If you're reading this at work, look around you.
Do you see
the woman who pops her chewing gum? Or the guy who blows his nose so
often, it's like a continuous loop of mucus Muzak? Do you spy the nail
biter with Band-Aids on all her fingers? What about the dandruff snow
blower who leaves little flakes everywhere he goes?
office has a disgusting co-worker. And if you don't see something gross
on the other side of the cubicle wall, then you, my friend, are the
It's not easy to admit that you're vile. Believe
me. I just realized I was the Office Ick – and I left office life more
than a year ago. But if you think that your habit of picking strange
objects out of your hair goes unnoticed, allow me to do you the favor
of telling you you're wrong.
No force field of invisibility
shrouds you when you pick your teeth. "Silent" does not equal
"scentless." And just because people turn away when you, ahem, adjust
yourself, doesn't mean they don't notice. They notice. And they send
each other instant messages saying things like, "Is he playing Frogger
I decided to write about the Office Ick because
Yvette asked me to. Yvette has spent several years working in a
technology firm taking down furious little mental notes of all the
disgusting things a few of her co-workers do. She does this not because
she's petty, but because she's appalled.
One of her co-workers
(whom she calls Pick-N-Lick, for his habit of picking his zits and then licking
his fingers during meetings), is particularly ripe fodder for a column,
"I am sure that other people have a co-worker that is some form of Pick-N-Licker. So I'm sure readers can relate," she says.
to have found a forum in which to vent, Yvette offers more examples of
Office Ick behavior: The guy who leaves the kitchen sponge inside a
dirty cup filled with brownish water. And then this e-mail:
I was dialing your number, so I had to take my headphones off. What do
I hear? The guy two cubes down is clipping his fingernails! It drives
me nuts. I only cut my fingernails in the privacy of my home. I think
it is gross. I shouldn't have to listen to it."
my many years as other people's co-worker, I not only clipped my
fingernails at my desk, but my toenails, too. I clipped them directly
into a trash bin. Nice and neat-like. But clip, clip, clip, I did. I
also suffered from terrible allergies and had a kind of snow-covered
mountain of spent Kleenexes on my desk at all times. I removed my shoes
any chance I could, laughed loudly and told dirty jokes. I was, pretty
much, disgusting. And now I'm extremely embarrassed.
that I owe Lisa Liddane a very huge apology. Register Fitness Goddess
Lisa and I shared a way-too-small cubicle for about four years, during
which time she was the perfect-posture picture of precision focus and I
was … well, I was wiggling my bare toes over a trash can and telling
dirty jokes while blowing my nose.
I write an apology of sorts, calling on Lisa to lash out at me for all the years that I imprisoned her in a lair of revulsion.
don't recall you clipping your nails in all the years we've worked
together, so you must have purposely done that when I wasn't around,"
she e-mails back. "That or the memory of you clipping your toenails was
so traumatic that I had to repress it. LOL."
I am buoyed by Lisa's response. Maybe I wasn't as gross as I thought I was.
Oh no, Maura assures me, I was.
never worked with Maura, but it is her experience that when it comes to
Office Icks, no one likes to talk about it. Lisa's response was just a
kind of coping mechanism that all normal office people use to avoid
confronting the mouth-breathing yeti in the room.
Instead of confronting an offensive person, Maura says, "I just talk behind their backs."
I guess that's true – so let me handle it. If you've got an Office Ick, clip this column out, and place it on his or her desk.
They'll get the point.
And you'll get a booger-free cubicle.