It all started the morning they put a lock on the fridge.
Actually, that’s not totally true. The idea was planted in my head months and years and perhaps even decades before that. But it was the lock on the fridge that really started to water that small seed of possibility.
Who would have guessed that a single little number dial lock would have led to such transformation. Such self-discovery. Such an exciting variety of new tastes and smells and sounds and people. Such fear and adventure and heartbreak and solitude.
As a child, you have so many different ideas of what your 20s will be like. Much glorified images of fancy dresses and colorful drinks in fun shaped glasses, animated business meetings and exciting Abercrombie and Fitch-esque men waiting for you to return from your very busy, very important day job. Success and happiness and independence and all things wild and free.
Day dreams of the 20-something life to come certainly didn’t include a lock on the refrigerator door at your 9-5, paper pushing, drab suit wearing office job.
So without further ado, here is the story of how the day my packed lunch was locked up launched two years of living abroad and a lifetime on the move.
The first oddity we noticed was that a co-worker’s ice cream cup got lost in the fridge. And then a day or two later, someone’s salad dressing had somehow found its way into the freezer. Another day, the following week, one of those low calorie, high sodium frozen dinners appeared thawed in the deli drawer.
Something strange was happening in the lunch hour of our otherwise sleepy office world. I didn’t think much of it at first, chalked it up to a few absentminded co-workers. It wasn’t MY food, so it must just be a coincidental series of silly mistakes.
And then it happened.
I remember that devastating day vividly.
It was going to be an good day. I had spent a little extra time in the morning to make an extra delicious sandwich. You know how it is when you get to the point where the highlight of your day is food, right? No? You don’t? Is that not normal? Huh, well that’s concerning.
I had perfectly toasted the bread, finely chopped the left over chicken along with a stalk of celery and a green onion, then tossed it all together with a hefty helping of mayonnaise and some salt and pepper. I smiled with a few test bites, just to be sure. And then, I carefully selected the piece de resistance.
A lovely, salty, garlicy, dill pickle.
My mouth watered just thinking about the perfect harmony of chicken salad, toasted bread, and crunchy cucumber imbibed with nectar of the brine-y salt gods. I added an apple and some homemade cookies to my bag for good measure, and headed to work with a countdown to lunch already in my head.
The clock crawled and tiptoed and dragged by.
10 am would never come and then 11 am seemed like weeks away. Finally after about a month of waiting, it was a respectable hour to eat. I bounced to the fridge to collect my perfectly packed lunch, only to find it missing. I was almost certain that I had refrigerated this masterpiece, but I trudged back to my cubicle to check my purse again, just in case.
Thoughts of doubt were rising in my head. Fear gripped my stomach as I rummaged through an obviously lunch-less bag. I took a few deep breaths—coworkers can smell fear you know—and calmly returned to the fridge, masking the panic that was threatening to cascade out of my pores at any moment.
I made one more cursory check before I opened the dreaded freezer door. And there it was, my beautiful lunch, hiding locked in an iceberg of office fridge horror. Nestled between some long forgotten fried rice and an emergency microwaveable lasagna sadly sat my Tupperware of glory, pickle-sicle and all.
Well my friends, you can imagine the creative language that rushed and tumbled and tripped its way out of my mouth. I called for the rains of fire and brimstone to strike down any man, woman, or child who had messed with my pickle. I promised retribution for the sins committed against my hard earned lunch. I stalked and stormed and swore my way through the office.
And then, mid kosher dill rant, I had an out of body experience. No, losing my lunch wasn’t THAT traumatizing. But realizing what I had become, wielding my pickle-sicle and strong words, well that was more than I could bear. I let my hand drop, heaved a mighty sigh, and returned to my cubicle to munch my way through an extra crunchy chicken salad sandwich.
A few days later, a special fridge was installed for that small group of us suffering from lunch time sabotage. The identity of the culprit was strongly suspected but as grey areas of office politics so often dictate, justice did not prevail. By that point though, the damage had already been done.
As my thumbs flipped through the 4 digit code to access my morning yogurt, I realized it was time. I’d glimpsed my future and all I could think was “go back.” I saw just how far I had slipped from that teeny bopper day dream I had day dreamed so many years before.
I knew then, it was time to make moves. I knew then, it was time strike out and see the world. I knew then, it was time to learn how to navigate life as the adult I wanted to be.
And I knew then, it was time to have my pickle and eat it too.