Once upon a workplace, I received a parcel and put the small cardboard box it came in in the rubbish bin. This was one of those workplaces with like ten million bins, each for a limited class of rubbish. I put my box in the “recycling” bin, because cardboard. Anyway, I went to lunch, then came back… and found someone had fished the box out of the bin and left it on my desk (it was a parcel, so it literally had my name on it). No note, but I got the message: I had committed the cardinal workplace sin on Using The Wrong Bin. What was the Right Bin? I had no idea. In fact, I still had no idea three years later when I left that job and left the box in my office cupboard because I’d been too scared to try throwing it out a second time.
In that same workplace, some years earlier, there’d been a Your Mothers Don’t Work Here1 fight over dirty dishes in the kitchen. At one point, a Laws of the Kitchen sign appeared that threatened any unwashed dishes left on the sink would be thrown out at the end of the day. The threat was empty, however, and no one was enforcing it. Because I’m usually the first in the office, I decided I’d be the dishes police. Except I didn’t throw anything out; every morning, I’d go wash all the dirty dishes and then hide them at the back of one of the cupboards. For those few brief, beautiful weeks, the kitchen did actually get a little bit cleaner.
It was never going to last. One of the dirty mugs I’d hidden turned out to belong to A Dude who decided to be exempt from the Law of the Kitchen. Upon finding his mug had been removed, as per policy, he flipped the fuck out, demanding to know who’d “stolen” his mug and tearing apart the entire office to find it. I did not, in fact, confess to being the kitchen fairy, though eventually Dude managed to find the stash of dishes and, thus, his mug. The next morning, the threatening sign was gone and, thus, ended the reign of the Mildly Clean Office Kitchen.
There’s just one more thing, though. I did eventually learn who’d fished my box out of the bin; it had been one of the other middle managers. The same one, in fact, who’d put up the original Laws of the Kitchen sign.
The same one the Mug Dude directly reported to.
Office life really is very petty.
- … I know. [↩]