Sunday, July 26, 2009

Obesity Is A Private Matter

I heard this second hand. My brother-in-law teaches in a school with some ladies who have weight issues. Read on to understand what "weight issue" really means....

Standing in the copy room one day, two of theses ladies were discussing how their obesity creates personal hygiene challenges...loud enough that the following exchange was clearly heard.

"You know how hard it is to wash under your rolls?"
"Sometimes I just can't for a while, but if I don't it starts to smell." (Picks up roll of fat -- apparently known in medical circles as an "apron" -- to demonstrate)

My brother-in-law may never recover from the odor or the visual trauma.

Monday, April 20, 2009

An E-mail You Should Never, Ever Have To Send To Your Boss

I work for a property management company. That should have read, "I baby-sit school children all day." This e-mail to my boss stems from a problem that comes up quite regularly, but not quite to this magnitude. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Happy reading:
Boss Lady,
So, this has been a recurring problem. It's been an issue before but it's just reared its ugly head in the past couple of weeks. I received a call this morning about this issue and received an e-mail just a little bit later so I decided to go check it out. Usually when they call it's that there are used paper towels or coffee pot stains on the counter.  This time there is poop on the floor. Little baby turds. There is one on the floor and one hanging on the outside of the toilet rim. Clearly a feat like that is intentional because you can't just miss and have it miraculously stick to the side of the rim. They had to have used their hands. (I can't believe I'm typing this e-mail.) 

Anyway, I had maintenance clean it up so it's fine now, but apparently there are boogers on the back of a couple of the stall doors in the men's restroom. A lady from that floor called almost immediately when I walked back in the door as I got back from looking as this mess to tell me about the men's room and make a suggestion. She suggested that we put locks on all the restroom doors that could only be accessed by tenants on that floor. I suggested she stop smoking by the front door! :) I didn't say that, I just wanted to. (She has a bad habit of smoking by the front door of the building.) 

Anyway, I told her that I would talk to you about it, but that ultimately it would be something that is charged back to the tenants and it may be hard to justify that to the other tenants in the building if it were building-wide. That may be something that would work for just their floor though, since there are only 2 tenants on that floor. 
Moral of the story: We can't lock the bathroom doors AND you should poop in the toilet, not on or around the toilet! 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do Pageants Have Regional Delegates? Still No Excuse.

I once worked with a woman who came to work on Halloween with a sash that said, "Miss New England." When questioned about the costume, she said she was a contestant in the Miss America pageant representing the state of New England. Interesting. I've never been there. 'Cause it doesn't exist.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I once worked with a woman who had never heard of the Holocaust. I think that pretty much sums her up.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Breast Conversation Ever

I've worked for bosses that were pretty skeevy in the past, but none have been so, um, forthcoming with it as my current employer. He's a college professor who's second in charge of our department, and I'm his secretary, which means I usually bear the brunt of his cluelessness. 

Our new graduate students had arrived for some orientations and what not. One of them has just had a baby over the summer, and OK, maybe she was showing off the pregnancy boobs a little. She came in one day and asked me -- privately -- about a good place to pump breast milk. Having no experience in this area, I was all, um, the bathroom? It's the only place I could think of.

Now, my boss has an unfortunate habit of staring women in the chest when he talks to us. Yes, it gets old, but he's a dude. What am I gonna do? I choose to ignore it and move on. But this poor girl, who has only been here for a day, apparently got the brunt of it early on.

I know this because my boss pulls up a chair next to my desk the other day and says he needs to talk to me about something "outside his area of expertise." Mentally groaning, I listen as he gives me the following recap of events:

"So I was talking to (grad student) a few minutes ago and I was staring at her breasts and she told me she just had a baby and needs a place to pump."

Mind you, there was NOBODY in the room at this point except the two of us. Could I have been more uncomfortable? I think not. Not knowing how to react to this, I just told him I'd check the staff bathroom to see if there was an outlet in there.

I know he looks. I see him doing it to every woman who comes through these doors. But does he have to admit it to me like that? No, he does not. And yet he does.

I saw that grad student later that day and started to tell her we could get her a key to the staff bathroom, which is a little more private than the student one, if she wants. She stopped me mid-sentence to say she had ordered a battery pack for her pump and that's the end of it. Poor girl.

Also, I need to remember to buy some baggy, high-necked shirts to wear to work.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now That's Taxpayer Money Well Spent

I work part-time in an elementary school office. The majority of the office workers (including our principal) are very cold-natured, or wear short-sleeved shirts year-round. Our counselor is hot-natured. And apparently retarded. She insists on wearing heavy sweaters and down vests with turtle-necks, even though we live in the deep south. And then she sneaks around and turns the air-conditioner on and down to 60 degrees. And she wonders why the principal yells at her!

