Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is incredibly un-fun in 2020 and I miss blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Extremely Specific Food-Related Things I Miss About Corporate
I don’t miss anything about working in corporate. Literally not a single thing. I got married when I was 28 years old, and my mom brought my grandmother to my office earlier in the week. I was at the PR firm, I had my own office on the 18th floor in a nice building right in the middle of downtown. My grandmother marveled at the space and my place in it. When I quit to pursue other opportunities, my grandmother couldn’t believe I’d leave that company because I had such a nice office.
I think some people become overwhelmed by the trappings of office culture. I used to run into people at conferences and trade association meetings who I referred to as “professional meeting attendees” or “professional expense account holders.” Going to meetings like this is a great racket, if you can finesse it properly. Very little accountability, big time suck, loads of conference perks. As someone who leans strongly introvert and who feels most confident in work by delivering lots of work product, I mostly hated going to shit like this unless I could bring Kristin with me, which is who I’d be hanging out with anyway were I not required to be wherever it was that day.
As I reflect on my time in corporate, I suppose it’s not that I don’t miss anything about working in corporate. It’s that the things I miss are things I said goodbye to without hesitation or reservation. But they’re all food-related, and all highly trivial. Like for instance…
The ice in my office was so goddamn good. Each piece was this tiny little perfectly uniform shape, crystal clear, and so refreshing. I drink a fucking ton of water already, yet I somehow drank even more when I worked in corporate. The reason was the ice. I had one of those 32 oz Nalgene bottles and I’d make a game path from my office to the kitchen just to keep refilling it with these frozen morsels of refreshment.
True story: Before I got laid off I looked at the brand of icemaker and then researched if I could put one in my own home. I didn’t because 1) That would have been prohibitively expensive just for ice, no matter how good it was. Also, that feels pointlessly and impractically extravagant in the same vein as people in the 80s who owned video tape rewinders. 2) Where the hell would I put this thing? and 3) Ice connoisseur that I was, even I cannot go through enough ice in a day to have this thing make sense. But the fact that I considered it at all should tell you what you need to know about its quality.
And as long as we’re here, my least favorite ice on the planet is when you go to a small office of, say, 15 people or less. The freezer smells weird because people have left their old ass leftovers in there for months, and now the regular shitty ice has taken on that smell. Hit me with your car before offering me ice of this sort.
Leftover Catering in the Breakroom/Kitchen
All those trips to the ice machine lead us to the second entry on this list. Big companies have lots of meetings both internally and with external people. And suckas gotta eat. No one ever knows how to order catering properly, so at least three times per week there’d be something in there. Sometimes it was bagels, sometimes it was the overrated garbage from Maggiano’s. The best times were when it was leftover Qdoba.
Oh, leftover Qdoba, how I heart thee. It’s 2:00 in the afternoon, you’ve had an extraordinarily unsatisfying Lean Cuisine lunch, and on your way to filling up your Nalgene for the 13th time that day, there’s that big beautiful trash bag size bag of chips, and a bunch of salsas, queso, and ramshackle containers of quasi-Mexican food accoutrements on the table. Afternoon nachos! It’s found food, and you don’t even have to be some vagrant cartoon hobo to appreciate it because the millions of dollars spent company-wide on catering is but the tiniest drop in the biggest bucket one can imagine. The company I worked for had, if memory serves, something like 16 entire floors across two buildings all to ourselves. If one were industrious enough, one could subsist entirely on leftover catering by simply scavenging throughout the building.
As unbelievable as what I’m about type next is, it’s totally true. The Denver office had NOTHING on the Greeley office in terms of catering volume. Caterers used to come through there multiple times PER DAY to feed the stout, salt-of-the-earth field workers meaning there was a hallway where at any minute of the day you could swing by and gorge yourself on something – BBQ, pizza, leftover donuts, huge bowls of salad, sandwiches on those black plastic trays, whatever.
