My roommate eats my food.
The catch is she does it in a way she thinks is very stealthy and that I won't notice. Either that or she thinks I am an idiot. After long being suspicious about this, I decided to test her. I bought a pack of four large cookies, ate half of one, stacked the three whole ones in a Tupperware and split the remaining half into two such that they fit in the corners. That same night, one of the pieces had a different shape. The following morning, both of the pieces were small, AND she cut the base of the cookie with a knife around the corner in a circumferential manner, which did not reduce the overall size of the cookie and was only noticeable if you looked at it from underneath. Later in the day, all the remaining cookies had shrunk around the edges, the two original pieces were about half an inch in size AND she had PICKED OUT THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND RASPBERRIES leaving HOLES THROUGHOUT THE COOKIE.
I have called her out on eating my food before, but this I find outraging. I want to leave a note on the fridge telling her that if she wants my food she needs to ask in advance and replace as soon as she can. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Because you are the sympathetic character here, and in order to remain sympathetic, the sympathetic character is not allowed to become passive-aggressive. You are allowed to be aggressive, though, which is ultimately more satisfying and efficient. You have to confront your roommate directly about eating your food. Don't start trading notes like two infatuated members of the landed gentry. Don't bring the fridge into the middle of this.
(Also she would probably just gnaw around the edges of any note you left for her. You would come to get a glass of water in the middle of the night and discover that the bellies of all the O's in your letter had been nibbled out.)
You must proceed with caution when confronting your roommate, because both of you absolutely sound capable of killing someone. She is mutilating cookies like Jack the Ripper. You are setting traps more meticulously staged than a Victorian taxidermy tableau and devoting what sounds like a lot of time and effort to stealth field observations. (I will say that I never wanted your cookie dismemberment log to end. It was a true pleasure to watch you lose your mind as the case got away from you.)
I'm not convinced your roommate is not a mouse named Squeakums. This would explain not only the bizarre method in which the cookies were gradually consumed, but also the fact that she did not alter her behavior in any way after you "called her out" on eating your food the first time.
Squeakums, do not pretend you did not munch my apple peels!
Squeakums, get out of the Cheerio box, those are my Cheerios!
Squeakums, time and again I ask you to stop eating my food. Come to find out you are still eating my food, Squeakums!
Does your roommate leave little poops in the Tupperware any time she steals a bite?
If she is not a mouse, your roommate might just be compulsive, which means these thefts probably bring her more anguish than joy. There's a reason people don't consume snacks in almost imperceptible increments over the course of 24 hours: it's not satisfying. Running a knife under a cookie to peel off a layer ⅕ of an inch thick is like licking the inside of a bottle cap to get those drops of Diet Coke nestled in the ridges. Cookies aren't made of highly potent cookie extract; you need a bite to taste them.
It sounds like your roommate lacks the self-control to not eat your food (did she really need cookies at that moment?), feels guilty about her lack of self-control, and then attempts to hide it. Every time this pattern repeats, your cookies shrink in diameter, and she is forced to pray that you will be stricken with a particular kind of blindness that will allow you to recognize the shapes of things but not process their overall size, so that—to you—a cookie that is 4 inches across will look identical to one that is 1 inch across.
But just because she feels remorse doesn't mean she is allowed to turn your chocolate chip raspberry cookies into hole cookies. She's not just eating half of your food; she's ruining all of it.
You don't have to schedule a formal meeting of the apartment congress when you confront your roommate (though she would no doubt love if you provided snacks). Just mention the issue the next time you're both in the kitchen, or the next time one of you is eating your (YOUR) food. Yes, it will probably feel slightly awkward to say "I noticed you've been snacking on my food. Please don't. It's my food," but that is the price you pay when the price you pay for rent is lower than it would be if you didn't have a roommate. Cohabiting with someone leads to uncomfortable moments. That's why it's cheaper.
