Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Need to Sit at the Allergy-Free Lunch Table

My Facebook news feed and Feedly reader have been inundated this week with back-to-school related posts.

There are tons of posts about what to take as a lunch, how to eat healthy for lunch, how to trick a kid into liking kale for lunch.

But, what about being an adult, working with other adults in a tiny shared space? How do you do it then?

A little background: My library is being renovated, and we've been in a temporary location for going on 18 months (strangely enough, my diagnosis came the week after we moved in). It's a great building, but a lot smaller than we had been used to, and with not a lot of staff space. So instead of offices, we have ... public desks. And instead of a break room, we have a small utility room, big enough for a sink, small fridge and microwave cart. To be shared among a staff of about 20 people.
Back in the winter, around the same time I discovered that oatmeal and I were not meant to be lovers, I also noticed myself getting sick post-lunch at work several days each week. Using my deductive skills (read: obsessive tendencies), I figured out that after I would nuke my lunch in our small, shared microwave, within a couple of hours, I'd be feeling my mild glutening symptoms. I did some research, and apparently, it is possibly to get cross-contaminated by a microwave, so I stopped using it, and I stopped getting sick after lunch every day.

Until recently. I have gotten sick at work twice in the past week. Twice. And, folks, let me tell you, taking up residency in a public bathroom, with the toddlers you read stories to sticking their tiny, wiggly fingers under the door and peering in the cracks while singing "hi, library lady!" does not help the already craptastical feelings that come along with (albeit mild) glutening.

I've been re-tracing all of my steps, trying to figure out how I'm getting got. I'm not using the microwave. I have a Keurig that's shared with a few people, but we all use vetted K-cups, and I clean it before I use it each time. I bring my own utensils, plates, cups, EVERYTHING, and they stay in my zipped tote until time to eat. I *know* the food I am bringing is GF, and there hasn't been anything new I've introduced. I'm at a loss.


I do realize that I share a tiny, tiny space with other people. Other not gluten-free people. Other people who may not intentionally be slinging crumbs from God knows what in every direction, but, um, are. And my co-workers, for the most part, are an incredibly considerate bunch. They bring me Alissa-approved snacks, defend me when I need defending, and one has threatened physical violence to anyone who "tries to give Alissa stomach cancer." They all mean well, mostly, so it makes it even harder.

This isn't meant to sound whiny - I'm genuinely curious on how to approach this problem without sounding like a complete douchecanoe. I'm getting to be terrified to eat at work, and that's just can't happen. I need to take in calories to function.

I know there have got to be other people in a similar boat. So your advice? Much needed.


  1. I haven't been in an office for years now, but it terrifies me to go back into the work force. You're doing everything right - but it's just about diligence EVERY day. Always wash your hands after touching common surfaces and bring wipes and GF hand sanitizer. But you're doing everything right!

    1. Yeah, I scrub everything. It's times like this that my OCD is incredibly well-suited for this disease.

  2. This is an interesting conundrum. I wonder if it is an unknowing cross contamination issue or something else? Stress maybe?

    I've gotten sick at work too, but I that's from bringing my own food, eating with disposable utensils, and sitting at my desk away from everyone. My only conclusion is that it wasn't a gluten related issue, but just a general old food disagreement with my gut. :(

    I hope you're feeling better and it doesn't happen again!

    1. My boss and I are working on some ways to keep me safe. I hope that all the delicious, gluten-filled treats I brought in for my co-workers today make them feel not resentful toward me when the "stop touching Alissa's things" e-mail goes out ...

  3. Ugh, I worry about this, too, and because I'm still not really at a baseline of health, I have no idea whether I'm being subtly glutened every day at work. I do worry about putting my tupperware in the microwave and then putting that tupperware onto my desk—because now any gluten on the microwave would be stuck to my tupperware and transferred to my workspace (solution would be NOT to eat at my desk, which isn't a good idea anyway, but I'm not there yet).

    I always cover my food in the microwave so nothing can fall from its "ceiling" into my lunch...but I don't know. And you can never know if anyone is using your computer in your absence and possibly spilling crumbs everywhere. The solution there is the opposite of the above solution: never leave your desk. Guard it with your life.

    Sigh. No good advice because I haven't figured it out either. But good luck! To you and me.

  4. The book that you just recommended seems to be good. I would love to share this book with my friends as they usually face food allergies.

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