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Okay To Read Porn At Work, Right?

I once had a coworker who was very, very strange. It's hard to sum him up in writing -- he was one of those people you really just had to experience in person -- but suffice to say he had led a very sheltered life before entering our profession, which requires you to be at least kind of competent when it comes to talking to people. It did not go well. He was awkward, long-winded and excruciatingly weird.

One day this coworker had a large binder open on his desk, holding it upright so his face was shielded. There was something fishy about the way he was turning the pages, and eventually I realized there was another book hiding behind the binder. 

Because I had nothing better to do, I decided to make it my mission for the day to figure out exactly what he was reading at his desk, and why it had to be kept secret. Eventually the binder slipped and I got my answer.

Letters to Penthouse.

Friday, March 20, 2009

You've Got To Feel Bad For Those Knees, Really

I've been sitting at a boring desk job for four years now, so I totally get the secretary spread, but I have one co-worker that is morbidly obese. That does not bother me, but what makes me want to scream and kick is the fact that she groans loud enough for the entire office to hear every single time she stands up. 

Then, as if she needs to explain it, she says, "Oh, my knees!" Guess what, lady? I'm on the phone with a client and they don't care about your knees. Oh, and also, you weigh 350lbs. Your knees are justified in hurting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh Fortuna, You Degenerate Wanton!

Watching the demise of the newspaper industry, I realize now that it was probably a good idea to get out of the business while I still could leave on my own terms. Despite that, I don't regret my time working there. You meet a lot of interesting characters at a newspaper. The industry seems to collect rejects and castoffs as long as they’re proficient at working with the language. There's the dude who almost died of a heart attack at least three times a week. There's the other guy who somehow managed to support a family of 30 kids (hyperbole, people) on what a small-town newspaper paid him. There was the photographer everyone suspected of being a pedophile. And then there was Ignatius J. Reilly.

Actually, he wasn't really Ignatius J. Reilly. That's just the name of the protagonist inConfederacy of Dunces, a novel I read years too late to fully appreciate its significance to that time in my life. Having finally read the it earlier this year, I finally appreciate just how amazingly accurate my former boss was in comparing the blubbery blowhard in the book to my coworker.

First, if you’ve never read Confederacy, Ignatius J. Reilly was an overweight, middle-aged idealist who lived off of his mother’s pension in New Orleans. Ignatius rejected many of the trappings of the modern world in favor of Medievalism. He wanted a just king instead of democracy. He wanted a sex-free society. He was fat, sweaty, and seemed to survive entirely on a diet of hotdogs and pastries. The book really isn’t as funny as its premise, perhaps because it drags on a couple hundred pages longer than it should, but the character of Ignatius is really quite brilliant.

And apparently it was retroactively based almost entirely on my coworker. In fact, I had trouble not visualizing Ignatius as the guy who had sat next to me for thee days a week for six months during my stint at the paper. Both the character and coworker were obese with ample facial hair. They both were obnoxiously opinionated and socially awkward. They both seemed a little greasy and sweat stained, somehow. My coworker lived over an hour away from the newspaper, kept his job at his local weekly paper and seemed to share with Ignatius the same fatalism about maintaining a real-world job. No one, not even my coworker, seemed to be surprised when his time to leave came. He just simply refused to compromise on his archaic rules of language or admit that he totally sucked at page design just as Ignatius sucked at doing anything of value.

Luckily, Ignatius’s bouts with flatulence were entirely fictional. I also should probably admit that despite my finding his existence humorous, I actually kind of liked my coworker. He was painfully slow at his job and refused to admit that the English language of journalism in 2003 wasn’t the same as it was in 1925, meaning more work for me, but I was entertained by his bombastic proclamations and his sense that he was always right. He actually managed to be vain about his intellect without ever crossing the line from laughable into annoying, again, exactly like Ignatius.

Despite all of his annoying quirks, what really made me hate the guy was that he borrowed one of my favorite books and didn’t return it before getting fired. I loaned him the book and a month later said he had broken its spine and wanted to take it to a friend who was a book binder to get it repaired for me. I agreed, and a month after that he was fired, still having not returned my book.