If you're feeling generous, you might tell her that if she wants to eat your food, she can help pay for it. However, unless your roommate is your child (which would make your question extremely dark), you are under no obligation to perform her grocery shopping. Bear in mind that getting into "replace as soon as you can" or "pay me for what you eat" territory can be dicey. You buy cookies because you want cookies, not because you want the amount of money the cookies cost. (N.b. Sometimes you also buy cookies to set elaborate To Catch a Predator-style traps for your roommates.)
If she continues eating your food after you confront her a second time, there's no great way to escalate the issue. Start keeping your food in a separate locked area? Leave a plate of your famous ginger-and-lye biscuits in a Tupperware marked "DO NOT EAT"? While the residents of Sesame Street eventually just learned to live with their cookie monster, it might be time for you to move out.
A new young co-worker joined my work. She has been adopted by the office MotherHen. The Young One has major financial problems, student loans etc. One day in the break room Young One was complaining about the cost of her commute. MotherHen volunteered that since I live in the same part of town I could give YO rides home. I could feel all the eyes swivel in my direction. I was reading and ignored the talk. I don't want to do this. YO works an hour later than me which means I will have to hang around work until she is done. I did the math, driving her home every day would cost me over 8 hours a week, the drive and the detour. Several times YO has stopped by my desk and hinted that she needs a ride but I have not responded. Soon, MotherHen is going to be strong arming me. I'm angry at the thought of so much of my limited free time being wasted, and scrambling to come up with a good response that doesn't make me look like a POS. (If necessary, though, I'm willing to be one.) Is that okay?
The difference between an activity you volunteered to do and an activity someone else volunteered you to do is that the first one is something you are morally obligated to follow through with and the second one has absolutely no relevance to your life whatsoever.
It's very easy to nominate someone else to be generous. This situation would be a win-win-win for your pushy co-worker: she gets credit for helping make the new hire's life easier, she doesn't actually have to expend any extra effort, and she reaffirms her office reputation as A Lady Who Can Get Things Done.
Since she likes to coordinate things, she can be in charge or organizing an evening shuttle to the moon or wherever it is you live that is so far away from work the new hire cannot afford to both reside there and travel to work every day.
What sort of usurious student loans are these that they have left your coworker so destitute she is unable to afford a bus pass? Did she buy an entire college? She clearly has no outstanding loans at the local finishing school, as evidenced by both her lack of social graces and her inability to deftly manipulate you into performing favors for her.
How is she hinting she wants a ride when she stops by your desk? Does she creep up behind you and start talking to herself?
Second week at work. Things are pretty good. Nobody's driving me crazy. Nobody's driving me anywhere!
Under normal circumstances, you shouldn't have to explain why you don't want to do a massive favor for someone. If, however, either of your coworkers ever do get up to courage to confront you directly about the fact that the tribe has chosen you to chauffeur a fellow employee home from work every night, it's perfectly acceptable to respond "Oh, actually, I head home at six and Jessica has to work until seven." No further explanation needed. Unless you operate the Monorail at Disney World, you are not obligated to cart your coworkers around as a condition of your employment.
Incidentally, if dropping this woman off would somehow add roughly 36 minutes a day to your evening commute, her home is not really on the way to yours. You say you were nominated to chauffeur because you live in the same part of town as the new hire. How big is your town? Is it just that you both live in North America?
Of course, even if your coworker kept the same hours as you—even if she lived in your building—you would be under no obligation to give her rides home because someone else volunteered you. The best thing about commuting to and from work is that, while it is happening, you are not at work.
If you ever catch yourself next to a coworker on a crowded subway train, it is only because you both failed to hide yourselves from one another in time.
I love my coworkers. I am always excited to see them. I also love podcasts. I am always excited to listen to podcasts. Separate portions of my day are devoted to each.
So, you are free to quietly read your book while your officemates take a loud office poll of "Who Lives in the Same Part of Town and Has a Car and Is in This Room and Is Kind?" You are free to react blankly when your new coworker says "Beep beep! Hah, excuse me," any time she passes you in the hall.
You should endeavor to be pleasant with her, though, because starting a new job is intimidating and living, as she has recently discovered, is expensive.
Art by Jim Cooke // Source Photo via Shutterstock