An Iranian friend and colleague invited me to an all-day seminar at his company several months ago. He thought that it would be a good way for me to meet some key people and generate some business activities. The event was held in a large conference room with a few presenters and catered lunch and snacks.
After we met me at the lobby and he got me a temporary badge, we proceeded to a large conference room. The Seminar Administrator gave me a stack of handouts and a red plastic wristband! Before I could ask her what the wristband was for, my friend quietly whispered,” Just take the wristband. I’ll tell you later!”
“The company has a problem with food bandits!” My friend quietly told me as we took our seats. “There are a bunch of newly-arrived employees, mostly from India and China that go from one conference room to another around the lunch time looking for free meals! It is the company policy to provide free food, beverages and snacks for all-day events to promote attendance in training and seminars. However, these food bandits have figured out the system so they roam around the campus and check the conference rooms for all-day events. Then they just walk in as the caterer brings in the lunch! They just eat the food and then leave. It got so bad that one time before the caterer could set up the table, one guy grabbed a couple of pizza boxes and left!”
“Are the Iranians a part of this too?” I asked.
“No Iranians are involved. The bandits think that we are a bunch of snobs for not doing it! But don’t get me wrong. We enjoy the free food as much as the Chinese or the Indians. But this is just too much. So several months ago, after much complaining from the employees who did not get their free lunches, the Human Resources implemented a new procedure. Now the corporate security escorts the caterer to the conference rooms and stays there until the tables are set. Also, the event administrator passes out color wristbands in the morning to those in attendance. The first ten get the red ones; the next ten get the green, and then blue and so on. After the lunch tables are set, employees come in the order of their color wristbands.”
“That’s how they feed the lions at the zoo!” I thought. “One cage at a time!”
At the mid-morning break they brought in some coffee, juices, bagels and muffins. Although the blueberry muffins looked really good, I decided to only have some coffee. And I made sure that the Administrator saw me! “I may look like that I am from the Third World like those food bandits, but I am not like them!” was my hidden message to her.
At around 11:30 AM, the door opened and the corporate security and a couple of caterers came in with their rolling carts. I could not wait to see the color-code scheme in action. Under the watchful eyes of the security guard, the caterers set up the tables. It looked kind of like when the Brinks security guys put cash in the ATM machines; one stands guard, the other one does the work!
The lunch was thin crust pizza, Caesar salad and a few other things. I got in the line with my friend and made sure that the guard clearly saw my red wristband. I took some salad only and again walked slowly by the guard. “Have some pizza. It will all be gone in a few minutes.” My friend said. “Oh, I am fine with salad. I had pizza last night.” I lied.
For the rest of the afternoon, all I could think about was driving straight to my favorite pizzeria and have a large thin crust pizza for an early dinner; one half with one topping and the other half with another.