Saturday, July 12, 2014

Terror in the Breakroom

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I worked in a large call center. The break rooms were disgusting. I didn't dare keep my food in the fridge unless absolutely necessary because I worried about someone contaminating it or stealing it. It grossed me out even without the gluten thing to worry about. I wound up eating Dinty Moore beef stew or Hormel Compleats microwavable meals (they had 2 gluten-free options at the time) most days because they were shelf stable.

I literally used long rolls of paper towel to completely wrap my food to avoid any chance of anything flying into my food while it was in the microwave. I also set layers of paper towels under my food so the paper towels wrapped around my food weren't actually touching the microwave. While my food cooked, I scrubbed a spot at a table so I could sit. I didn't care if I looked crazy. There were some pretty odd ducks there that made my behavior seem normal in comparison.

After that job, I worked in the gluten-free industry for several years. Everyone I worked with was also on a gluten-free diet. It was amazing. We shared a microwave and sink with another non-gluten free company, but they were very careful about keeping things clean. I'll say it again. It was amazing.

I started a new job a couple months ago, and when they offered me the job, one of my first three questions was concerning the break room. I would only have half an hour for lunch, which wasn't enough time to get home to eat, so I needed to make sure I planned for eating. I was incredibly happy to find out they had 2 refrigerators, 2 microwaves and a stove. Perfect!

I still remember my first day going to the break room for lunch. I inspected the microwave as best I could without making it obvious what I was doing. It looked clean, but I ensured my food was covered securely anyway. I then sat down at a table with my food and scanned the table with trepidation for any sign of crumbs. It looked clean enough, but I would have felt much better about wiping it down. I really didn't want to be the "crazy new girl," so I chose to be careful about not touching the table so I wouldn't accidentally pick up a crumb and have it fall off into my food.

My household is 100% gluten free, so I rarely have to worry about my food being contaminated due to my surroundings. It's unlikely for something to happen, but I don't feel it's too much effort to take precautions.

Several weeks after starting, it occurred to me that I face the break room with at least a small amount of terror every. single. day. I've learned that I can quickly brush off the table with my hand without looking too weird. I'd prefer to get a towel and actually clean the table, but I'm not sure it's actually worth the effort. There are less than 100 employees, and many of them know I'm on a gluten-free diet, but I still prefer not to be the topic of conversation because they don't understand why I'm doing it and they think I'm weird.

Do I really face terror in the break room? No.

Do I think it's necessary to make fun of myself for the anxiety I have towards gluten? Whenever I can.

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