The coleslaw in the office refrigerator had been there since the company Christmas party, which was Dec. 19. That made it over a month old - not much in terms of a human life, but an eternity in terms of cabbage and mayo.
I would see the two neatly stacked plastic packages every morning, when I put my protein shake in there at 6 a.m., and again when I retrieved the drink around noon. They were purchased at either Reasor's or Walmart; I was afraid to get close enough to read the labels. But despite keeping my distance, on Thursday morning, I thought I heard one of the packages growl. I had no witnesses, because the only person in the building at that time was our circulation guy, Jim Masters, and he was grumbling somewhere in the back.
I thought about chunking it out myself, since whoever brought it to the party clearly wasn't up to the task. But it amused me to wait and see how long it would take Office Manager Teresa Gullett, driven by fear and loathing, to carefully move it to the trash. And when I checked just now - just after 5 p.m. Friday - the transparent plastic boxes were nowhere to be seen. I pointed this out to Assistant Editor Sheri Gourd, who expressed alarm at the possibility the packages had been left in the trash can to moulder over the weekend. Juanita Lewis, another co-worker, said she had espied Teresa tackling the task. And the garbage had been taken out as well.
But some questionable items remained in the fridge. I didn't touch anything, nor should I have to. The only thing I ever put in there is my protein shake, and I don't leave it there to die. The shaker bottle is worth too much to abandon. The pizza boxes with half-chewed crusts; plastic baggies containing blobs of fuzzy, gelatinous stuff; the green-blue sandwiches in flat plastic containers; and especially the milk cartons containing solid things that thunk around when you accidentally bump them - those belong to someone else. Always.
I try not to waste food, but my husband is another story. He'll buy fruit, stick it in one of the keepers, and forget about it. At some point, when our fridge at home starts giving off the odor of a bum loitering near a liquor store dumpster, I'll peer into the drawer, and sure enough, there it will be: a misshapen object either on its way to becoming wine, or becoming a fossil, depending largely on the type of fruit.
Then there are the condiments. For some reason, my husband is convinced he must have every type of hot sauce produced on the planet. Sometimes, he'll forget he bought a certain brand, and we'll have a matched set. This was the case last year with some Sriracha, so I gave one bottle to my son.
At the moment, there are five or six jars of pickles, of the cucumber variety; several other pickled products, though mercifully, no pigs' feet since my mother-in-law passed away; some sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers, which I often confuse; four or five jars of my homemade jams, because Chris will forget he's opened one and then he'll open another and another; and a number jars of olives stuffed with pimentos, blue cheese, pits, and for all I know, anchovies. This doesn't count the various types of mustard tucked into the back.
Those things tucked into the back are always a source of consternation. I'm possibly the world's worst housekeeper, though my mom isn't too neat herself, and neither was my mother-in-law. Nevertheless, there comes a time - usually when I open the door and a few jars of whatever fall onto the floor, shatter and splatter a noxious substance all over my legs and feet - that I get fed up and start throwing things out. I don't rearrange; my husband does that. He's very particular about what he can get to most readily - until he forgets whatever it was he prioritized, and it works its way to the back. He's also prone to stacking, and since I'm prone to tipping things over, problems occur at regular intervals.
When I was growing up, my family had an old Kelvinator, which my grandmothers referred to as an "icebox." We used to call it the "Kevinator," since my brother is another of those Kevins who - like my Fort Gibson classmate and current Cherokee Nation dignitary Kevin Stretch - probably want to disassociate themselves from our governor. It was dark inside, which meant there was always a chance something with teeth was crouching in the deep recesses, waiting to strike. I remember a few times when the fluid my dad freshly milked from our cow became not so fresh, and someone - usually my brother - caused a spill. The sound of collective gagging could probably be heard by our nearest neighbor, who lived about a quarter-mile away.
A few days ago, I was upstairs when my husband called from below, "Is this an egg yolk?" Uh-oh. I'd forgotten about that. Since I hate to waste food, and in this case just needed an egg white, I had stashed the yolk in a small glass bowl, intending on adding it to an egg salad later.
I yelled back, "Just take off the plastic and dump it into the garbage disposal." I was momentarily quiet, listening for a string of obscenities indicating the foul product of fowl had hit its olfactory mark. I got crickets, but the yolk disappeared, so I assume he obeyed. For once.
It's easy to obsess over these things. My incessant dwelling on the festering coleslaw was bad enough, but even worse was the earworm I had all week because of this episode. It came from a song by my favorite group, The Eagles: "James Dean." The offending line: "We'll talk about a low-down bad refrigerator...."
I can live with that. I'd rather hear something obnoxious than smell something really, really bad.