The Last Cookie Code

Yesterday someone left a deli tray of several dozen cookies by the coffee station on our floor. Within a few minutes the first cookie locusts had descended, the office grapevine communications network had sent out word far and wide that cookies were on the fifth floor, and after an hour or so all but one cookie was gone.

But that one cookie was a holdout. It sat, alone, on the black plastic tray for hours. It made it past lunchtime and endured well into the afternoon. Finally, as the end of the workday neared, some ravenous soul who could bear it no longer gobbled it down, and the last cookie vanished from our sight.

There’s a curious code of honor that prevails when cookies, brownies, or other baked goods or sweets are left near an office coffee station.  When the plate of goodies is full, workers have no hesitation about taking one, or two, or even three of the items — hopefully, without anyone else seeing that they are doing so.  But when the plate gets down to the last cookie, a different rule prevails.  There is tremendous hesitation about taking the last cookie and leaving an empty plate behind.  Perhaps it is the pain of a possible guilty conscience, or a feeling of goodwill toward co-workers who might not have had a cookie already and might want one in the future.  But the last cookie code acts to restrain the final act of gluttony.  In some cases, people who can’t resist will actually break the last cookie in half, or into quarters, and only take a piece so that there is at least some fraction still on the plate.  By leaving the remains of a broken cookie, their conscience is clear.

The code of the last cookie is strongest early in the day, when it first becomes apparent that there is only one cookie left.  As the workday wears on, rationalizations erode the force of the last cookie code.  After all, it’s 3 p.m., and nobody else has taken it.  If someone had wanted it, they would have eaten it by now.  It would be unfortunate to let perfectly good food go to waste, too.  And why should the cleaning crew get stuck with more work?

So the last cookie gets taken, the plastic deli tray gets quickly pitched, and the coffee station counter is once again clean.  Although the last cookie code has had its impact, the last cookie is now gone, and all’s right with the world.

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Temptation Station

Yesterday, when I went back for my second office cup of coffee in the morning , I saw that a large ziplock bag of Easter candy had appeared by the brewing machine. It had been left there by someone who wanted to spread a little chocolate cheer, or by someone who couldn’t resist the bag’s contents and just had to get the temptation out of the house and onto more neutral ground — or perhaps both.

The bag appeared to have an impressive amount of high-quality Easter goodies, like those coated malted milk eggs, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, peanut butter-filled eggs, small chocolate bunnies, and chocolate bars — but no Peeps. Sherlock Holmes would presumably conclude that, with such an array of Easter candy, the absence of a traditional Easter basket element like Peeps meant either that the Candy Leaver hated Peeps, and didn’t include them in their Easter candy purchases in the first place, or gobbled down every last Peep in a mad frenzy, perhaps during their drive into work that morning, before the bag appeared at the coffee station on our floor.

The big drawback of being a coffee drinker at our office is the fact that the coffee machine is the goodie deposit area. Occasionally cookies or leftover birthday cake will appear unexpectedly, but the days after Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, when everyone seems to just want to get leftover candy out of the house, are the worst from a temptation standpoint. Yesterday I resisted, and saw the contents of the bag steadily decline until it had been thoroughly pawed over and only a few orphan pieces remained. Once more, the helpful and ever-hungry workers on the fifth floor had done their duty and helped a colleague through a time of crisis.