Once each month, Hyacinth Beste-Chetwynde descends from her pedestal in the tastefully decorated home she inhabits in what she assures us is the very best part of town, to bring her mighty pen to paper and address the pitiful quandaries of the common American office drone. Tweet her your questions @99U and we’ll share them with her niece, the young person of the family, who will pass them along if she deigns them worthy of auntie.
Dear Hyacinth Beste-Chetwynde,
Every Monday my coworker brings a week’s worth of lunches and stores them in a fridge that’s shared by an office of 60. Never mind that she labels them with the day of the week she intends to eat them on, an act that clearly does not embarrass her but makes me feel like I work in a kindergarten, not an agile, game-changing tech start-up. Also, her Tupperware takes up an entire shelf (rude!) and come midweek we are fighting for space for our perishables. If I buy a mini-fridge for my personal use, at my desk, is it fair to ask her to pay for it?
Embarrassed and hungry
A mini fridge! How chic! You must invest, if only to be the most popular person on Fridays when you pop the Veuve at five o’ clock champers. Oh dear, they do have champagne over there, don’t they? But don’t invoice her darling, it’s not the done thing. Your payback will be all the new friends who will want to gather around your desk as if it’s the new Studio 54, with an added bonus of seeing the sour expression of Ms. Tacky Tupperware.
That said, I do believe in the perils of turning one’s nose up at such stringent efficiencies as her meal storage plan. Back during the Great War, such measures were the difference between survival and slow, agonizing death from starvation. I remember being a very young girl and waking up in a fright as I heard the terrifying groan of the air raid siren. My family and I put on our coats and hurried down to the Anderson’s shelter, where we huddled together with a handful of our neighbors and friends. Once settled, we sat in silence waiting for the bombs to desist. My lasting memory of this is not the fear of death, oh no; it is of my mother loudly tutting at Mrs. Cleary from number 65 who was always nattering on about the provisions she kept in a basket stored beneath one of the benches in the shelter. In her basket were carefully wrapped and labelled items: bread, currants, apples, that sort of thing. As the bombs dropped, Mrs. Cleary prattled on about the wisdom of her stash, making a palaver out of dividing up the loaf. At the time I was grateful that someone thought to be so organized, as our family sat together, basket-less.
When you described this woman in your place of business, with her labelled containers of food, it did remind me of Mrs. Cleary, and I began to realize why my mother had such disdain for the woman. There’s a certain satisfaction to be had from being organized, but to witness the proudly efficient manner of others is highly irritating. Perhaps my mother—God rest her soul—resented Mrs. Cleary rubbing her entitled efficiency under her nose as we all prayed for our lives in a hole under the ground. In the end it didn’t matter, as she was dead within the week. Slipped on some stairs. Being efficient will not keep the grim reaper from the door.
*Heads up: this is satire. Proceed accordingly.*