Recently at work, I took a lunch break with several of my colleagues. As usual, some of the group purchased food from the cafeteria. Others, including me, brought food in from home to eat. It was truly a normal day. I take my food and heat it up in one of several microwaves located in the cafeteria. Once I have heated the food to some level of satisfaction, I take it to the table where my colleagues are seated and enjoy what is left of our lunch break. This usually involves the coordination of eating and trolling one another about some minute detail about our lives. After all, we are guys. We are no good to one another if we do not provide some level of abuse to one another.
The thing that made this a different lunch day for me is that, once again, my mind began to wander on an object many cafeteria patrons take for granted at work – the microwave oven. Every work day, we put food into this amazing box. In as little as 30 – 60 seconds later, you have have food that could either be slightly warmer than an ice cream sundae or hot enough to make a fondue that can only be measured on the Kelvin Scale.
Such possible extremes of temperature is why it is important to perform the Microwave Regulating Stir. It used to be called the MRS for simplicity but then a lobby of college kids protested the possible perception that the microwave was married and therefore perpetuating unhealthy gender roles onto a kitchen appliance. In any case, the stir (as we shall call it for brevity’s sake), is designed to make the food a more uniform temperature for consumption. This has about a 50 percent chance of providing the intended result. You often will have ice cream sundae in one bite and fondue in the next.
The frustrating futility of the stir leads to another interesting phenomenon. As there are many coming to the cafeteria to use the microwave. They form lines of people that is known in the industry as the Microwave User’s Queue (aka the MUQ’s). The lines forming on this particular day is made longer by the fact that, out of five microwaves, two of them are inoperable. The cafeteria staff has even gone so far as to to turn these inoperable microwaves so that they face the wall. It almost as if the microwaves are too ashamed to face their public in such a state of inoperability. This causes three somewhat distinct lines of MUQ’s standing and waiting to use one of the three remaining microwaves. Meanwhile the MUQ’s that is using the available microwave is using a very distinct pattern. They set the microwave for 2 minutes and wait for the distinctive DING to indicate that the set time has expired. It is at this point that the Front Line in Place MUQ (FLIPin MUQ) tastes the food, decides its too cold, does the stir, and starts the timer again. This cause the rest of the MUQ’s in line to wait even longer. Some will even begin tapping their feet to show their impatience. This often leads to another phenomenon where the MUQ’s began to tap their feet in sync with the rest of the other foot tapping MUQ’s. This is what is known as Foot In Tempo (FIT). This is an unfortunate result of the belief that even microwaves take too long.
While I understand that I took a bit of time to explain my lunchtime observation, I will do my best to summarize it here. You are standing in line along with a bunch of other MUQ’s Meanwhile, the FLIPin MUQ in front is performing the process of Start, DING, Taste, Stir, Repeat. This causes the rest of the MUQ’s to get frustrated with waiting for the FLIPin MUQ to finish. As a result, the rest of the MUQ begin to have a FIT. Once the FLIPin MUQ has walked away with their food, the next MUQ becomes the FLIPin MUQ. However, once you become the FLIPin MUQ , you sadly forget that just 30 seconds ago, you were among the MUQ’s having a FIT with the rest of your fellow MUQ’s. I think it is the DING that affects short term MUQ memory.