Two years later, I got an e-mail from Mr. Ignatius J. Coworker asking me for my mailing address so he could finally return my book. I was shocked. He had somehow searched the Internet for my new e-mail address despite having had limited computer skills when I knew him. Two weeks later, the book was back in my hands, the spine still broken.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does 'Mentally Handicapped' Count?

When I taught band in South Dakota, the elementary music teacher in my district was by far the laziest person I had ever met or have met since then. There were many examples of this in his classroom. However, the worst of it was every year at the state music convention.  Of course, he never attended any of the sessions; mostly he just went so that he wouldn't have to teach that day. 
The conference was always in February, and most years it was during a bitterly cold stretch of winter in South Dakota.  My coworker would always borrow his parents' car to drive to the conference; the parking lot was always crowded with other music educators attending the conference (and actually taking part in the sessions) so finding a space was difficult. Finding a space close to the door was impossible. 

This guy had no worries, however; his parents had a handicapped tag, so he would park close to the door, run in and snack away on whatever was being given away that day. Life is good!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Am I, Your Personal Slave?

I'm an administrative assistant.  The company I used to work for was managed by a woman who was more interested in her affair with the boss, make up, shopping, scrapbooking, and anything that wasn't even remotely related to actual work.
One day, I was headed in one direction across the office and boss lady was headed in the other direction with a frozen Lean Cuisine meal in her hand.  She tossed it at me (literally - I was lucky I was paying attention or she might have actually injured me) and said, "Microwave this for me, will ya?  I'm late for a meeting!  Oh, and you can just bring it in to me when it's done."
I found myself in the strange situation of trying to decide whether to smack her upside the head or simply turn tail and run.
You may ask, "What did I decide?"
I microwaved the meal (just barely) and brought it to her without a fork.
Needless to say she never asked me to microwave her food again!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why Idiots Should Not Use Speakerphone

I used to work as a reporter at a newspaper managed by a family of idiots. One of my coworkers, whose branch of the family tree sagged dangerously low, used to make phone calls on speakerphone, apparently oblivious to the fact that the entire newsroom could hear him. Our phone system was such that any incoming intra-office phone calls would display the name of the caller on your phone. (This is important.)

Phone: Ring! Ring!

Display: Editor's name

Me: Hello?

Editor (in a disguised voice, with speakerphone on): Yeah, hello. I'm calling about that article you wrote the other day. I thought it was terrible! Don't you know that the utility company is corrupt? It's ridiculous!

Me: Uh ... Editor, we have caller ID. Also, you have me on speakerphone.

Editor: Aww, man! I was trying to prank call you!

Me: *baffled*

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things That Should Never, Ever Be Overheard In An Office: Vol. 1

Not only would she talk baby talk all day on the phone to her husband,
but I overheard her saying, "Ohh, is my baby-waby wearing his leathwer
chaps today?"

I still conjure up that image when I need to diet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yes, And Those Fluffy Things In The Sky Are Cotton Balls

The following exchange occurred between a park ranger and a visitor at the entrance station to a national park in the western U.S. Rising up in front of the visitor's windshield was a range of pointy, snow-capped peaks stretching from horizon to horizon.
Visitor: [Pointing to the mountains] "Can you tell me what that white stuff is up there? Is it some sort of chemical?"
Park Ranger: [After long, uncomfortable pause in which she gives the visitor a squinty-eyed sideways look, hoping it's a joke. It's not.] "That's snow."
Visitor: "Really?"
Park Ranger: "Yes, really."
Park Ranger then desperately searches the small entrance station kiosk for something sharp to jab into her own throat but, alas, all such implements have been removed specifically to preclude just such an honorable suicide in the face of abject stupidity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Tale of the Evil Principal

At one time, I worked on the copy desk at a small-city daily newspaper. I actually liked the work and the hours. I was a night owl and getting paid to read the news and then place the portion of it that I liked in an attractive pattern on a computer screen is probably along the lines of what I was meant to do. There was no significant human interaction, especially with people I didn't like. The 4 p.m. start time meant I didn't have to hear an alarm clock. I still spend hours that I'm supposed to be working by reading the news.

The problem was that the pay was lousy, the chance of promotion unlikely, at least without moving to another city, and my schedule kept me, a newlywed at the time, from seeing my wife conscious more than two days a week even though we slept in the same bed. So, instead of sticking with newspapers, I became an English teacher.

I started off my career change the traditional way, by going back to college to earn my English Education degree. However, a year into my studies, I found an alternate (and much cheaper) path to public-educational glory. My state offers an alternative certification program for teachers with bachelor degrees in relevant areas. Instead of paying a university to train me, the regional education support agency trained me for free while I got paid to be a teacher.

