When I saw four Whole Foods cupcake in our work refrigerator last Monday I did not realize they would become the key figures in a mystery that I would obsess about for the rest of the week.
The cupcakes were there when I put my lunch away on Monday morning. I figured they were one person's contribution to some potluck celebration another department must be having later that day. Perfectly normal. But there is nothing normal about what happened with those cupcakes.
The cupcakes were still in the refrigerator when I retrieved my lunch later that day. That's not odd. A lot of office celebrations happen in the afternoon.
Things started to seem odd when I saw that the cupcakes, untouched in their sealed box, were still in the refrigerator on Tuesday morning. They were still in the refrigerator on Tuesday when I got my lunch. It started getting absurd when the cupcakes were still there on Wednesday morning and at Wednesday lunch time.
Let me remind you that these were Whole Foods cupcakes, which are not only pretty darn delicious but also very darn expensive. The still intact price tag on this box of four large cupcakes (each one larger than my fist) was $20. Sure, I've seen a lot of things get forgotten and abandoned in the work refrigerator, but that is usually half eaten leftovers or a random cup of yogurt. The idea of forgetting about cupcakes, particularly very expensive ones, is unimaginable to me.
I vented about this on Twitter. A couple of people told me that after 3 days the cupcakes were fair game, but I still hesitated. I mean, if I were to leave cupcakes in the refrigerator for 3 days (highly unlikely) I would be very angry to find that someone else ate them.
Besides, $20 worth of abandoned cupcakes seemed so improbable that I wondered if this was some sort of experiment or cruel joke. As someone once ate chocolate chip cookies filled with laxatives that a coworker made as a prank I'm a bit sensitive to work food that seems too good to be true.
Because it was a coworker's last week I volunteered to bring donuts to our team meeting, except in the email I accidentally wrote "cupcakes" because cupcakes were so on my mind. When I sent the clarification another coworker said that she, too, had been wondering about and obsessing about the mystery cupcakes.
On Thursday afternoon the cupcakes were still in the fridge and more coworkers were openly wondering about them. We stood in the hallway talking about whether or not we should eat them. The meeting had a conspiratorial tone just shy of Lord of the Flies. We decided that if they were still there the next day we would eat them.
But on Friday the cupcakes were gone.
To be precise, on Friday when I got to work the cupcakes were gone. I thought that was the end of the story.
Then, a coworker said the cupcakes were still in the refrigerator when she arrived that morning, which was less than a half hour before I had seen them missing. I suddenly had a hunch--a fear--about what had happened to the cupcakes. I went to investigate hoping that I was wrong, but sadly I was not.
Someone had thrown the cupcakes away. Four cupcakes in a box still sealed with its $20 price tag in the garbage already beginning to be covered with tea bags and yogurt lids.
I want to be very clear that I did not eat cupcakes from the garbage. I didn't even consider it, but I did mourn their loss.
I may never know the truth about who brought in those cupcakes or why they were left uneaten for so long. I may never know if the cupcakes were thrown away by the person who bought them or by some "do-gooder" trying to make space in the refrigerator. I do know that although the mystery of the cupcakes added drama and intrigue to my week I would have much rather had a cupcake.
What would you have done if you saw cupcakes languishing in your work refrigerator for days?
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