Say Goodbye to Hollywood
In any corporate setting, there were seven deadly sins you could commit. In our little world of corporate bliss, these sins were committed regularly, often with callous disregard for privacy, decency, and humanity.
By far, the greatest of these—the 1st deadly sin—was touching another’s laptop screen or computer monitor. There was nothing more unnerving than demonstrating something for a colleague and watching them lunge toward the screen with an outstretched index finger. Whenever this happened, I’d recoil in horror. As their greasy digit jetted toward my pristine LCD surface, I’d secretly pray the offender would pull up just shy of the surface and hover in their effort to literally point something out. A few of my MVTS cohorts did have the good manners and good sense not to fondell screens. And one of my colleagues routinely used her fake nails to tap my screen. Although still a technically a sin, I could forgive her, because her nails left nary a smudge.
“The touchers” had become a well-worn inside joke between Jules and me. Since she was the colleague most likely to be drawing her pointy finger to clarify something, and vice versa, it was a relief that she too understood the sanctity of the screen. I shudder to think what would have become of our work marriage if she was a serial screen molester.
Unfortunately, there was a notorious toucher who routinely visited our cubes. She was a business analyst with whom we regularly collaborated. She rarely visited just one of us. Whenever the toucher was in Jules’ cube, likely marring her screen with all manner of fingerprint graffiti, all I could think was please don’t come to my cube, please don’t come to my cube… But my prayers were often in vain. Inevitably, the toucher would sashay into my cube and proceed to drag her evil greasy flesh pencil all over my monitor. At times, she’d do a press-and-drag with such intensity that she’d distort the colors displayed on the monitor. After she’d leave, Jules and I would shut off the display on our monitors and compare the carnage. We’d try to determine who suffered the more brutal drive-by fingering. Often our screens would look like they’d been left out in a garden laying screen up and vandalized by a gang of advancing slugs. After a consensus was reached on who got more aggressively fingered, we’d head to the copy room for some monitor wipes to mop up the damage.
The 2nd deadly sin was whistling. Pursing your lips to make a shrill melodic stain on the pristine white noise of the corporate catacombs was tantamount to laying down a thunderous fart in church. Whistling had no place in an office. Whistling had no place anywhere else for that matter. In fact, the only acceptable whistling I was aware of was in the opening minute of the Scorpion’s classic anti-Communism anthem “Winds of Change”.
Beyond the shrill disruptive force whistling inevitably exerted on the eardrums of anyone within earshot, it was one step away from signing out loud, or playing a flute. It always struck me that everyone hates it when someone whistles, even other whistlers. So why does anyone whistle? Despite what the seven dwarfs believed, no one should whistle while they work.
We had a pair of whistlers at MVT. Both were older gentleman who clearly felt entitled to impose their melodic wills on us all. One of these oral bandoleros mainly whistled in the restroom. I always felt he did this, because he didn’t want to disturb the rest of his cube mates. Did he love whistling so much, that he just had to cut loose whenever he was in the restroom? Did stifling his urge to whistle throw him into a whistling fit every time he had to cut a whizz? Like alcoholism or drug addiction, does this unquenchable desire to whistle secretly afflict so many? I was thinking that MVT needed a whistling room akin to the designated smoking areas on the back patio. This would solve two problems. First, no one, except other whistlers, would be subjected the infernal jubilation. Second, if all of these whistling fools were in the same space whistling away, maybe they’d finally understand how fucking annoying it was.
The 3rd deadly sin was clipping your nails at work. Like whistling, the noise of the two clipper blades closing on the nail—launching it into orbit on an unpredictable trajectory—was cringeworthy. The racket of a cubicle mani aside, there was the distinct possibility that the remnant of fingernail would land outside the boundaries of the clipper’s cubicle. Why anyone would leave small remnants of themselves scattered all over their workspace would forever baffle me.
Jules shared a cube wall with our area’s nail tech. Every time the high-pitched clipping noise would emanate from over her wall, she’d stand up and execute the universal charades maneuver for gagging. In fact, any time she even mentioned nail clipping, she’d pretend to stick her finger down her throat and screw up her face. She was easily the most onuxophobic person I knew. Our clipper was neat and meticulous, however. I mentioned to Jules that I did manage to catch him clipping one time, and he was bent over launching nail bits into his waste basket. She was not impressed, she screwed up her face and acted out a full body retching.
