I wrote recently about the joys of working from home. One of the benefits I forgot to mention in that post came into focus today with observations from two fronts. A friend of mine on Facebook was having a righteous (and entirely justified) online whinge about the inconsiderate jackass in her office who over-nuked a Hot Pocket (or Diarrhea -Pocket as she as she lovingly referred to it) in the work microwave allowing the stench to waft over the entire office. This is the same office I worked in where a colleague once stuffed a rather odoriferous roast beef sandwich into a locked “shred only” bin, just to see how long it took for Iron Mountain to come around and empty the bins. It was only two weeks (their regular schedule as it turns out) but it was a horrible two weeks to be stuck in the office. Time, air, and a dark environment do not do lovely things for roast beef, mustard, ketchup and white bread as it turns out.
And it wasn’t just there I experienced the phenomenon of the olfactory challenged co-worker. In a previous office there was an individual who liked to enjoy a bag of microwave popcorn at her desk in the afternoon. And as if the smell of ultra buttered popcorn drifting across the office in the late afternoon wasn’t enough to trigger memories of dim movie theatres reeking of pseudo-buttered snacks and a desire to break out a window and gulp in the sweet fresh air, she also managed to burn the stuff. Every afternoon. The smell of brunt popcorn, burnt paper bag, overworked microwave circuitry and 1500 souls full of hatred for the evil being who perpetrated the popcorn burning in the first place is a stench that doesn’t quickly leave the memory.
Shortly after I first moved to Singapore we nearly had to evacuate our office here when someone snuck a durian fruit into the office for lunch. For those who aren’t familiar, durian is a popular fruit here in southeast Asia. The popularity is lost on me though. After you crack through the spiny watermelon sized husk you get to this soft fleshy fruit in the center that looks, smells and feels for all the world like nothing so much as a pile of diaper-leavings. In the office on the day of the incident the initial concern was that the building had a gas leak – yes, it is just that bad. I have to assume that whoever first cracked into a durian and decided this seemed like something good to eat was either in extreme risk of starving to death or had recently had his eyes, nose and taste buds removed. Most public transportation in Singapore as well as many hotels and apartment blocks completely forbid bringing durian on the premises. Knowing all this it takes a brave (and completely insensitive) soul indeed to bring the horrible food into an office where other people with perfectly functioning noses intend to work.
Which brings me to the other reminder I got today. No, not another durian incident, but something much much worse. In fact this rockets straight to the top ten on the “freaky shit that happened while working in Asia” list. Twice this week I’ve found myself pulled from my quiet home office into our downtown office for meetings. Entering the office this afternoon I became aware of a sort of sickly sweet but rotten smell. Sort of like if you mixed a bag of easter candy into a bowl of cabbage stew and let it sit in the sun for a couple of days. The source was quickly clear – there sitting on my desk in a lovely presentation box was a dried deer penis.
A gift from a partner in China our boss our hero had kindly brought this delightful item into the office for a bit of show and tell and barf. It defies explanation. What sort of business negotiation does one engage in that eventually leads one to think “Ah-ha! What this kind man needs is a dried dick to take home with him!” I can’t even begin to imagine how far the conversation must have strayed… how muddled the translations must have been… how confused the various parties must have become that this seemed for even one second like a good idea. I’m well accustomed to business honors following a different protocol in Asia – everything from where you sit in a meeting, to how and when you enter a conference room, to who gets to eat the eyes out of a traditional fish dinner are all subtle things you learn to adapt to, but this… this male ego diminishing, office ambience wrecking, dried bit of genitalia… this is terra nova for me.
All I can say is, work stinks enough as it is. Did we really have to make it stink so literally as well? I beg of you kind readers – be aware of the sensibilities of your coworkers. Burn not your Hot Pockets and popcorn! Leave the durian at home and the wildlife uncastrated! We all just want to come in to work, get our jobs done and go home with as little sensory assault as possible. If nothing else it gives me yet another reason to work from home. At least there if something stinks I can just blame it on the dog…
Which reminds me – I need to wrap this up now. I suspect I’ll be pulled back to the office again tomorrow and I need to go home and get a big pot of my three alarm chili (extra beans please!) cooking in time for breakfast in the morning…
- Malaysian politician floored by stinky fruit (telegraph.co.uk)