My long and distinguished career as an essential cog in various intricate administrative machines began humbly enough in the 1980s. I came up the ranks with a reputation for lightning-quick reflexes, and after I “got over myself” (ah, youth) it was clear that I needed to get serious if I was to make my mark in the world of desk jobs. So I entered a few office-management tournaments in the open division, easily winning head-to-head battles with seasoned pros (I was timed once snatching a phone off its cradle before it even started ringing!), and eventually took the Golden Rolodex Award at Admin SmackDown IX.
But my meteoric rise wasn’t without a dark side. I worked at Mass General Hospital for a time in the cardiac unit, mostly ordering supplies but now and again filling in on bypass surgeries in a pinch. Two or three of my colleagues were doctors who had these fancy joint MD-Ph.D. degrees but still needed to go through me to get their sulfuric acid. One of these doctors was from Australia and used to call me “Pat-Rick." He got very frustrated once because of my inability to pull the right strings to get him sulfuric acid on, like, a moment’s notice. (“And what, pray tell, are you planning to do with all of that sulfuric acid, hmmm. Dr. Whatsyername?”).
Despite the possibility that this doctor was doing cutting edge cardiac research when he wasn't in the O.R. poking holes through clogged arteries with a catheter, what I most remember about him is that during the sulfuric acid crisis he came into to my office to engage in some psychological arm twisting, and when my manager in the desk behind me left the room briefly, the physician reached out and grabbed a hunk of her partially-eaten muffin and stuffed it into his mouth.
Barely a year after that episode, I was wooed away from this world-renowned hospital to be an essential cog in a different machine at a world-renowned university (no, not Yale), where I came to learn that a mild-mannered librarian of Russian documents had admitted to a mutual colleague, in a fit of guilt, that she was so hungry one late morning that she pilfered a sandwich from someone’s lunch box in the community fridge.
I tell you this because I’ve heard over and over, all these decades later, that incidents of food theft from the office fridge are “probably perpetrated by people off the street,” since our building is open to the public. Maybe. But don’t be sure we’re not the victims of doctors and librarians.