The only problem was that while they trained me to be a teacher, I was already a teacher. As we took a crash course in classroom management, I'd already been managing my classroom for a week.

I should probably backtrack a bit and focus in on that "alternative school" part. By alternative school, I don't mean some magnet school full of gifted artists, musicians, or future astrophysicists. I mean a school full of kids coming out of lock up or deemed too dangerous or disruptive to attend the regular middle and high schools. My class rosters were ever-changing as kids came in and out of the youth detention centers or dropped out of school. My average seventh-grader was already 15 years old and my average ninth-grader already had a child, a lucrative drug business, or both.

Then there was that fifth-grader they stuck in with my middle school group because he'd phoned in a bomb hoax to his elementary school.

Oh, and the principal only worked half a day, and the resource officer, the policeman who was the only other adult in the building besides the teachers and secretary, usually left whenever she did. In other words, when problems arose in class, we were often stranded without support.

Let's just say that my first semester was a freaking disaster. There was screamed profanity (at me, not from me), threats, aggressive posturing, a doctoral level course on inner-city linguistics and drug culture, and all of this without a planning period or even a lunch to myself. The funny thing is that starting in the second semester, these kids started getting used to me. My calmness, even in the face of their temper tantrums, eventually won them over and they started to realize that I wasn't out to get them. I started to have a bit of success with them to the point that by my second year, I writing fewer discipline referrals than anyone else in the building. My juniors even had a 100 percent passing rate on the graduation test for English and writing and this with me having to teach 9th-12th grades in the same classroom at the same time. Of course, I'd have left that school within a couple of years anyway even if I hadn't had to deal with the issue that pushed me over the edge. I may have worked okay with the kids, but that doesn't change the fact that they made a stressful and difficult profession even more stressful and difficult.

Still, the kids I could understand. The kids I could manipulate. It was the principal who made life a miserable hell for my coworkers and me.

One thing you have to understand about bad kids is that you can't yell at them. This seems a little counter-intuitive I know, but you have to learn how to be politely strict with these kids and you also have to learn to pick your battles. These kids are used to screaming and violence. All it does is set them off to do the same. Good kids, college-bound kids from middle class families, can be yelled at. It shocks their systems and gets them to pay attention. Kids from rough backgrounds don't handle it so well. Unfortunately for the teachers, this principal was a screamer and she loved to come into your class, scream at some kid for some minor infraction and then leave you to get your class settled and back on task. This usually meant that the rest of the period was a wash. These kids just aren't mature enough to let something go and move back to the task at hand. Even the ones who weren't being yelled at took offense for the one who had. A few of these kids even had psychological problems that left you sensing that they were always on the verge of freaking out and going violent. I always kind of wished that one kid would have physically attacked the principal. I wouldn't have stopped him, partly because I'm afraid of pain and he was a big kid, and partly because I think the principal kind of deserved it.

The worst thing she ever did wasn't to the kids, though. During my second year, the principal apparently forgot to tell me and a coworker that we were supposed to go to a meeting at the central office. We didn't find out until after lunch the day we were supposed to go. The principal had the secretary call us in our rooms to let us know about the meeting, and I think she had already gone home for the day. It was fine, although annoying for me. I had no plans, so I went to the meeting. The other teacher, however, had a cardiologist appointment in another state that afternoon and knew that rescheduling would be a major hassle that close to the appointment. She didn't go to the meeting.

The next day we found letters in our boxes, dated a week earlier, informing us of the meeting. I checked my box daily, so I knew the letter hadn't been there for a week. It hadn't even been there for 12 hours because my box had been empty when I signed out the afternoon before and I was the last one to leave the building. The secretary confirmed my suspicions. The letter had been typed up that morning, dated a week in the past and placed in our boxes. This, much more than the last minute announcement of the meeting, pissed me off. I can understand being forgetful and unorganized. That's pretty much just being me. Lying in order to cover up your mistake, especially by taking advantage of an underling, is not something I would do.

The other teacher had been called to the central office for a meeting about her "insubordination" and she came by to ask me for a letter to confirm her claims, I happily obliged. I even managed to stand my ground when later in the week the principal came in to yell at me in front of my students about sticking my nose where it didn't belong and how I didn't know who I was messing with.

Oddly, nothing bad ever happened to me. At the end of the school year, she was actually disappointed that I was leaving (probably because everyone else was as well), and the students seemed to give me a little more respect after that. After all, even criminals understand integrity.

