April 27, 2007

Thank goodness that's one I don't have to deal with.

Megabeth is under olfactory attack at work.

I really don't care for perfumey smells, either. Reba never wears perfume, which is really sorta odd, considering how girly-girl she is. In any event, though, all those heavy smells have never really appealed to me, except this one girl I went to college with who wore Lauren perfume, and I still get a limbic reaction anytime I smell it. But otherwise, no. I just like the plain old, "I bathe every day whether I need to or not," smell.

And thankfully, no one here where I work engages in musk anointing, but if Megabeth's gigantic utility megalopoly employer is anything like the bureaucrazy here, she might be running into trouble.

It seems like it's become inordinately difficult to deal forthrightly and openly and directly with disagreeable workplace behaviors. In most cases, unless you know the person well, you can't just say "I know you don't realize it, but I'm having a terrible time with my sinuses. I hate to ask, but could you use a different perfume, or less of it, while we're at work?"

Or if it's more than one, something like this to everyone, "I realize this is a selfish request, but lately seem to have developed some breathing problems related to perfume smells, and I would just like to ask you help me out by not wearing a lot to work." If you know everyone well enough, more groveling would be nice, because you do realize you're asking people to change something they don't think is a problem.

Back in the olden days, people understood about wearing some of that strong outdoor-grade perfume while indoors was poor etiquette (along with producing BO, halitosis, and taking care of other personal hygiene matters in public such as brushing hair or trimming fingernails), and would have acted startled that they had been the cause of such distress and agreed to limit the usage of the offending scent. Oh, sure--they would have gone home and complained about it and said what an ass you were, but in public they would have been nicer about it simply out of good manners. And part of good manners is also the way in which the request is made--sure, you're about to gag, but you still have to be apologetic for bringing up the subject.

Nowadays, there are no such things as manners. Tell anyone--even nicely and apologetically--that you're having trouble breathing because of their perfume now, and you're likely to get a huffy putdown of "WELL, YOU STINK, TOO!" along with a harrassment complaint and a ratcheted up level of stink, to boot.

Because not only do we not have manners anymore, we are apparently legally obligated to hire and retain people who are certifiably psychopathically insane.

So any sort of legitimate complaint about one of your coworkers (again, unless it's someone who's actually your friend) gets dealt with by a circuitous route designed not to bring notice of offense to the actual offender, but to level it against everyone, so no one gets offended or upset or sues. So you get a policy rewrite, and everyone is put on notice that they are to be sensitive to anyone's problems and not exacerbate them by doing anything insensitive, and the person who actually is stinking up the place with her oily funk never gets the clue that the policy is aimed directly at her, but she does see an opportunity to use the new policy to complain about Bob, who walks through every day at 3:15 using a concealed mind-ray device to read her thoughts about how George Bush is trying to have her killed.

SO, my advice to add to those of Megabeth's commentors?

Proceed with caution. If this isn't someone who can take a friendly suggestion, proceed with even more caution. Document your sensitivity to particular odors. After that, if it's a friend, ask her to tone it down a bit because your doctor says you'll suffocate if she doesn't, and hope for the best.

If it's a crazy lady, go to the boss, show him your physician's report of your disability, and request to have your workspace modified to accomodate your disability under the terms of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which shall include, but shall not be limited to, installation of a system of ambient air scrubbers to remove noxious odors from any place you are assigned to work, monitoring of ambient air quality to ensure that your workplace is within levels prescribed by your doctor as safe, and that the letter P be stricken from the alphabet. (You always have to throw in impossible stuff so you can negotiate it out later when they want to balk about your demands. I mean, come ON--who'd ever fall for that ol' "air quality monitoring" ploy!?)

Anyway, boss will see that this is much more trouble than it's worth, and will bring the offensive perfume-wearer in for a conference, and afterwards will happily notify you that your complaint has been resolved by moving you to the basement and making the perfume-wearer your replacement.

See--it all works itself out in the end.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2007 12:46 PM

You're probably right about being moved to the basement and being replaced.

At an all-staff meeting a month ago, one of the clerks asked if the cleaning lady would please not vacuum between the cubicles during the middle of the workday, as it was very difficult to work with fifty-bazillion decibels of vacuum in your ears. Five minutes after the staff meeting, one of the other clerks (friend of the cleaning lady) relayed the information, and five minutes later the cleanging lady was on the phone complaining to her boss that WE were complaining! And that was, on the surface, a reasonable request.

Said facilities services worker also wears a ton of perfume...I hate to think what would happen if we tried to address THAT.

Posted by: Diane at April 27, 2007 01:53 PM

Well, I bet you'd have lots of important paperwork sucked right off your desks, you ungrateful bunch of whiny complainers!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at April 27, 2007 02:00 PM