With the advent of modern technology, a new convenience has come to the office along with computers, printers, copiers, and fax machines. This new convenience is the office microwave. Most offices have one hidden someplace where employees can sneak in to warm their frozen dinners or a cup of hot water for tea. Ours happens to be in an empty cubicle right next to me.
What we are going to talk about today is the popularity of the microwave for making popcorn. While it is convenient to have a fresh snack during work breaks, not everyone remembers to watch the popcorn while popping it. They simply throw it in the microwave, turn the knob, and take off to do something else while it pops. This brings up the obvious problem of burnt popcorn. Every so often, someone burns popcorn and the whole office smells, to the dismay of the other employees who must work in the stench.
Now, I must admit that I too like microwave popcorn. However, I am always very careful to watch the microwave and to stand closely by while the popcorn pops so I can listen for the tell-tale slow down in popping sounds that signals when it is time to take it out. Also, I stay tuned for the smallest whiff of smoke and snatch the popcorn instantly from the microwave oven if something goes awry, long before it burns badly enough to fill the office with a burned popcorn smell.
Last week I decided that lunch did not quite satisfy me, and some popcorn would be delicious. I put my bag of corn in the microwave as usual, and set the time as usual, but was then distracted from my cooking duties by a ringing phone. I was not worried as I could hear the popcorn popping furiously. Then suddenly, it happened. There was the unmistakable smell of something burning to a crisp even though the popcorn was still popping like crazy.
I ran to snatch it out. Too late! The bag didn’t look burned, but the smoke smell was awful. I could not believe it, but I was guilty. What do you do with burned popcorn? I dared not open it as the smell would get out and become even worse. No place to throw it away where it would not continue smoking and no way to get outside except down eight floors on an elevator. I was afraid that the fire sprinklers would activate.
Who burned the popcorn?” Exclaimed a fellow worker.
I considered playing innocent, but figured they would sniff me out sooner or later. “It was me,” I admitted.
Soon others were coming around to see: “Who burned the popcorn?”
“I did,” I confessed. The aroma was all over the office by now.
Every time someone else came by, it was the same question, “Who burned the popcorn?”
I sank lower and lower into my chair, as I was forced to admit over and over that I was the one stupid enough to burn up my popcorn in the office microwave. I stole the deodorizer spray out of the restroom and sprayed, but it didn’t help much. Even worse, after the terrible odor finally subsided, it seemed to be reactivated every time someone else used the microwave to warm anything, even water.
“What is that smell?” they kept asking.
“Er… I guess it is from my popcorn,” was my humiliated reply, as I endured looks that were like bullets of ice. Finally someone decided to check out the problem. Looking all the way in the back of the microwave, they pulled out a lump of charcoal that appeared to have been a dinner roll in another life. Apparently, the roll was left in the microwave and forgotten until I came along with my popcorn and incinerated it. No telling how long it had been in there before I made it hot enough to burn up.
Wait a minute! You mean it was not my popcorn after all that caused the problem, but somebody else’s forgotten roll? I’ve been admitting to something that I’m not guilty of all this time? I can’t believe it. I’m innocent! INNOCENT! It was NOT my popcorn burning!
My joy was short lived. Somehow it no longer seems to matter to anyone what burned. I’d been labeled as one who burns popcorn, and my stigma as a villain seems destined to stay.
“What’s that smell? Is someone popping corn?”