pointed reply.

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This is where I start to suspect that maybe the lunch stealer knew whose rice she tossed. What if there's a secret war going on between these two? What if this is a story of spurned lovers or revenge for corporate backstabbing? I'm not blaming the victim here, but if shrimp guy had behaved poorly in a meeting or stolen credit for her work I might understand why she did this.

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...And then she undercuts her act of indignation by suggesting it's silly to go to HR over a missing lunch. Look, in some jobs, lunch is all people have to look forward to. It's absolutely a big deal.

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This is why I say I'm simultaneously impressed and repulsed. I'm low-key jealous of this woman's confidence, all the while shaking my head at the nerve of it all.

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I like to believe that this woman just has a good poker face, because the alternative is that she really is some kind of Elizabeth Holmes-style sociopath. It's just too chilling to consider that we all potentially have someone like this working beside us every day.

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It is some consolation that her crime is known to everyone in the company. That's a pretty fitting punishment, though it seems like she might lack the capacity to feel shame.  

Then, our narrator decided it was time to insert himself in the story.

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Zak decided to troll his coworkers by ordering some takeout... an order of shrimp fried rice for each of them. But rather than blush in recognition and chagrin, she accepts it — gleefully!

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Either she completely missed the point of this very barbed lunch order or she really is a sociopath. I can find no alternative explanation. And then, with zero apparent sense of irony...

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If she loves it so much, tell me, why did she throw away Shrimp Guy's lunch? It seems like we'll never know. Was she in a fugue state? 

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Left out of this was any insight into how shrimp guy felt during this little lunch standoff. 

The following Monday, Zak found himself alone in the office with Lunch Stealer.

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This isn't exactly as bad as finding out you're working with Dexter, but it's pretty close. One of the reasons we're able to function in a society is the expectation of our fellow citizens to follow the rules of civility and have the capacity for shame and remorse. It can definitely mess you up to find out not everyone in your orbit ticks those boxes.

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Watch your back, Zak. She's dangerous.

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