Food Harassment

For a while, I was rather taken up with the Answer this question thing on Facebook, because it was like a mini writing prompt. One of them was:

Not because I particularly love cake, but because of my predilection for baking. I wanted to bake because my mother wasn’t a fan. Growing up, very few of my friends’ mothers baked, but those that did made the most amazing stuff. [In retrospect, it wasn’t that hard. My mother just doesn’t have the yen for it. Fair play.]

Then the whole cake fairy nonsense erupted at work, and I was repeatedly harangued for food. The demands moved from cake to just about anything that my mom or I cooked, because cake became too specific for many.

The food harassment, as I like to call it, took on some hilarious proportions. There was a time set aside for this machinations to take place: my lunch time. The way the office worked is that people could go have lunch in the office cafe any time they wanted, so that was logically the best time to corner me. There were scouts posted [well, those who worked near the cafe] who were meant to send off alerts to the main perpetrators when I went in for my meal.

In the beginning – the first 2 days at the most – this was protocol. After that, it was largely scattershot. Having said that, after spending an hour AFTER I had finished eating, literally cornered by 3 boys, I started sneaking in to have my lunch.

The cafe was in the shape of an L, and the large part of the L was visible from the pantry area. The little part though was not, so if I sat there, no one could see me, unless they walked the full length of the L first. There was more security this way, so people in the pantry wouldn’t suddenly spot me, and make the most of the opportunity.

This plan, for the most part, worked very well. It did mean that I ate my lunch alone, but I had podcasts to keep me company, and I could come and go in peace.

Until one fine day, when the founders came to the cafe for their lunch, and they decided to pick the table at the end of the cafe. Yup, the only place you could see me from, and the way the tables were placed? It meant that although we were at different tables, they were sitting right next to me.

I groaned inwardly because, knowing them, they would attempt to converse with me out of courtesy. But at least, I could make good my escape when I was done eating.

However, the first question out of their mouths was: “Hey! Why are you eating here on your own?” and the second, before I could reply to the first, was: “Are you hiding?”

Now, I was known for being a bit of a cartoon with a sarcastic tongue. The founder I reported to – my boss – knew this, but his counterpart didn’t interact with me on a day-to-day basis. Basically, I should have chosen the words of my response more carefully. Because my reply was: *smiled* “Yeah, I’m hiding from AP, DG, and RP. Last week, they kept me here an extra hour till I promised to bring them cake!”

In my defence, I laughed a little, and shrugged. It was not something to be taken seriously. However, not in my defence, I should have noted the widened eyes that followed my remark. My boss laughed too, and I assumed that was the end of that.

Um. No.

The next day, I got called in for a meeting with the head of HR. I had no idea what the meeting was about, because there are many times I’ve been asked to edit policies and generally support their function. In no way did I connect my lunchtime conversation of the previous day to this.

Hooboy.

She sat me down gently, and asked me whether I needed water and how I was feeling. Now this in itself took me by surprise, because I have been at the office longer than her. I know where the water is. I said I was fine, and then it occurred to me to ask what the meeting was about.

“Oh, the conversation you had with Nakul (the other founder) yesterday. He said that 3 of the engineers are harassing you, and I should sort it out. I also had a word with the guys about it.”

After blinking in astonishment for about 20 seconds, I burst into peals of incredulous laughter. I only stopped laughing long enough to explain the utter ludicrousness of the situation, where I would complain to a co-founder about my petty bickering with 3 of my office FRIENDS. Not colleagues, friends!

The HR was relieved too, although she was slightly miffed about the misunderstanding. I calmed down finally, and explained that she knew the equation that existed between me and the engineers. We bantered and fought, but it wasn’t ever serious. She agreed, and suggested I have a word with Nakul to lay the issue to rest. I acquiesced and the meeting ended.

I looked for Nakul, and found him next to one of the guys, DG. And without preamble, because this needed sorting out, I launched into a short speech: “Hey Nakul. You know what I said about food harassment yesterday? I was kidding! They do harass me, but it is just a bit of fun. I wasn’t upset or anything!”

To his credit, Nakul accepted that he misunderstood, but I see that he was just making sure everything was on the up and up in the office. I can appreciate that. However the other 3? Still haven’t let me live down my “complaint to management and HR”.

Bloody idiots.

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