The Threat Down the Hall

This week I’m wrapping up a 3-month freelance gig, filling in while someone’s on maternity leave. While I can’t say I love working 9-5 (the shlep on the subway, the work-appropriate clothing, the alarm clock, the rules that govern pretty much everything in corporate life whether we realize it or not…) the money’s been nice and the people are pleasant. One little perk, and lately I’m finding it more of a hazard than a perk, is the woman down the hall. Or more precisely, the small bowl of candy she keeps on her desk. In August and September, it really was a small ceramic bowl, usually filled with Hershey’s kisses of one variety or another (ahh, brand extension–so many kisses to choose from these days). I had no trouble walking past a dozen times a day without reaching for one. But in mid-October that small bowl morphed into a large plastic Jack-o-lantern, brimming over with all kinds of snack-sized treats.

Most of the time I’m something of a chocolate snob–I used to keep a 7 oz bar of Scharffen-Berger 70% dark in my kitchen, shaving off just enough of the rich, smoky stuff to satisfy a craving. It melted so slowly on my tongue, I never seemed to need more than a taste. And don’t get me started on Fran’s Dark Gray Salt Caramels…Milk chocolate is for wusses, in my book. But this damned orange beacon three doors down the hall has become something of a problem for me. In recent days, the selection has included bite-sized Three Musketeers and Milky Ways, single fingers of milk and dark chocolate Kit Kats, mini-Twixes, chunky little Double Chocolate Nestle Crunch (whatever those are–something about the plain colored foil wrapper failed to pique my interest), mini-York Peppermint Patties, and the aforementioned kisses. None of these are treats that trouble me in real life. I can walk into any convenience store in the nation and emerge without succumbing–a quick check of the nutrition facts statement is usually enough to make me realize it’s not worth it. But something about the jumbled assortment of flavors, the sheer abundance of the bowl, and the fact that it’s five steps away from me at all times has pushed me over the edge. I have become an instant addict.

For three days I held out, resolutely refusing to go anywhere near the office in question when its occupant wasn’t there (I’m somehow too ashamed of my chocolate fixation to take any while she’s watching). I averted my eyes if I had to walk past–I just didn’t want to know. But after lunch one day, when nobody else was around, I found myself jonesing for a little piece of sweet. I could’ve gone to the cafeteria and bought a cookie, but that seemed like more than I needed. Just a taste, a hit of chocolatey goodness was all it would take. I decided to make a mocha at the Flavia coffee machine in the kitchen. Off I went, down the hall… It couldn’t have taken more than three or four seconds for my mind to process the fact that there was a GIANT ASSORTMENT of free chocolate goodies between me and the Flavia machine, debate the merits of starting down that path, and decide to forge ahead with a mini-Twix–it only takes that long to walk from my office to hers.

Twix had been my candy bar of choice years ago, before I lost all the weight, when KFC was dinner twice a week and I actually kept multiple candy bars in a drawer Just in Case. But before last week I hadn’t had one in years. When I bit into it, that morsel of crisp cookie and caramel enrobed in milk chocolate was quite a shock. It was so much sweeter than I remembered, and yet exactly the same. It was good. While I was still swallowing, I went back and got another one, plus a mini-Musketeers. Then back for a mini-Milky Way Midnight and a dark chocolate Kit Kat (as if opting for the dark was somehow more virtuous).

Now I find myself looking forward to the later edge of the lunch hour each day, when most of the people on my end of the floor are either elsewhere or behind closed doors. It makes my multiple trips to the Jack-o-lantern of good/badness so much easier. Sometimes, if I see the owner of the bowl walk away, I’ll leave my desk in the middle of whatever I’m doing just to grab a piece or two. Or three, and then I’ll stash the “spare” in a drawer until I need it. So far I’ve managed to hold out until lunchtime, but honestly I’m a little afraid of tomorrow morning–apparently most people will be in some kind of meeting, and that big, inviting plastic pumpkin will be sitting there unguarded…

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