Last Thursday and Friday, i hosted a meeting. Continuous presentations, for an audience composed primarily of scientists and engineers. Most of these folks are “knowns”, but we’d opened up the meeting to a broader audience, and as a result, there were a few folks there i’d not met before.
Logistics for these events can be a bit tough. You need to feed people, but underwriting the cost of breakfast, lunch, and snacks for over fifty people is not something i choose to do. So we have people do a “pay-as-you-eat” thing. We charged $15/day for attendees, providing continental breakfast, buffet lunch and afternoon snacks.
Reasonable. Especially when you consider that most folks attending are being paid a travel stipend for food which is substantially higher than that.
Amongst the attendees was an “unknown”. i watched him, trying to figure out his affiliation. Finally determined that he was from our western office. Oddly, not sitting with the other three guys attending from the same shop. Hmmm. i also noticed him disappear at lunch Thursday. He returned after we re-started meetings with a full roast chicken, bag of carrot sticks, and a few packs of cheese crackers.
This meant he’d chosen not to pay for the meal. No worries. Perhaps food allergies, issues with diet, and not wanting to leave it to chance.
We wrapped things up a little early on Friday, and i worked with my junior engineers to clean things up so we could call it a week. Tons of food left over, we decided to haul it up to the break room, and send out an e-mail saying “FREE FOOD”. This generally causes a stampede, but incurs the goodwill of the troops.
During my meeting wrap-up, i mentioned the massive piles of leftover cookies – suggesting folks take some home, or take them to the airport for sustenance. The unknown gent had taken me up on the offer, and loaded a napkin with cookies. Even though this guy hadn’t paid, it wasn’t a big deal to send him on his way with some cookies.
We were packing things up and he asked “What about the lasagna?”, eyeing the full pan of vegetarian lasagna left over from lunch.
daisyfae: Ummm… sure, i guess you can grab a plate for the road.
My junior folks and i were very busy at this point, packing up coolers, throwing out trash, clearing the giant coffee urns. But i noticed this guy grab the entire tray and head for the door…
daisyfae: Excuse me, but i thought you were going to take a plate. Not the full pan.
He explained that there were no plates. i pointed out the plates, suggested he fill one, and went back to breaking down empty soda boxes. Unable to find something to scoop the lasagna, he tapped me on the shoulder as i was stuffing cardboard into a trashcan. “Do you have a spoon or something?”
daisyfae [with increasing annoyance]: Look, just use one of the other plates! We’re trying to get this area cleared so we can get out of here…
Lasagna Boy filled a small plastic plate. We were hauling stuff from the table to a cart, schlepping coolers, dragging unused bags of ice outside, and generally ignored him. Seeing that the rest of the lasagna on the cart, i asked my junior folks if they need any more help – and they assured me they had it.
i headed to the elevator, but Lasagna Boy was not quite done with me, and asked about the garlic bread. i glare at him and say “It’s already been packed up! Have a nice weekend!” and headed to my office.
Catching my breath for the first time in two days at my desk, i cleared a couple e-mails, accept my meeting request from my new Div Chief (4:00pm on a Friday? suckmydick, fella). Nagging thoughts popped into my brain – “that asshole is still down there, bugging my folks for free food…”. So i headed to the lobby one more time…
Yep. He was still there. Annoying the visitor control people, he asked about getting access to our IT department for some piece of hardware needed for the weekend. They were not amused, but trapped. My folks were done packing, and hauling the carts to the elevator.
i went back upstairs. A few minutes later, i hear my young ‘un, AE, outside my office. Poking my head out, i ask “Is the free-loader gone?”
AE: We came up, but he cornered JT in the lobby, asking her about borrowing computer parts for the weekend. And he was talking to her, while taking bites of lasagna directly from the plate! He’s really weird…
JT is my boss. And she is a saint. And i knew she was trapped. Another run to the lobby to rescue her was in order.
Arriving at the front desk, i asked “Hey, has that freaky lasagna dude left?” The attendant said “Yep. He just left with JT. I think she was taking him to the computer support desk.”
They proceeded to tell me all of the obnoxious things he’d been doing to them for the past two days. A lengthy tale that ended with “I never knew how loud someone could chew gum!”
We saw JT and Lasagna Boy coming across the lawn to the front doors. i looked at the clock and said “Watch this! i’m going to extract her, and ditch him…” Racing out to the doors i said urgently “JT! We’ve got to move! DivChief has moved the 4:00 meeting to 3:30.” as i shepherded her inside.
The guys at the desk laughed out loud, smiled and gave me “thumbs up” as we walked by, leaving Lasagna Boy standing outside. JT, however, was a bit confused “Huh? What the hell is DivChief’s problem now?” Explained it all to her in the elevator.
JT: I tell you what, I don’t know what they’re feeding those boys out in the Western office, but I think we need to send ’em some cash. What a freak…