The Grossest Thing You've Seen at Work

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In the immortal words of Blink-182, work sucks. It sucks because it is gross, and people are gross. The more people, the grosser it is. Coronavirus prep has made office workers and other colleagues less gross, but not enough. Sneezing now makes people suspicious, which seems unfair given that it is still winter and coughing can’t be helped. The hysteria has also lead me to think about other social cues that go ignored year-round. What about all the other bad behaviors displayed in the workplace when there isn’t a public health crisis?

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I once saw a middle-aged woman shave her legs in the communal sink, and that’s not even in the top three worst things I’ve seen at a job. Instead of listing them here, I want to hear from you: What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen at work? If I don’t get at least one booger-related tale, I will be very disappointed.

But first, it’s time to look at last week’s winners: Here are your worst birthday stories.

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Bananabunny, this is the saddest shit I have ever heard:

My worst birthday (so far!!!) was my 9th. My parents decided that I was ready to help take care of the big dog I’d/they’d always wanted, so as an early gift, they gave me an Old English Sheepdog puppy about 4 weeks before my birthday. I was in puppy heaven for the first couple days until he became very sick, and was diagnosed with Canine parvovirus. With our vet’s help, we nursed him through what seemed to be the worst of it.

And then on the actual day of my birthday, I was sitting on the floor beside him, petting him and just admiring his sweet puppy face while he slept... and while I was sitting there, he had a heart attack in his sleep. My mom loaded us up in the backseat and we flew to the vet’s office just a couple miles from home, but my sweet puppy died in my arms on the way there. I’ll never forget what felt like, or what it felt like to go back home with empty arms.

Every birthday since, I’ve remembered him. My birthday is this weekend (yay?!) and I was just thinking of him earlier today.

Chief Wiggum, P.I., you and your wife are tied:

This may not be seen because I’m gray, but my wife and I were just debating last night which one of us had a worse one (I say hers was worse, she says mine) so the timing just seems too perfect not to put it out there:

Hers: My wife was turning 12 and her mom and aunt set up a nice simple party with plenty of good food in the house with games on the lawn for the kids. Everyone was having a good time except for the future Mrs. Wiggum, who would try to play but kept crying because her dad wasn’t there. This is before cell phones so her mom called people but couldn’t find him, he definitely wasn’t working because his boss was his father-in-law, who was at the party. So she’s crying when her drunk uncle (drunkle?) trips and goes head first through the mirror by the door, bleeding profusely from his head and changing the party location to the ER. After hours of her party day waiting for his stitches the remaining family decided to just hit baskin robbins ice cream on the way home, where they finally found her father, sitting in a booth with a woman and a child- and that is how my wife’s family found out about her dad’s second family. He thought they’d be busy at the party, he said.

Mine: So there was this guy who showed up sporadically throughout my childhood to cause chaos, in order to avoid names we’ll call him my dad. When I was 6 or 7 my parents bought a cabin from a family friend who had it left to him and wanted to unload it fast and cheap, not because there was a problem but they wanted everything off the books. So for a couple of years we would have parties, getaways there. So my 10th birthday my mom gets my friends and we go for an overnight, I’d been making a big deal to friends about the place and as we got there all my friends were all oohs and ahs. My mom is unpacking the van and sends me to unlock the door, but I couldn’t get it to open. I didn’t really think about it and went to the side door that had a trick to opening, I got in and let my mom in, forgetting to mention the lock issue to her. So all is great, we cook dinner over fire, and are doing smores under the stars when we see police lights pulling up. Officers get out and talk with my mom, which begins calmly, then gets loud on her end, then leads to panic and anger/fear I rarely saw on my mom, at which point my friends and I watched as my mother, despite, vocal protest, was handcuffed. One officer drove her away while the other waited with us for another car for us kids. We were taken to a holding area for what felt like hours until finally we were released with my mom, whose eyes alternated between releasing tears and fire. And that is how we found out my dad, who we hadn’t heard from in 7 or 8 months at that point, had not only lost the family cabin gambling, but there were fraud-related warrants out for his arrest tied to the sale and other, we’ll call them business transactions, hence the police (in addition to the trespassing). Didn’t see him again for 3 years I think it was.

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lord of the dense, I’m so sorry. This is the worst:

My worst was my 6th. It was my first year in school and so the first one where a bunch of kids were invited. And a lot of kids showed up. Sounds good, right? Problem was my alcoholic mother was in no way equipped to deal with a houseful of little kids and parents she didn’t know. So she was taking frequent trips to her bedroom for glasses of attempted personality. The inevitable collision of party chaos and drunk happened and she went into a rage over who knows what and threw everybody out. She then screamed at me (remember I’m 6) that I would never have another birthday party and actually took my cake out to the garbage can in the alley to throw it away. I did get my presents....11 months later at Xmas. I knew that because they were wrapped in birthday paper.

