The Unknown Horror of the Cafeteria Microwave

Dirty Microwave

The dreaded microwave / Photographer: Maya Heikkinen

There is a little-known horror within the walls of the cafeteria known only by a select few individuals. Those of us who are familiar with it do not discuss it, and we carry our trauma in silence. Those who experience it on a regular basis have learned to push aside their horror and endure it without reaction. However, it is time that we face this abomination that many are not even aware of: the food-splattered interior of the microwave in the school cafeteria. My own encounters with the greasy minefield of hardened cheese lumps are most likely similar to those of others; I hope to be the voice of those who are too afraid to speak out.

Upon opening the microwave, one becomes deluged with the overwhelming, oily smell of hot, fake cheese from its rank depths. After waiting a few seconds for the waft of cheese scent to dissipate into the surrounding air, I begin the process of selecting the cleanest spot (or, more accurately, the spot with the least amount of cheese) upon which to cook my lunch. The walls of the microwave are speckled with deep orange; burnt bits of cheese dot the sides as though sprayed during a microwave cheese disaster. On the glass plate, several large lumps of unknown matter linger, ranging from ruby red to a pale apricot orange. Flakier pieces line the edges, and a thick layer of clear, mysterious grease coats the entire interior. A puddle of milk, a very recent addition to the scene, spoils near the center.

Months of navigating the intricate layout of cheese debris has conditioned me to the harsh interior of the microwave, and I no longer feel disgust or fear as I assess my quandary. On one side, two inches from the milk puddle, the reddest, darkest, crustiest cheese clump, and a brightly-colored yellow flake is a spot where there are only minimal cheese crumbs. It is here where I place my lunch to cook; a minute later I am finally able to escape the scene.

Although it is important to expose the horrors of the microwave, I knew that this wasn’t enough to satisfy a burning question:

what is the origin of the dairy disaster that has impacted so many lives, and why did such a disaster occur? It is a complicated question, one difficult to answer through simple research. However, through months of careful investigation, eavesdropping, prying, and interrogations disguised as casual conversations, I was finally able to locate the culprit. A senior at OHS, who wishes to remain unnamed due to the damage he has caused, confessed his fatal error. “I was a sophomore,” he said, “and I had this microwavable cheese thing. I meant to microwave it for only 40 seconds, but I pressed the zero button twice and it microwaved for four minutes.” Of course, the cheese exploded into the microwave, and in his shame, the student never reported the incident. The fake cheese hardened and has remained ever since. “To this day, I am still sorry for what I did. I apologize for every lump of cheese in that microwave. I vow never again to use a microwave, and I have bought my lunch ever since,” he said in regret.

I sincerely hope that both my personal account and the results of my investigation will spread awareness of the matter and help alleviate the hidden suffering of those who have endured the microwave. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the source of the milk puddle, leaving me to lie awake at night with another burning question: what sort of person would microwave a carton of milk, and what could they have hoped to achieve?