Fruit's ripening, juices are flowing, and it's toting time

HAPPY EATER

August 04, 1993|By ROB KASPER

Lately my briefcase has been smelling better. My gym bag, usually a source of suspect odors, has been putting out pleasing fragrances. Even the insect world has noticed the change in my aroma. Now virtually everywhere I sit, the fruit flies follow.

These are all sure signs that toting season has begun. That is the time of year when the fruit is ripe, the tomatoes are ready, and when I tote these edibles to work with me in my briefcase or gym bag.

During toting season, I am just a guy who can't say no. The peach that looked too inviting to leave at home on the kitchen counter is whisked away to work. The plum, too sweet to forget, is tossed into a briefcase and pulled out as a midafternoon reward.

And the tomatoes, big, red and still warm from the garden, are gingerly placed in the gym bag. They emerge shortly after noon as lunch.

I am not the only toter. All around my office and other job sites around town, I have seen tomatoes decorating desktops, ripe peaches residing near computers and fragrant plums being pulled from purses.

Stuff like apples, oranges and carrots can be carted to work all year 'round. But toting fruit has a distinct summer season. Moreover, it is riper than the year-round fare. And it leaves damps spots.

It is so often so ripe that it leaks en route. This presents a problem. The other day, for instance, a peach that I was carrying around in the car leaked all over the gearshift as I drove to work. The spill made the car smell pretty good, but cleaning it up was a sticky and time-consuming task.

And when you stash ripe fruit and vegetables in your briefcase, there is the good chance that important papers will end up getting juiced.

It is a minor matter to get some juice on the electric bill. I figure that if the computer that processes the bill can't cope with a little fruit juice, it doesn't deserve a lane on the information highway. However, getting tomato secretions on a proposal to the big boss, or on a birthday card to Mom, is bad form.

When transporting likely leakers, it is best to take protective measures. Lately I have begun sticking the fruit and vegetables in plastic bags and sealing them. Then I rest the bulging plastic bags on the top of my briefcase or in a pocket of my gym bag.

The plastic bag containment method usually gets the job done. But it does have its drawbacks. It looks awful. When you walk along with plastic bags flapping out of your briefcase, you don't cut an imposing figure. Instead of looking like a man of grace and polish, you look like the man from Glad.

Stuffing the plastic package down deeper in your luggage does get the unsightly bulges out of sight, but the tactic carries some risk. The prime risk is that when the oozing fruit is out of sight, you will forget about it. It has happened to me.

One recent morning, for instance, shortly after I sauntered into the office, I actually had to do some work right away before drinking a second cup of coffee. This bout of labor-intensive behavior threw me off my form. I was so flustered I forgot about the leaky peach I had tucked in my briefcase.

The squadrons of fruit flies reminded me. By late in the day they were flying in and out of my briefcase like jets landing on an aircraft carrier.

When I investigated, I found that somehow the peach had slipped out of its plastic bag and had filled a corner of the briefcase with a juice pool, which the fruit flies were landing on.

During toting season, fruit flies are frequent visitors to my desk. They seem to know that even if they don't discover anything in my briefcase, they can find something to their taste, like a peach pit or tomato juice in my wastebasket.

These fruits and vegetables are so full of juice there is no safe way to eat them at your desk other than straddling a wastebasket. The wastebasket catches the stray juice -- most of it, anyway.

But the other day, when I bit into an especially juicy beefsteak tomato, juice shot everywhere. For a minute I thought I might have to call in Red Adair, the guy who caps oil wells, to stop this gusher. I ended up with several paper towels spread around me, and a smile on my face.

Despite all the accompanying hassles -- the leaks, the flies, the squirts -- I plan to continue toting fruit and vegetables to the office until the supply runs out.

It tastes too good to quit.

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