Beyond the Triangle

Gross Outs







Bravo to the people who do the jobs we don’t want to do.

Firemen, for instance. They run into burning buildings when we’re running out. And trash collectors. Gathering up garbage on a sweltering afternoon is challenging enough without also contending with those of us who neglect to properly tie up our trash.

Then there are the managers of people. People with all sorts of unsavory personal habits of which they may or may not be aware. It is a good manager’s thankless task to tread into tricky territory to point out such behaviors and put an end to them.

“Your bar man needs a tissue” I told the manager of a fine restaurant recently.

“Oh,” she answered questioningly.

“Yes, he sniffs constantly and loudly,” I told her.

His timing was so spot on that every 45 seconds, just like a dripping faucet-no pun intended, he would sniff deeply in an successful attempt to dislodge his vast nasal congestion. His was a nasty habit. And he was clueless about the impact it had. Then despite the fact that we were the only customers in a bar and he was a barman he never asked us if we wanted a drink. So maybe his oblivious nature transcended hygiene and good manners and ventured into every aspect of his life including his career.

A similar “sniffling” incident happened on a plane once when the fella next to me actually shook the seat with every nasal inhalation. I finally asked him if he would like a Kleenex. “No,” he said, kindly thanking me for my concern, and enthusiastically continuing his, let’s be frank here, gross habit.

Cintas Corporation conducted a survey last year to identify which office behavior Americans cited as the “grossest.” Sniffling and wiping your nose on your sleeve both ranked respectably high in the poll.

This next subject could have been included too. I was in the bathroom of my golf club the other day when an administrator exited the toilet and never washed her hands. Really? Have we learned nothing from ebola, e-coli and other diseases? Remember the Jack In The Box debacle when undercooked hamburgers killed 3 children? The SEATTLE TIMES reported then that uncooked meat and the e-coli bacteria contained within was not the only probable cause of illness. ”2-year-old Celina Shribbs (had not) eaten tainted burgers before she died of the infection. In all, 48 patients got sick not from eating hamburgers but by coming into contact with someone who had. Most likely contributing to the secondary infections was unwashed or poorly washed hands. Somebody – at day care, school, home, work – passed on the deadly bacteria by hand.”

The centers for disease control (CDC) say hand washing is “the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection from bacteria, pathogens and viruses causing diseases and food-borne illnesses.” The health organization actually includes hand washing instructions on their website. How sad is that?

And yet you still see restaurants sporting signs reminding workers that “employees must wash their hands” after they use the bathroom.

One U.S. Senator has a novel suggestion for companies whose employees won’t comply. “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says we DON’T require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

No doubt, a novel approach to corporate suicide.

But most signs put distance between the sayer and the sayee. Nobody has to be confronted or courageous.  But they are rarely as effective as a good old verbal command.

Some office workers I know had to endure the unending daily flatulence of a co-worker. There was not enough money on earth to make any of them address that issue themselves. So they took their complaint up the corporate ladder to the “Big Man” being paid enormous sums to manage more than the personal hygiene of his employees. Or so he thought.

Luckily for these employees the Big Man subscribed to the same philosophy as our 33rd president, Harry S. Truman, who once famously remarked, “The Buck Stops Here.” And I understand the Big Man’s office is a much less fragrant but happier operation now. And you wonder why these guys get paid the big bucks.



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