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Let Them Eat Cake

Betty walked into the lobby of her office building on Wednesday morning with an unusually high sense of purpose. Today, she would not just be a marketing database analyst, responsible for entering various bits of data into a vast information system and then extracting other bits of data for purposes of lead generation, email communication, and campaign optimization. No, today she will make a difference in the lives of her co-workers. She would win their respect and good graces. She would be the undisputed hero of the Marketing Department. For she bore cake.

Chocolate cake, in fact. Homemade, with enough butter to qualify as ‘fudgy’ and enough sugar to make children scream.

There was no special or celebratory occasion. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. It was just a little gesture to brighten everyone’s day, to give them the extra kick they needed to get them through the morning. And how clever she was to bring a treat on a Wednesday morning, when the previous weekend was a distant memory and the upcoming weekend was still out of grasp.

Betty walked off of the elevator and directly to her cubicle, holding the cake in her arms. She was able to rest the tupperware container on her lap while riding the train, but she had to hold it with both hands as she walked to the office to keep the cake from sliding and the icing from getting mussed up. Her forearms ached, but this small sacrifice made her cause seem even more noble. Look what I went through, so they could eat cake.

During her commute, she had debated how she should distribute the cake. Should she cut pieces onto paper plates to hand out directly to her co-workers, with a little plastic fork tucked conveniently under the cake? Or should she simply place the cake in the kitchenette to allow for serendipitous discovery, and then send a floor-wide email out to her floor (‘Chocolate cake in the kitchen!’) to ensure that she receive the proper credit for her goodwill?

After evaluating the benefits of each scenario, Betty decided to leave the cake in the kitchen, then modestly alert her favorite co-workers to the cake’s existence, then send out an email to the entire floor. With the cake in her hands, she headed back to the elevators and then towards the kitchen alcove.  Voices drifted through the hallway as she approached, and she was pleased an audience would witness her cake’s arrival.

“Good morning,” Betty said, stepping into the circle of 6 or 7 of her co-workers. She smiled brightly and then looked towards the counter where she intended to triumphantly place the cake. Only, sitting on the counter was a large pile of bagels surrounded by 3 or 4 tubs of flavored cream cheese! She realized that everyone was holding a semi-eaten bagel.

“Morning, Betty,” John the Communications Director said, raising his bagel in her direction. “I brought in bagels!”

“From the Bagel Hut!” Kelly the Graphics Intern chimed in. “They’re sooo good. Like, nice and chewy.”

“What’s that?” Jamie the Junior Copywriter asking, peering at her Tupperware. “Is that a chocolate cake?”

Betty felt her face grow hot. “Yes, a, um, chocolate cake,” she said. “It’s homemade.”

“You made it from scratch?” Tina the Marketing Analyst asked before taking a big bite of her sesame bagel.

“Yes,” Betty said lamely, looking around the cramped kitchenette in vain for a place to set her cake down. “Does anyone, um, want a piece?”

Silence. “Maybe after lunch I’ll have a bite or two of cake,” George the Product Manager said.

“Yeah, me too,” Jamie said. “After lunch.”

“Did you want a bagel, Betty?” John asked.

“I, um… I’m okay.” Betty went over to the refrigerator, which was so crammed with lunch bags and leftovers that her Tupperware didn’t have a chance of fitting on the top shelf. “I guess I’ll put out the cake after lunch,” she said, hugging the Tupperware to her body as she inched her way out of the kitchenette.

“Mmmm, looking forward to it,” Jamie said, before turning to John and asking, “Which Bagel Hut did you get these from? The one off of 16 or the one over in Melrose?”

Betty stalked back to her cubicle. What a stinking coincidence! In the 2 years that John has been there, he has never brought in so much as a piece of leftover Easter candy, let alone bagels. And what did he do, anyway? He spent 5 minutes buying bagels, while Betty spent 2 hours sifting, mixing, stirring, and baking her cake, and she’s relegated to a mere after-lunch-dessert provider?

She stared at the Tupperware, small fury welling in her throat as she sat down in her chair. The silence in the cubicle farm was deafening. Soon her coworkers would emerge from the kitchenette, their spirits lifted, their morale boosted, and their stomachs full of bagel.

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