The 4th deadly sin—mainly a male infraction—was failing to wash your hands after pissing. As the classic cartoon aptly illustrates, if someone was willing to handle their package, then forego the trip to the sink, they were basically walking around with a cock where their hand once was. If a handshake was in order, I might as well shake his junk. If I was next up to use the conference room laptop and mouse after Dick Dapper, I might as well drag his package all over the mousepad. If I was up to use the conference room phone after Cocky McClean, I might as well dial his unit. If I had to open the break room fridge after Mr. Pristine Prick, I might as well grab his penis and give it a gentle tug.
The 5th deadly sin was making microwave popcorn in the break room. Sitting in a 12′ x 12′ space filled with the aroma of radiated chemical sludge that causes popcorn to pop inside of a sealed bag inside of a sealed microwave was no break. In fact, being overcome by synthetic butter fumes in a break room was nearly as treacherous as sealing yourself inside of a shower while scrubbing the grout with bleach and a toothbrush. And just like the noxious aroma of bleach, microwave popcorn stank could linger for days.
We had a gal on our floor who was on a “popcorn diet”. As far as I could tell, this required that she exchange her normal lunch with a sack of the toxic corn. Her diet was making the break room uninhabitable for a few hours each day to poor air quality. While this regimen was doing very little for her waistline, it was doing plenty to build resentment. So much so, that it spawned a dark fantasy deep in my psyche.
As I caught her marching down the hall with her packet of popcorn, I would follow her into the break room. As she pushed the door release on the microwave to insert the WMD, I’d violently intercept it. When she turned, startled, I would slap her across both cheeks with it, throw it on the floor, and stomp it to death with my wingtip. I would scrape the obliterated bag and neon-orange goo from the floor and my shoe, wave it in her face and yell, “Pop this bitch!” I’d throw it into the microwave and slam the door. Then, I would turn and exit quietly, leaving her to contemplate the aftermath of her daily chemical weapons assault.
The 6th deadly sin was also an olfactory offense. On one end of the spectrum there were the ladies who dabbed on a bit too much perfume and their counterparts who splashed on a bit too much aftershave or cologne. On the other end were the mostly men who opted for the au naturel aroma of Eau de B.O. There was a scale of acceptable stink in any corporate setting, and the goal was to stink right in the middle. These two extremist groups stunk to high heaven and like hell, respectively.
There were numerous days when I trudged up the stairs to my cubicle, not with some double-stepper eating my ass, but with the fragrance ghost of the woman preceded me. If you can leave a fragrance ghost of yourself in a stairwell, for any length of time, maybe take it easy a bit with the Bath & Body Works holiday gift basket.
Then there was the rare dude who could mark an entire stairwell with his bracingly sweet scent. I always wondered if these dudes forgot they were accounting clerks, because they smelled like male models strutting the catwalk at fashion week in Paris. The universal cologne of the accounting clerk was Ivory soap, not Eternity for men.
While the over-scented could slap your face with their aroma, the unscented could smack you upside the head. I often wondered if the two dudes on our floor with chronic B.O. just couldn’t find a deodorant strong enough to keep their organic aroma at bay, or they just didn’t bother with hygiene at all. Regardless, everyone suffered as a result. It struck me that these folks clearly couldn’t smell themselves. What a super power that was, as they were kryptonite for the rest of us.
The 7th deadly sin was PowerPoint. Not the most egregious, but easily the most insidious of the lot, PowerPoint presentations were a punch line in and of themselves. And yet nary a meeting transpired without someone launching into a deck of mind-numbing slides. The same people who’d dive for their phones when a PowerPoint deck was projected onto a conference room screen would show up at the next meeting only to launch into their own presentation. PowerPoint presentations were like family reunions: everyone loathed them, yet no one dared skip them. Nearly all PowerPoint presentations started with an apology. If nothing else, at least the presenters were honest.
Excerpt from Finding Fidelity, the forthcoming novel from Blake Charles Donley