I think that universally, everyone recognises office kitchens are quite shit. They are filthy, horrible places at heart and we only really go into them because we would like a place to be at that is not our desks.
Unfortunately, the office kitchen provides little in the way of relief. See, we do not actually like to keep other people's spaces clean. Deep down, it would seem, most of us cannot stand the idea of someone using just a drop of our milk in their tea. Here's a fact for you: everyone, at some point, bar no exceptions, will pretend that they honestly didn't realise that all the dishes were clean when they sheepishly put some dirty shit in the dishwasher.
Office kitchens exemplify all the worst aspects of human behaviour: all of that violent, barely concealed anger, just waiting to bubble over in the form of a poorly-punctuated Post-It: clean you're dishes please! All our ugliest traits are made manifest there, in the form of a mouldy sandwich, a half-made cup of tea, and a fridge just stuffed to the brim with shit to the point where it's just a wall of plastic bags and who knows what the hell is even inside of those bags.
Why do we do this? We are selfish, and we are lazy, and when we know there is some degree of anonymity, or diminished culpability—nobody will know that it's our mouldy cup of tea festering in the sink—we will be our very worst. If you want to see how little man cares for his fellow man, look at your office kitchen.
Is there a note above your sink or dishwasher reminding you to wash your dishes? I'd wager there is. If you're a public servant, this note is likely very saccharine, very passive aggressive, and very much punctuated with a few lazy pieces of clip art. In younger, cooler workplaces this sign will be even worse because it will be a forced and confused take on whatever meme was big at the time of print. Something like, Whose are thoooose dishes!!!!!
A message for prospective sign printers: sure, you put up the sign up thinking it might shame people into behaving better, but this has never worked and it never will. I'm sorry. Your work friends will pretend to agree: "it really is just a dump," they will write over G-Chat. "Who treats a space like this?" they'll ask rhetorically, knowing full well they are part of the problem and have no intention of changing. Bar those two or three people closest to you, everyone in the office will openly to resent being "called out." They will get mad. They will gossip about the sign. "Did you see the sign in the kitchen?" Yes of course I did, we all have, but sure Lauren, please tell me your thoughts on the newly installed sign in the kitchen. "I wonder who put it there? Jonah? Did Jonah put it up?" I don't know Lauren, I really don't know who put it up, nor do I care, because the sign will not matter in 24 hours time. You see, after all that resentment passes, the sign will become part of the furniture, inspiring nothing at all. No good behaviour, no bitchy chatter: It will lead to absolutely nothing. The sign then stays up for an what feels like an eternity, getting a bit wet every now and then until it becomes even more of an eyesore than the actual dirty dishes. One day, the Blu-tack holding up the upper-left corner of the sign will give up, and the sign will lean sideways. Nobody will actually notice this until weeks later, when the Blu-tack on the upper-right corner also fails. By this point, the original creator of the sign no longer works for the company. A new employee will put it in the bin, shake their head and forget about it seconds later.
Incredible what people put in the fridge, really, it is. There will always be something in there that a person should have never tried to save for the next day—like, say, sashimi. Really, Dakota? Are you really going to pop those two remaining slices of raw fish in the fridge for another time? No. No you aren't. How do I know that? Because I can see them there now, and it's been three fucking weeks. Three whole weeks Dakota. I'm also inclined to think you might have something to do with the remnants of the ambitious, and ultimately unsuccessful, 14-day juice cleanse that's taking up the entire second self.
The Email About the Fridge
"Clearing out the ENTIRE fridge at 5 PM SHARP," somebody will write in an all-staff email, giving you exactly 24 hours to clear out whatever you'd like to keep. "It's just NOT on." The person sending this email doesn't realise they're not actually making an effective threat. Instead they are doing you a favour. You know full well your six-week old pasta is in there and you really don't want to touch it, or go anywhere near it. And now it looks like it's going to disappear—all by itself!
The office fridge empty-out is so sad. So awful. Everyone just sits at their desks while somebody clears out all the half-eaten, months-old lunches. Everyone looks every few minutes like, "Do they need help?" but then turns back to their computers. It takes whoever sent the email hours to finish clearing everything out because there's just so much shit in there. You endure an atmosphere of pure tension for hours. And still, nothing changes. There are no lessons learned. You will go through this again in three months time.
You might have one of those nice, one-cup pour-over "filter cones." I think those make a pretty good cup of coffee, if you go in for that kind of thing. It's slightly more likely that you will have a coffee machine. And that coffee machine will absolutely come with 15-step laminated guide explaining how to use it—which, at one point, someone definitely didn't follow correctly, presumably with disastrous results, because there is now another laminated piece of paper tacked up beside the original. It just says "IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE ASK BEFORE USING!!!!!!"
The other option is your office will have Blend 43. My condolences. It is just… the worst. Here is what it tastes like, if I may. [please, conjure up this scene in your mind]: You've crammed two of your best mates into a club toilet cubicle, and you've just finished doing some lines of speed off of the toilet lid. Then, knowing full well it is a toilet, you lick your finger and run it over what you believe to be the remaining grains and rub them on your gums. You know that taste? It's quite specific: speed and filth and metal. That is genuinely the same taste as Blend 43. The exact same. The effect is remarkably similar too. It makes you… vibrate.
The Morale Initiative
Maybe your office will have a fruit box that gets delivered at a fairly useless frequency, say, fortnightly. The morning the box arrives, it looks good. It's nice to eat a fruit when you're bored and wandering the office like what now? But people are pigs and all the peaches are eaten in the first couple hours, and they'll eat all the grapes but one. Leaving one single grape in the bowl is just so "office kitchen." It's not a gesture that's actually generous, or kind, or even polite—it is a poor shadow of all those things. It is a weak nod at thoughtfulness that is, in fact, very selfish. Leaving one grape doesn't satisfy anyone, it just allows you to feel a little bit okay about yourself.
After a week or so passes, the fruit box devolves into the saddest share-house-looking fruit bowl in the fucking world. Green bananas, tiny apples, one hard pear. No-one seems to learn from this and tailor the box to the fruits people are actually consuming. Oh, also: We've got fruit flies now! Yeah, heaps of 'em. I think they're living in the drains. Not good for office morale at all, actually.
In fact, dirty kitchens are bad for morale too. But then no kitchen would be worse. But all staff kitchens are always dirty, so it's a terrible circle. A terrible, disgusting, all-round bad circle.