By the way, I’m omitting gifts from vendors, which were also constant. One of the weirdest things about capitalism is that the less you need shit, the more people tend to give it to you for free. I used to get probably a half dozen giant gift baskets each year from Harry & David and Williams Sonoma and shit from companies I subcontracted. Did I need any of this? Of course not. But when you’re the one working for the big important corporation, you’re the prettiest girl at the dance. It’s an energy I never got used to.
Let’s pivot away from inside the office to the road. I used to have Premier status on United, which came with certain perks. These perks were nice, sure, but I earned every inch of them. Every time I drove to the airport at 4 in the morning while wearing a suit to catch a 6 am flight in order to make a 10 am meeting in Houston followed by more meetings until I drove back to the airport at 4 pm in order to catch the 7 pm flight back to Denver, I was grateful for the extra legroom, better seat selection and lounge access. Those of you who travel for business a lot know it largely sucks. Those of you who don’t, well, now you do.
And yes, sometimes you get to eat out at really nice places (more on that below), but many times you find yourself stuck in a hotel ballroom with ugly ass carpeting eating lousy, mass-produced garbage out of a big chafing dish. I’ve written about this before, but hotel catering is generally gross. Except for breakfast!
Then it’s time for huge piles of perfectly cooked bacon, novel pastries you’d never eat otherwise, and powdered eggs. Yes, this is a positive. Why? Because powdered scrambled eggs are always perfect. So fluffy, but not mealy. Salty. And with enough (albeit artificial) structural integrity that they can stand up to any condiment you dare throw at it – sriracha, tabasco, ketchup, whatever. One night a couple weeks ago I got all moony thinking about powdered eggs and texted my friend Courtney, whom I used to travel with quite a bit and who was the first to point out the majesty of powdered eggs to me. Here’s our exchange:
Me (Wednesday, October 14, 9:41 pm): After much consideration tonight, I think I agree with a point you made in like 2013. Powdered eggs rule. They always have that wonderful consistency and always taste exactly the same: Delicious.
Her (literally one minute later): I APPRECIATE THIS VERY DELAYED VALIDATION OF MY EXQUISITE PALATE
Expense Account Dessert
I don’t have a strong sweet tooth. But on the occasion I’m on the company’s dime wining and dining some DC trade association puppet or some counterpart from another company I may or may not actually like, you can bet your ass I’m capping off my meal with some dessert and probably an after dinner drink. This is directly related to that brief interlude in my life where I decided to become “a Scotch guy” and ordered it frequently. After a few months of pretending I was enjoying myself and then ordering a Laphroaig (which tastes like Band-Aids and regret), that experiment ended abruptly. I pivoted back to fun liqueurs like Tuaca or Grand Marnier.
You’re already out. You’re away from your family, friends, and the things you’d actually rather be doing, so indulge a bit. Get the crème brulee. Get the tiramisu. Get the fanciest fucking thing on there, the thing you’d never get at home, and enjoy the hell out of it. Then don’t forget to write who was with you on the back of the receipt.
I don’t even drink soda anymore, so this is a weird one. In fact, I think I’ve had exactly one soda – a Sprite from McDonald’s when I was either extremely sick or violently hungover – since January 2018. But back when I did, it was always such an easy pick-me-up to walk the few yards from my office to the breakroom, pop in a quarter, and get a Diet Pepsi or, when I was in a particularly weird mood, a Diet Mountain Dew. When you’re up for it, Diet Mountain Dew tastes fucking amazing. Diet Dr. Pepper, on the other hand, tastes like nail polish remover accidentally got dropped into a vat of Dr. Pepper that had been sitting in the sun for half a day.
Special mention goes to the executive fridge just behind reception where you could Bogart a free soda if you were having a meeting with the head honcho in the big boardroom. I’d get myself a Diet Pepsi, snake a Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint from the candy dish at reception, and then head into to talk about whatever it was that needed discussing. It was a handy little perk that made a day that felt like it lasted forever, just a little bit brighter.
Jesus Christ. A Diet Pepsi and a Lifesavers mint. These are things I count among fond memories I have working for corporate. No wonder I started this fucking podcast a full year before I was finally able to leave.