Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 5 December, 2021

Let's talk about the time... I accidentally ate my lunch in another office's staffroom for six weeks

‘I even started bringing my own food.’

I WILL BE the first to admit that I have done some truly stupid things in my time.


Many have been alcohol-fuelled – this, I will admit – but a worrying amount have not.

Unlike the former, the latter haven’t been detrimental to my health, but they have left me (and others) questioning my intellect to some extent.

Let’s take the time I inadvertently ate my lunch in another office block’s staff room for the guts of six weeks without realising it.

I know, I know; but you have to hear me out on this one.

I passed this particular revolving door every morning on my way to a new job, and saw people leave with coffee cups and paper bags emblazoned with the name of a well-known coffee shop.

And so, I went in. Sue me.

horrible decision

Once inside I was met with a vast foyer. To my immediate left was a security desk and to the far right, a decent-sized coffee stand.

In the centre of the floor was a small collection of metal tables and chairs; picture your standard food court… but with 95% less seating facilities and just the one establishment to choose from.

I believed I was on the ground floor of a department store, and I was under the impression (and this is where my questionable intellect comes in) that while this particular floor didn’t look anything like a department store, it was nonetheless open to the public.

The fact that everyone was sporting lanyards, the coffee and snacks were ridiculously cheap, the coffee shop only took card, and sporadic business meetings took place around me didn’t raise any suspicion.

I was getting coffee and salads for not more than a fiver – sure, I was laughing.

low price

I raved about the place to friends and family; the superb price, the lovely service, the lack of queues.

What I didn’t mention was the look of confusion I generated when I attempted to pay in cash or the side-eye I sometimes got from huddles of suited and booted people, carrying files and balancing laptops, who were impatiently waiting for me to vacate my table.

Jeez lads, I got here first, like.

I got so comfortable, I actually stopped buying food, and started bringing my own.

Now hold on, I still sprung for a coffee; I’m not a monster.

But there I’d be, peeling back my Tupperware box, unleashing the smell of tuna on the unassuming folk nearby, only delighted with myself.

After weeks of singing the place’s praises, some people in my circle took a distinct interest (if only to shut me up), and began probing for a little more information.

And that was when I realised I had spent a month and a half eating in the staff room of a private office block associated with one of Ireland’s biggest department stores.

Now just picture your own staff room for a moment, and then imagine seeing someone you don’t know take centre stage in it for the guts of six weeks.

She doesn’t speak to anyone, she’s dresses nothing like you or your colleagues and she brings her own (unholy-smelling) food. Although to be fair, she does buy the coffee -  you’ll give her that much.

You never see her in the offices upstairs, you ask about her and no one can put a name to her or even guess which department she might work for, but there she is every morning queuing for coffee and energy balls, and every lunchtime she pitches up with a box of tuna.

You might consider calling the guards or alerting security, but then you don’t want to cause a fuss because she seems harmless enough, and maybe she’s a newbie who refuses to adhere to the dress code.

who the fuck

Now imagine being that person.

Naturally, I don’t have to imagine because, as we all know at this stage, I was her.

People who have my best interests at heart advised me never to return.

They suggested I cherish the memories, draw a line under the episode and actually eat in the staff room provided to me by my place of employment.

But I couldn’t let go. I had to be told in no uncertain terms I wasn’t welcome.

So, I went back. Like a lovelorn teenager, I needed to hear them say it was over.

It was one of the few occasions my arrival coincided with a guard’s shift, so I approached the desk – and, wait for it – asked where I was.

I asked another human being where I was despite the fact this person had likely clocked me multiple times over the previous six weeks.

whre am i

Her answer confirmed I would no longer be availing of subsidised morning coffees or cut-price salads.

“You’re in a private office block,” she told me.

“So, it’s, ehm, not open to the public?” I ventured.

“No. This is a private building,” she reiterated.

“Is this not [insert name of major department store]?” I said again, in more hushed tones.

“No, this is their private office block. Their HQ.”

At this point it became clear that the security guard was concerned for my cerebral functioning… as she should have been.

“Oh,” I said. “So…. ahm right. OK. Thank you.”

With that I said goodbye to cheap coffee, delish energy balls and a chicken salad you’d step over your own mother to get your hands on, and I started eating in my own staff from like a normal person.

And I’m bitter.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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