HazMat and FEMA Death Camps (Cleaning Out the Work Fridge)

I’ve seen and done some pretty gross things in my life. As a mother I’ve changed thousands of diapers. I’ve picked toddlers’ boogers with my bare fingers. Once, the family guinea pig died and we buried him in the backyard. Four days later the dog dug it up and trotted it around the property like a grim trophy. I retrieved it and reburied it while my traumatized daughter watched and wailed from the kitchen window. In the course of my career I’ve viewed crime scene photos that made me skip lunch. I’ve listened to strangers on the phone describe their bodily fluids and diseased flesh in horrific detail (including one guy who had, I promise, maggots in his eye). I’ve seen some things in this war, dude.

None of it prepared me for cleaning the work refrigerator tonight.

Don’t ask me what insanity possessed me to do it. The point is, I did it. And now I have to live with the memory forever. Here is a partial list of what I found:

  • Fossilized chicken wings wadded in a ball of tin foil like a shameful, childhood secret
  • Three inches of clotted milk in a plastic bottle
  • Butter that had grown a carapace
  • Fourteen hardboiled eggs in various stages of decay
  • A tub of rice that had gained sentience
  • And countless colonies of single-celled organisms including, I am pretty sure, a SCOBY.


Kombucha SCOBY wants to crawl on your face while you sleep. 

It was a full-blown HazMat incident, which we in the Fire Department take very seriously, and which I single-handedly and with great courage, mitigated. And me without my bunny suit. (Sorry you won’t get to see me in my HazMat bunny suit. It was black lace and low-cut, too.)

How many half-drunk bottles of green tea and Muscle Milk are too many in a fridge? How many cartons of pineapple yogurt do we amass before we say “enough already”? How many brown grapes and sodden oranges? And don’t get me started on the condiment packets.

OK, OK, if you insist.

If I was the boss of the world (hey, what a great idea!) I would have a Zero Tolerance policy toward just a few things. War, fundamentalism and oppression would top the list. And closer to the bottom would be the hoarding of condiment packets. Zero tolerance. No questions asked; firing squad offense.

Every workplace in the world has at least one Condiment Hoarder on staff. Condiment Hoarders are those loathsome people who squirrel away tubs of McDonalds dipping sauces, and take-out pouches of salad dressing; ketchup packets by the score (because they’re FREE!) and little paper packets of salt and pepper and sugar and powdered creamer. Soy sauce, duck sauce, lemon juice, honey. And god help us, the Holy Grail of all hoarded condiments, Taco Bell hot sauce packets.

In what world does anyone need to stockpile Taco Bell hot sauce? They shove it at you by the double handful every time you go through the drive-thru. Even Taco Bell doesn’t want the stuff lying around. If the staff doesn’t feel you have taken enough hot sauce they will run down the street behind you trying to chuck packets of it into your bag as you drive away. The world will literally never run out of Taco Bell hot sauce, not even if we try. Stop hoarding it; you need an intervention.

It’s as if Condiment Hoarders are afraid that the Antichrist is going to appear on the world stage at any minute and chuck us all into FEMA death camps, and the only thing between us and starvation will be whatever condiments we’ve managed to stuff into our cheek pouches beforehand. I’m no prophet but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and speculate that this is never going to happen. Nowhere in the Multiverse are you and your loved ones ever going to be reduced to crouching under a hut and sucking duck sauce and honey from plastic sleeves to meet your nutritional requirements. It’s not going to happen (though it might make good reality TV).

The fridge is clean and condiment-free now. I would like to recommend myself for a promotion and a raise and perhaps the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well.

I’ll settle for you jokers keeping it clean.


12 thoughts on “HazMat and FEMA Death Camps (Cleaning Out the Work Fridge)

  1. cbythesea

    Man, it has been so long since I got a blog from you I almost junked it!!!! And as always, I love it!!! Thank you for posting this, I might just steal some of it 🙂
    Much love to you,

  2. Beau 76544

    He-he-he!  I’ll second your award.  You took a big risk.  Check back in a week.  No, maybe you shouldn’t.  It could lead to ‘workplace violence’.

    Keep those writing juices flowing.


    1. Claire Grasse Post author

      Thanks Beau! I feel like I’m back in the writing saddle again after a long hiatus. A disgusting kick in the pants like this was all I needed!

  3. Bern

    We have labeled shelves and spots on those shelves were we may keep our food at work in the fridge… Anything not in YOUR designated spots is fair game to ANYONE. We had some dumbass leave a top quality tupperware container on the kitchen table with some foil covering it. Nobody touched it for about a month and a half, may have even been 2 months. We started hearing strange noises in the kitchen, which is REALLY saying a lot considering I work ON the INTERSTATE around nothing but Truck Tractors with Semi trailers… I traced the noise to the foil covered bowl… Something was trying adamantly to get out of the bowl! Shocked as I was I got my shoe off my foot and prepared to smack the crap outta what ever ran out of the bowl… I should have kept my shoe on… When I looked under that tin foil there was about 2 cups of this weird brown boiling (I mean like LAVA boiling) stuff in there that had a stench so foul, so Fey and NOISOME that it ran my Sgt. out of his closed office… (We actually got sick from this crap… And we never did identify what it might have been at one time, but we speculate that it was possibly a bean and onion type food like maybe baked beans or chili… Needless to say the whole BLOODY thing went straight into the trash.

    1. Claire Grasse Post author

      It’s one of those workplace hazards that no one prepares you for, Bern. I’ve made it my mission to puke out the work fridge every Friday from now on. I shall henceforth be know as The Terminator – laying waste to leftovers with ruthlessness and deadly force.

  4. Kari Juul

    I was happy to read another funny, insightful blog post by you. Thank you for the laugh. My husband is a condiment hoarder. Yesterday, I was looking for food to put in the Publix baggie for the food shelter, the mailman left me, so I dragged my kitchen chair over to check the highest cabinet. There, I found packets and packets of condiments. I needed more time and courage to deal with them, so I backed off and climbed down quietly.

    1. Claire Grasse Post author

      You can’t cure them, so maybe backing away is the best course for everyone’s sanity! I came in to work tonight and what did I see on my freshly-scrubbed shelves? More little tubs of pancake syrup, just like the six I threw away yesterday. It’s enough to make you despair.

      1. david

        Yea; but they give those pancake syrup’s away at the galley! There free man! Come on! You might need them someday! Just like all the stuff in the junk drawer ;o)

      2. david

        I hoard scrap wood from the house projects. Doorstops in particular. I am perfecting the perfect door stop; as of now we have about thirty here. 2 doors; 30 door stops & a lot more building projects to go. If I had your family’s building talent; I would be done all ready. ‘Till then, more door stops.

  5. Ant

    Oh Bear, sometimes you kill me. I have a hard time resisting free things….to the point that people who know me here on Guam are afraid to throw things away…..they bring me their trash and say, apologetically, ” I was going to throw this away but I thought you could use it>”


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