I didn’t have another actual party until my 21st.

Throw your uncool coworkers under the bus in the comments below. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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The Ghost of James Madison's Rage Boner

In Navy boot camp, everyone spends a week or so working in the base mess hall cooking food for all the other recruits. When Seaman Recruit Ghost had to take his turn, he was assigned to the mess hall bakery. This bakery was run by this tall, rangy guy who had been in the Navy for 16 years, yet was only a third-class petty officer as a result of repeated screwups that either got him busted down in rate or prevented him from getting promoted. He was kind of Jeckle-Hyde in that most of the time he was amiable enough and not too bad to work for, but he was forever trying too hard to get us to like him in a seriously creepy fashion. Put another way, if you told me he was later arrested for being a serial killer, I would not have been that surprised. We and everyone else called him Lurch, so I’ll continue with that.

Now, working in the mess hall bakery mean roughly 14-hour days cooking biscuits, pies, brownies, and other stuff for the chow line, cleaning it all up, then starting all over again. I cut up so many cherry pies that to this day I still cannot stand the smell of them.

One day, in an effort to combat the mind-numbing boredom, I and a couple of other recruits discovered that residue left behind on the giant brownie tins we used could be scraped up and rolled together into something that strongly resembled shit. Making a bunch of fake turds was good for about 15 minutes of amusement before Lurch realized what we were doing and chewed us out for goofing off. As we got back to work, we wondered if we could do something else with our turds.

So one of the other guys says, “Let’s stick one in the milk locker.”

The milk locker was a big refrigerated space right around the corner where the mess hall stored all the blocks of milk. As this was the middle of summer and bakery was usually around 90 degrees because of the ovens, we often went in there to cool off. So, ha ha, one of us surreptitiously left one of our brownie-turds in there on our next break.

Naturally, there was a big uproar when it was discovered because no one wanted to inspect it closely enough to realize it was fake. The Master Chief in charge of the mess hall announced at our morning meeting the next day that we had Phantom Shitter on our hands. Whoever was responsible was going to the brig, because goddamnit he was going to find him.

The bakery crew spent the rest of the day trying to keep our heads down and not laugh too hard about what we’d done, because the Master Chief was royally pissed off and stalking around barking at everyone.

Shortly after lunch, he comes stalking into the bakery and bellows at the top of his lungs:

“LURCH, THERE’S ANOTHER GODDAMN TURD IN THE MILK LOCKER AND THEY TELL ME YOUR GUYS ARE IN THERE ALL DAY GRAB-ASSING AND WASTING TIME. YOU PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TELL ME WHO THE FUCK IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!

As we scattered away from him, I realized the MC was holding a plastic bag with some kind of brown mass inside it. Now, several things immediately occurred to me: First, we hadn’t made any brownies that day. Second, everything from the previous day had been long since cleaned up. The end of every shift included an inspection of our space before we turned it over to the night crew, and everything had to be spotless. So there were no fake turds left over. We’d left only one fake turd in the milk locker anyway, and they’d found it.

But none of this registered with Lurch. He groaned loudly and rolled his head around.

“Oh, chief, that’s no turd. These boots were making fake ones from the brownies yesterday. Here, let me show you.”

He took the bag from the disbelieving Master Chief. A more socially well-adjusted person would have stopped with opening the bag and inspecting it. Lurch did not. Instead, as I and everyone in the bakery watched in horror, he extracted the turd and took a bite out of it.

The look on his face as he began to chew and slowly realized his error will be etched into my memory until I go to my grave.

Where this turd – which was most definitely a turd – came from I do not know. I can only imagine that our prank inspired some copycat to deposit a real one in the milk locker.

After a few horrible seconds, Lurch suddenly began coughing and spitting and then ran to the nearest sink to rinse out his mouth. The Master Chief, who had probably spent 25 years in the Navy by that point and had surely witnessed horrors no human should ever see, was standing there slack-jawed at what he’d just witnessed. When Lurch leaned back from the sink, his face turned to stone.

“Lurch. Come with me.”

We never saw Lurch again. Fifteen minutes later, another chief arrived and ordered us to stop cooking and sterilize the entire bakery. Later that day, another petty officer took over Lurch’s job. We learned only that he’d been relieved and would not be back.

To this day, I can’t eat box brownies.