One of the more interesting, intriguing aspects of office social protocol is the farewell lunch. This mandatory social interaction affords time for disparate workers to break bread, to say farewell to a departing comrade, and more importantly give stick figure supervisors a chance to say a few words that express complete ignorance about the human being that’s being feted. Today’s guest of honor is Toby, a guy who spent few minutes actually talking to his fellow workmates. In fact, the only time Toby took the time to converse was last week.
Toby stood sternly in the middle of the office break room and voiced a short worded sentence to each person who entered, “Someone took my tomato!” Yes, Toby’s tomato had disappeared from the frig, and Toby was distraught. Poor Toby would soon learn that the tomato of his dreams had been tossed in the trash because it had reached the end of its usefulness. Mr. Tomato had taken on the appearance of the plague, and the bittersweet aroma of, well a cross between…you get the idea.
So, you ask, how did Mr. Tomato get to this sorry state of affairs. Like many food items brought to work, the tomato was placed in the frig with good intentions; nonetheless it was swiftly blocked from view by an assortment of bottles and lunch bags. Thus, Toby forgot about the tomato until six days past post-mortem when, as he was heading to the food court, he realized he had a tomato in the frig.
Now Toby stood in the breakroom accusing each of us of ‘killing’ his tomato. Little did Toby know of the ins and outs of ‘office fun;’ nor how the participants of the office pool tried to keep his tomato on life support until some lucky person correctly guessed the day the tomato would be missed by Toby. But as I said, Toby noticed the absence of his vegetable days after Mr. Tomato had bit the dust. Doug was declared the winner, and savored the fresh coffee paid for by the winner’s purse, all of $3.00.
Well, Mr. Tomato was last week, and although Toby was still bemoaning his loss as we piled into a local restaurant, we needed to put our differences aside and assemble one and all to say goodbye to Toby. Then, as we are only human, the group showed Toby the same office social indifference displayed at all functions; few stopped their aside conversations to talk to Toby. Nevertheless, at least three people asked him, “Why was the tomato red?” “Because the tomato saw the salad dressing; of course.”
(Mr. Tomato is a work of fiction adapted from Through a Stranger’s Eyes, © Steven S. Walsky 2005.)