When getting address information for a resume last spring, I found out that my old principal had retired again and that one of the teachers, my mentor for the certification program my first year there, had become the new full-time principal. I e-mailed her to ask for a recommendation and found out that she had managed to retain her entire faculty two years in a row. The previous principal had never gotten anyone but me to come back for a second year, and I had only returned because I had to. If I had left that school, I would have forfeited my teaching certificate.

I'm happy for the students. Some of them actually deserved a little stability in their lives.

These Shoes Are Made For Matching ... Really

One day I noticed that my coworker was wearing two different shoes. And not just a little bit different, but different in a very obvious way: One was black and the other brown, one had a tassel and the other didn't. Clearly different.

And sure, perhaps the nice thing to do would have been to ignore it and let him figure it out on his own. But I'm sorry -- if you wear two different shoes to work, you deserve to be made fun of.

"Coworker?" I said, smiling nicely because I really am just trying to poke fun, not to be malicious. "Are you wearing two different shoes?"

He looks down, blushes, and then sets his jaw and looks back up at me.

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are!"

"No. They're supposed to be this way."

"That can't be right. One is black and the other is brown! That one has a tassel and the other doesn't!"

"I know it seems that way, but they really are supposed to go together."

By this point it wasn't about the shoes anymore. It was about me being completely incredulous that this guy just wouldn't laugh about it and admit his mistake. I had witnesses. I had TRUTH on my side. But that guy stood his ground, mismatched shoes and all. What a dork.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I May Be Laid Off, But I Draw The Line Before 'Crazy Cat Lady,' Thankyouverymuch

Yesterday I got home to find that my boss had sent a card to my house that basically said, "Sorry I laid you off. I will pray for you." I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist. On the cover of the card was an old lady sitting in a chair with a cat on her lap, staring out the window. 

I get that she wanted to express her sympathy, and that for her, praying might be the only thing she knows how to do well (because she certainly doesn't know how to manage well). But I do not want her praying for me, I want her to value my position enough not to cut it in the first place.

And also, maybe the old lady card was reproduction "art," but hello! Could you be more insulting? All I could think while looking at it was that I am going to be jobless and penniless, sadly staring out my bleak window with nothing but a cat and maybe a can of sardines to keep me going.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ancient History, 1912, What's The Difference?

Co-worker: What did y'all do this weekend?

Me: My parents took us to see the Louvre exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta.

Co-worker: The what?

Me: The Louvre exhibit... At the art museum.

Co-worker: ?

Me: It's a bunch of ancient stuff.

Co-worker: Like the Titanic?

Me: No... not like the Titanic.

The Inaugural Post

The office can be a strange place. There are days you feel like you've accomplished a lot, there are days you watch the clock slowly work its way toward 5:00, and there are days you wonder why you're even there.

And then there are the days you marvel at the fact you haven't yet gone on a murderous rampage in response to the blatant stupidity, the unbridled ignorance, the unparalleled jackassery you see every day. And the worst part? You don't feel safe blogging about it, because everyone knows it's not safe to blog about work. No one wants to get dooced.

dooced: Getting fired because of something you wrote on your blog. Blogger Heather Armstrong coined the phrase in 2002 after being fired from her job for writing about her coworkers on her blog, Dooce.

Do you feel like a lonely sane island in an ocean of crazy? Do you sometimes wonder if your entire office is a reality show and you're not in on the joke? Do you find yourself wondering how your coworkers have made it thus far in life, because surely someone that stupid would have accidentally shot their own face off by now?

I don't know how so many crazy people manage to hold down jobs. But I do know that you are not alone.

And so I bring you They Took My Stapler, a place for people to vent anonymously about the crazy people they encounter in their day-to-day work lives. All you have to do is this: E-mail me, the Webmaster, at with your tales of colleague incompetence, whether it be your boss, your coworker, or a client. I promise not to identify you on this site, nor should you identify by name the colleague in question or any company either of you has ever been affiliated with. You can trust me -- I'll even throw in a few stories of my own (believe me, I could fill a book) without ever revealing my own name.

Ideally, I'll post once a day with an anonymous person's tale of workplace disgruntlement. Because if you can't commiserate with other sane people, well, then, nothing good can come of that. Just ask all those postal workers.

You do not have to be a blogger. Your stories do not have to be recent; it's perfectly fine to tell tales of past coworker transgressions. All I ask is that you keep the tone lighthearted and funny (though a little contained vitriol here and there never hurt anyone.) Basically, no stories of workplace violence, harassment, or other depressing stuff. Deal? Deal.

Now, vent away!