Worker tosses old meatballs back into the pot during charity food sale after woman asks for a fresh sandwich

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a woman who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Everybody loves meatballs. Okay, disclaimer, I know not everyone loves meatballs, but plenty of people do. So when my mother's employer decided to throw a charity event at work, someone decided to serve up meatballs for a fee.

One employee was in charge of making meatball sandwiches in the employee break room. They poured frozen meatballs and jarred sauce into an electric crock pot and heated it until it bubbled. Then they assembled the sandwiches and collected the money that was to be donated to charity. Everything was going swimmingly.

The sandwiches were selling like hotcakes, especially as employees started taking their coffee breaks and lunch breaks. My mother was on her coffee break, eating a brown-bagged snack she had packed at home when one of her coworkers walked into the room.

The woman turned to the employee who was serving up meatball sandwiches. "I am just starting my shift. By the time I go on my lunch break, all the meatballs will be gone," she complained. "It will be hours before I get to eat."

"No problem. Just buy one now and keep it in your locker until your lunch break," the meatball man said. "I'm sure it will be fine, and that way you know you're guaranteed to get one."

My mother groaned inwardly, but she said nothing. "If she wasn't afraid of food poisoning, then who was I to tell her?" my mother asked me.

The woman agreed to pay for her meatball sandwich and keep it in her locker until lunchtime. That's exactly what she did. She bought the sandwich and locked it in her locker for safekeeping.

Later that day, my mother was on her lunch break when the other woman, the one who had a meatball sandwich festering in her locker, walked back into the break room. She was carrying her hours-old, soggy, room-temperature meatball sandwich.

The charity meatball drive was still in full swing. They hadn't run out of meatballs.

"Oh, my meatball sandwich is so old and cold," the woman complained. "I notice you still have hot fresh meatballs in the crockpot. I should have waited to get a fresh sandwich. If only I had known ... why did you make me buy my sandwich so early?"

"I'll fix it for you," the meatball tender said. "Give me your sandwich."

He made the woman a fresh sandwich, unwrapped her old one, and proceeded to dump the room-temperature meatballs back into the steaming crockpot before tossing the soggy bread into the trash. That meant one of his future customers was sure to receive one or more of the recycled meatballs.

As for my mother, she didn't buy any meatball sandwiches, especially after witnessing that fiasco, but she did contribute money to the cause. After all, it was for charity.

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