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Frequently Asked Questions
About Office Cleanliness

August 10, 1999

Note: This memo is not intended for you. It's for those other people.

Q: Is it OK to abandon my dirty food-encrusted plate in the kitchen somewhere?
A: Actually, we discourage this.

Q: Then what should I do with it?
A: Scrape all the food residue off the plate into the garbage pail in the kitchen (food residue clogs the sink so remove it before rinsing your plate). Then wash the plate in the sink, dry it with a paper towel, and return it to the kitchen.

Q: "Wash"?
A: That's when you apply water, and sometimes soap, to an object, such as a plate, cup, your skin, and then you sort of smush the water and soap all over the thing until all the dirty stuff is gone and then you rinse it with more water to get any residue off.

Q: Oh! Thanks for explaining that!
A: You're welcome.

Q: But if I leave my plate sitting there long enough, won't the disgusting smell eventually motivate someone else to wash it so I don't have to bother doing it? This always works at home!
A: While there may be people, such as apparently your Mom or your partner or housemates, for whom there is no greater joy in life than cleaning up after other people, unfortunately none of these saintly people seem to work here. Your food residue is more likely to attract cockroaches and mice.

Q: What's wrong with cockroaches and mice? I think they're kind of neat.
A: Well yes, they are marvels of creation: supremely adaptable, perky, curious, and they are kind of neat in a creep-crawly incontinent sort of way, but unfortunately there is evidence that they spread disease. So we need to discourage them by washing up, not keeping food in desk drawers, and not putting food garbage anywhere except in the covered garbage pail in the kitchen.

Q: How soon after I finish eating should I "wash" my plate? Do I have to do it within the next two days, or would a week later be OK?
A: Actually, you should do it right away.

Q: "Right away"?
A: Yes. About thirty seconds after you're finished eating would be just about right.

Q: OK, I think I understand about plates. How about coffee cups? Is it OK to abandon them and then use a new mug the next time I have coffee?
A: No, you are supposed to wash your coffee cup too. You actually shouldn't abandon your dirty cups on the counter, or beside the printer, or anywhere else.

Q: But it isn't really "my" cup. The cup belongs to the company, and I'm just borrowing it to drink coffee out of. As soon as I've finished drinking my coffee, the cup reverts back to the company, and it's not my responsibility anymore. That's the way it works in a restaurant, and when I visit my Mom.
A: True, but this isn't a restaurant, or your Mom's house. It lacks the essential attributes of the aforementioned, i.e. servers, cooks, dishwashers, your Mom. Here, your cup is still your cup even once you've gotten it dirty.

Q: Thanks, this is all really quite educational. I was wondering, now that I think of it, about what I should do with pop cans and juice bottles after I've finished with them?
A: You should rinse them (see above under "washing") and then put them in the recycling box in the kitchen. The rinsing is to prevent fruit fly infestations, of which we've had several.

Q: Wow, this is all news to me! OK, how about paper towels and stuff. Is it OK to throw them on the floor somewhere?
A: No, actually you should put them in the garbage pail.

Q: Yeah, but what if I miss and it accidentally lands on the floor?
A: Then you should pick it up and put it in the garbage pail.

Q: Say if I spill coffee or water or food on the kitchen counter, should I clean it up, or should I leave it?
A: Sigh

Ulli Diemer

812A Bloor Street West, Suite 201      sources@sources.ca
Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1L9, Canada         Tel: 416–964–7799
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