Thursday, January 08, 2009

Microwave Etiquette

I work in a building that has roughly one microwave for every 60 or 70 people. And out of those 60 or 70 people, maybe 5 of them know how to use proper microwave etiquette.

So. As a public service. Here are some simple guidelines to follow. By doing so, the person behind you in line is not as likely to kill you.

1) When in doubt, use the Popcorn button.

Back in the day when people wrote Lean Cuisine instructions, microwaves looked like this:

Now they look like this:

Microwave programming technology has just exploded the last decade, going leaps and bounds past the Lean Cuisine cooking instruction technology. So when the Lean Cuisine cooking instructions tell you to microwave on HIGH for three minutes, it is quite possible to look on the microwave and not see a HIGH button and sometimes not even see a place to put in three minutes.

When this is the case, just hit the Popcorn button.

If you open up the microwave and the food is still cold, just press the Popcorn button again. That is why the Popcorn button is there, not to make popcorn, but to be the place where you go when you don't know what else to do.

2) Stopping the microwave 5 seconds before it is done DOES NOT HELP ANYONE.

When there is a line of people waiting and everyone is staring at the microwave clock, counting down along with the display, there is a lot of pressure and anticipation. I know all of this attention might make you think they all wish the microwave would just go ahead and beep so they could put their own food in it. And I know you might think stopping the microwave with five seconds left would make everyone sigh with relief, knowing that they will not get to eat five seconds quicker than before.

You would be wrong.

Watching the countdown is a group bonding experience. Everyone feels like it is New Years Eve, counting in unison from ten to one and ending in a satisfying beep. Stopping the microwave before this interrupts the flow and makes everyone a little dissatisfied with the entire microwave experience.

PLUS, it leaves the time on the microwave, so someone will have to clear out the old time before pressing the Popcorn button. So your lame-o attempt to save everyone five seconds results in creating a lot more than five seconds waiting time for the line.

So just don't do it.

3) If you have one of those meals that require you to stir and heat again, let people know this.

A lot of meals need to be tested or stirred before they can be eaten. If this is one of those meals (for example, if you are using the Popcorn button on a seven-layer lasagna and don't know if it will be done after one round of Popcorn buttoning or two), then let people how it is. No one will mind as much as they will mind hearing the satisfying beep thinking their food is going in next and then realizing that they have to wait one more Popcorn cycle before being able to heat their foods.

Don't toy with people's emotions like this.

4) Don't leave the microwave unattended until you have your hot food.

This goes for everyone - people at the microwave and people waiting in line. I know our lives are so incredibly busy we cannot wait in line for three cycles of Popcorn buttoning, but that is why you have a Blackberry or an iPhone. And if you don't have some sort of mobile device, then come with a book or a sudoku puzzle.

The trick is not to leave the line. The purpose of the line is to establish an order of people waiting for the microwave. If there is a cloud of people mingling around the microwaves, coming and going and hoping the microwaves will be magically available three to six minutes later, you are just living a fool's dream. And you will probably die in line for the microwave.

5) If you leave the microwave unattended, you lose your right to throw a hissy fit.

If your food is in the microwave and you walk away, only to come back later and find your food on the counter, cooled to the point where you have to microwave it again, you do not have the right to yell at the person using the microwave now. You do not have the right to cut in the line for the microwave just to reheat your food a little.

You only have the right to go to the end of the line and patiently wait your turn. You cannot complain. You cannot sigh heavily or roll your eyes. You have lost and have to restart.

Same goes for waiting in line. If you are waiting in line and leave for some reason, you do not magically get your place back in line. And don't ask someone to save your place in line. I know these are the general rules for lines - you can ask someone to save your place and you get cutsies if you need them. But we are talking about food, here. We are talking about LUNCH in the OFFICE. This is the only touch of joy some people get in their days, so respect that.

6) Make sure everyone is aware of the line.

When someone comes by on a cellphone and cuts in front of everyone else, pretending that he didn't see anyone because he is SO DAMN FOCUSED ON HIS CONVERSATION THAT HE DOESN'T NOTICE THE GROUP OF PEOPLE WAITING FOR THE MICROWAVE, violence is permissible. Sporks can cause some real damage if used properly.

Cellphones do not magically give people a pass on the rules of the line. And if someone is speaking loudly, this does not strengthen the magic cellphone bubble around that person - it just means the person is an insufferable jerk and nothing will penetrate their self-absorbed cloud of obnoxiousness except the pain brought on by a good spork to the face.

Because if that person was really all that important, that person would have an assistant or a catered lunch. That person would not need to be in line for the microwave.

7) Don't burn the popcorn.

Seriously, the Popcorn button works for a reason. Mucking with anything else is just asking for trouble. And burnt popcorn is a dang-nasty smell. No one likes smelling that, and you don't want to be known as the person who causes noxious fumes in the office.

Thank you for your time.


NoRegrets said...

I think it'd be a lot simpler to buy your own microwave and keep it in your office.

Churlita said...

Thank you. Truer words were never written. The smell of burnt popcorn gives me an instant migraine.

scott * nicole * cade * jack * claire said...

Scott causes noxious fumes in the office, but it's generally not because of burnt popcorn.

M. Robert Turnage said...

NoR, if I did, then there would be a line of popcorn-burning yokels in my cube. I'm not sure I want that.

Churlita, I am glad this post didn't cause you pain.

Nicole, so Scott hasn't changed much since high school, I see.

Susan said...

You need to add something on there about how some offices have "industrial" microwaves and thus will vary from your microwave left from the dorm room days and burn everything to a crisp.'s been a long day of about 4 people burning things in our microwave.

Prototech said...

Very good!

I'm going to link to this from my "Ask Mr. Microwave" page:

InvisibleMarketing said...

Rough week at the office, sweetie?


- c

heather said...

i hate office microwaves. i kinda hate microwaves. i used to know how the hell to work them. now i have to futz around for 3-4 minutes each time i want to use the timer on mine cause i can never remember how to do it. it's supposed to have a start/stir/restart thing that j uses sometimes by messing around with it. i can't figure that one out for the life of me.

Cyber D said...

I wish they had a popcorn button for everythign in life. Like when my in-laws inability to choose a movie results in missing the movie times all together. I'd be pressing that popcorn button all the time!

NoRegrets said...

Because of this post I specifically one day cleared out the extra seconds I had left on the microwave.