At my workplace, we rotate responsibility for cleaning the kitchen on Friday afternoons. Typically, the person responsible for cleaning the kitchen sends out an email telling people to claim their containers of food that aren’t labeled or risk them being tossed into the trash. It prevents the aggregation of molding leftovers. It’s the same drill every week so people know what to expect. When my turn came to clean the kitchen I sent this:
A slice of space suspended about eighty-two feet in the air containing a sixty-four square foot room shared by a multitude of individuals entering and leaving at continuous intervals, splashing a bit of coffee here and there, dropping a hot Amy’s Low Sodium Vegetable Lasagna that ejects a dollop of tomato sauce onto the counter, scattering bits of seasoning and condiments while in a hurry, not wanting the people waiting in line to sense that their lunch hour is constricting even as one casually flips through a magazine, his or her mind not reading the words but already thinking about the first task to complete after eating the leftover rice and lentils that were delicious the night before but now seem bland and unappealing and will undoubtedly impart a mild taste of burnt popcorn when reheated, the kitchen, while not physically the center of this floating part-time community known as the eighth floor, serves as the primary location where people gather to prepare, to nourish, to wash, to talk, and while calling it a kitchen takes license with our proper notion of a functioning kitchen that would normally include pans, utensils, ovens, burners, a pantry, and a small window that looks out at a birch tree or an herb garden, it nonetheless carries out its task five days a week, asking nothing in return but a gentle rubbing and soothing, a caressing with sponges, disinfectant, soap, and water, ready to enter the weekend fresh and invigorated, without concern for the plastic container of chopped vegetables, the sixteen ounce juice smoothie that is almost empty, the peach yogurt that will reach its expiration in six days, the waxed bag containing half a turkey sandwich, all paraded before the kitchen in full view, begging forgiveness for their time spent huddled in a forty-degree environment protected against bacteria, mold spores, and scavenging rodents, their final destinations uncertain unless claimed by a particular member of the community within the final few minutes of the fifth day of normal operations, the tension mounting as high as the contents in the communal trash can, the moment when the fruit flies sit still and the coffee urn sighs, and everyone catalogs in their minds or through conversations with co-workers the coming events, dinners, gatherings with friends, trips both recreational and practical, and leisure periods for the approaching sixty-three hours before it all begins again.