They walk among us

Nov. 17, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

They prance around looking like ordinary responsible citizens, but they are really just barnacles on the rusty hull of society.

They spend their days masquerading as normal people, and so perfect is their disguise that they walk among us unnoticed.

In fact, we might only know them by the results of their actions, or, in some cases, by their inaction.

I was reminded of this again today when I walked into the loo at the office, and for the 900th time discovered that the hand towel dispenser was as empty as a journalist’s wallet the night before payday.

This means that once again, some slacker used the last towel and decided it was up to the next guy to replenish the supply.

This is a situation I encounter about once each week.

I suppose we should consider it a good thing that those who eschew towel-changing duties even bother to wash their hands, but it would be nice if they would take the time to learn where the towels come from.

I have replaced so many towel rolls I can do it with my eyes closed standing on my head.

Everyone who works in this office is older than 18, and since we are all adults here, one would think that this kind of thing should not be a problem. Unfortunately, it is.

One might be inclined to give the shirkers the benefit of the doubt, and consider the possibility that they simply didn’t realize that they used the last towel, but the evidence does not support this.

Some of these malingerers have sufficient initiative to use the key on top of the dispenser to open the hopper and remove the cardboard tube and the last shred of toweling, but it is apparently too much trouble for them to walk a few steps down the hall to get a new roll from the cabinet and refill the dispenser. Instead, they just leave it hanging open and walk away.

Perhaps these prima donnas (and it’s no good saying guys can’t be prima donnas; they definitely can) think that they are too busy or too important to take on such a menial task. It is not clear why they think the rest of us have any more time or are less busy than they are, but I suppose it is possible.

This is just one small, albeit irksome, example of the attitude that some people have when it comes to simple everyday tasks. They seem convinced that it is someone else’s job to clean up after them.

Perhaps they learned this early in life when their mommies were still changing their soiled nappies for them. Perhaps they liked having someone clean up their messes so much they decided to continue the program for life.

It seems to be a chronic problem in many workplaces. There are always some people who make a mess in the common areas and expect the trash fairies to magically appear and clean up after them.

They spill things on tables and floors, abandon skanky dishes in sinks, and leave their little science projects stinking up refrigerators for someone else to find and clean up.

As a result of their actions, the rest of us get to listen to countless lively lectures about cleaning up the kitchen, even those of us who rarely set foot in that kitchen, and never eat there.

Presumably, these are the same people who can’t hit a wastebasket with a balled-up paper towel, even when they are standing next to the target (and are incapable of bending down to retrieve their errant trash).

One must admire the resourcefulness of some of these model citizens though. They display amazing engineering prowess by stacking trash a foot or two above the rim of a garbage can, cantilevering paper plates and other objects to allow them to stack their rubbish ever higher in elaborate pyramids to avoid having to break down and take out the trash.

The same is true when it comes to recycling. They apparently believe that as long as they are able to cram one more item in and squeeze the bin closed, it is not really full, and therefore it must be the next person’s, not their own responsibility to empty the recycling container.

Never mind that they leave booby traps of cans and bottles waiting to explode out of the bin and cascade all over the floor as soon as the next unsuspecting victim opens the lid. In the mind of a slacker, as long as he is able to get the lid closed, it is not his problem, and that is all that matters.

We may not like it, but in the current economic climate, it seems likely that most employers will not have the budget to hire restroom attendants or kitchen monitors to clean up after people, so we may as well resign ourselves to the fact that, unless we are fortunate enough to work with our mothers, we are going to have to act like adults and do some things for ourselves.

One wonders if these workplace weasels are the same people who think it is OK to toss garbage out of their car windows or treat the world as their private dumping ground.

Perhaps they are laboring under the misapprehension that other people enjoy cleaning up after them. Maybe they think they are doing others a favor by providing entertainment opportunities for armies of dedicated volunteers who get to patrol highway rights of way picking up trash, or spend quality time in the great outdoors fishing junk out of lakes and streams.

If this is true, maybe the perpetrators are not just a bunch of lazy slobs.

Maybe they are really thoughtful individuals who believe they are providing a public service as they walk among us scattering trash in their wakes and leaving little jobs for others to do. Perhaps they think they are giving people an opportunity to do the cleaning they so obviously enjoy, and affording them the warm feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping someone else.

I suppose it’s possible, but the warm feeling I get when I see that empty dispenser is a far cry from satisfaction.