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Eating at work? Follow the rules

You’ve heard of the Three-Second Rule about dropped food: If you can pick it up off the floor before three seconds have passed, it’s safe to eat. This was probably invented by some child, maybe even one of mine. But it is based on scientific evidence that microbes require at least three seconds to walk over to, or adhere to, your dropped food.

Blowing on food you’ve just picked up off the floor is an optional but somehow reassuring way to guarantee nothing icky has stuck to it.

A corollary to the Three-Second Rule is that the time it takes for food to become contaminated is directly proportional to the food’s tastiness. Therefore, a dropped M&M is still safe after three seconds, but a dropped brussels sprout becomes dangerous almost immediately.

These rules only apply at home. Never, ever eat anything that falls to the floor at work, where nonfamily members and even the public get to contaminate the carpet.

The workplace has its own set of food rules:

RULE 1: It’s OK to stir your coffee with any implement that won’t dissolve.

While you wouldn’t think of stirring your morning cup of coffee at home with a pencil, or a letter opener, it’s acceptable to do so at work. And it’s probably safer to use your highlighter pen than the community spoon in the break room. You can never be sure one of your co-workers didn’t lick the last drop of creamer off the spoon before replacing it innocently in front of the microwave.

RULE 2: Leftovers from home must be consumed, or destroyed.

If you take what’s left of last night’s supper to work with you for lunch – finish what you have. Otherwise you get into the territory of “leftover leftovers,” and that’s just depressing. You know those two tablespoons of three-day-old Spanish Rice will just sit there until Fridge Cleaning Day, and you’ll never see your plastic container again.

Don’t attach so much importance to each morsel of food that you end up like Aunt Agnes, who saved the heels of bread in the freezer until she had enough for a pan of bread pudding – which, because she lived alone, she only got to eat once a year.

Remember: Not much looks delicious the third time around.

RULE 3: Holiday sweets expire at the next holiday. Holidays are sprinkled throughout the year to give us incentive to throw away leftover holiday food in our desk drawers. Therefore, all traces of Halloween candy must be gone by Thanksgiving. The last of the Thanksgiving candy corn must go by Christmas. The last Christmas cookie must be consumed by . . . let’s say Valentine’s Day. Some of those cookies are too good to throw away.

And always follow my third-grade teacher’s rule when you take treats to work. She was fond of saying: “I hope you brought enough for the whole class.”

Unless it’s from two holidays back.


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