Rose* (Human Resources Officer, 1999-Present): Todd started working here well into my tenure at the company. As an HR professional, per Human Resources Common Practices and Standards: Updated Edition Featuring Enhanced Harassment Section, I took a solemn oath to maintain his privacy. But I will say that he walked into this office on his very first day with that Hot Pocket.
Jeff (Research Analyst, sat next to Todd, 2011 to 2018): I couldn’t help but notice that there was only one of the individually wrapped Hot Pocket…what are they called? Turnovers? Toaster pastries? No, that’s another thing. Let’s say there was only one Hot Pocket “product” in that box.
Frank (IT Guy, dates unverified, born and raised on Staten Island): Who shows up for work on their first day with an open box of Hot Pockets—and only one in the box? The guy was a freak.
Susan (Todd’s Manager, 2015 to 2018): Todd was already there when I transferred to that role. It was a lateral move. I was going through a divorce and needed to move closer to my parents to watch after my little Jayden. Anyway, I do a lot of frozen dinners, because, hello, divorce. So every day when I grabbed my Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala, I’d see this extremely old Hot Pockets box in the fridge.
Jeff: For perspective, Egypt went through three presidents during the time Todd’s Hot Pocket was in that freezer.
Zoe (Graphics Intern, 2018): Do you mind if I vape? The Hot Pockets brand had, like, done one or two complete redesigns since the era of that particular box. I actually knew this from a class on Mass Market Consumer Packaging as Narrative.
Jeff: Can I see what Susan said? Did she tell you that “Jayden” is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?
Susan: So I’m in the kitchen and one of the interns asks about the Hot Pocket. She says she’s broke because her father’s monthly deposit of some ungodly high dollar amount hasn’t arrived. She says, “Todd won’t even notice. That Hot Pocket is older than Louise Bourgeois,” and I had to I google the name. My ex-husband was more of an ESPN guy, so I didn’t get much culture for 20 years. But in a few weeks, I’m doing a European river cruise with my girlfriends.
Zoe: Yeah, I microwaved Todd’s Hot Pocket. I was struggling. Hungry. Starving. Scraping by completely on my own in an unforgiving world.
Susan: So there I am in the kitchen, still waiting for my turn at the microwave. I have an app where I can watch Jayden at home on a baby monitor, so that’s what I’m doing. Then I look up and Todd’s in the kitchen and he starts smelling the air like a bloodhound. He looks at the microwave. He immediately knows what was cooking in there…and then he looks at the box sitting right on the top of the trash. He loses all the color from his face.
Frank: I was, ya know, hanging out in the electronics closet when I heard the scream. My last name’s not in this right?
Jeff: This is tangential to the narrative, I’m sure, but theories swirled about what the IT guy was doing in that storage closet. I’m sure Rose would have a stroke about this, but I’m gonna say it rhymes with “cashtrubation.”
Susan: Todd got up to get his lunch, then he comes back to his desk, sits down, gets back up again, and starts pacing around his cubicle saying “chicken, broccoli and cheddar” again and again. It’s like a circuit was smashed. “Chicken, broccoli, and cheddar.” I’m like, “Todd, sweetie, it’s been in the freezer forever. We’ll get you another one.”
Rose: My file says, and I’m reading verbatim, “The victim, name redacted, indicated that the chicken, broccoli and cheddar line of Hot Pockets released in Fall 2010 was a ‘vintage’ known, according to an internet forum dedicated to the topic, to have assumed subtle but highly satisfactory aging in the cheddar flavor. The victim proceeded to repeat the terms ‘chicken, broccoli and cheddar’ until he was escorted out of the office by our security guard.”
Rick (Security, 2017 to 2018): I faked my entire resume to get that job, so I was a little nervous walking Todd out. My uncle got me in there when he was dating the HR lady, who told him everything about everyone there, including the fact that their IT guy was jerking it on the regular, and that they thought about firing him, but said, as far as IT guys go, “better the devil you know.”
Frank: You know, the more I think about it, the more I think it was fucked up to take a man’s Hot Pocket. There’s a lot of things you can do with a Hot Pocket.
Rose: As I’ve already said, I’m not at liberty to share the name of the other individual involved, but per my file here, the offending party noted that she, I’m sorry, he or she, quote, “did not go to CalArts to deal with this…” and, again, I am quoting here, “…shit.”
Jeff: Okay, I’ve done a little research and can verify that the Hot Pockets company has officially branded them as “sandwiches” and there are seven different kinds of crusts, including both “crispy crust” and “crispy buttery crust.”
Rose: Ultimately, both Todd and the company thought it was best if he left. I’m afraid “trauma” is not too strong a word in this case. Again, I’m sworn to confidentiality in all employee matters, but you just can’t react that way about a Hot Pocket. Not in this day and age.
Jeff: Not to belabor this, but, there is both a “flaky crust” and a “croissant crust”?
Zoe: I channeled all of this into my BFA thesis, “Ängstlichkeit,” which was an experiential maze comprised of wheat and chicken bones. To engage with the work, one had to find his or her way through the maze to the prize, a mummified Hot Pocket. It sucked that Todd lost his job, but I’m sure he’d be satisfied to have served the higher purpose of art.
Frank: I don’t know, man. I heard a rumor Todd was living in Secaucus with his mother and working at Houlihan’s.
Rose: I saw on the HR Professionals of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Facebook group that he’s taken a position with another company nearby. We’ve all sworn to keep our communications confidential, but I have it on good authority he has no items stored in their personal freezer.
*Names have been changed