I’ve moved to a new office, and to my dismay, the break room is adjacent to the men’s restroom. If you sit in certain seats in the break room, you can see who enters and leaves that restroom. (The women’s is further down the hall.) This is a small office, and so the bathrooms are also relatively small. Seldom are there more than one person in the bathroom at any given time, though there are two stalls plus the urinal in there.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. On virtually all occasions that I see him in the vicinity, the oldest man in the office is leaving the restroom while the urinal is still flushing. We have automated sensors on our paper towel dispensers so you can hear the motor when it dispenses, and rare is the event where he’ll even go to the effort to even pretend that he’s washed his hands. This is an office where this man and others work with the general public in sales. (Sadly, this is his MO; he’s generally repellent, no combing his hair or tying his shoes, sometimes has body odor, and if not, smells like the cheap cigars he smokes outside so that others cannot sit outside as well.)

Apparently this has been going on for years before I came along. Another lady put up fliers from the CDC on the restroom doors instructing people on how to wash their hands, hoping he’d get the hint, but it didn’t last long on that door. Also, this is a government office; the supervisor knows about this problem and has done nothing.

I like to bring treats in to work, but I’m even more concerned with the upcoming holiday potlucks and how to handle something like this with a co-worker who everyone knows doesn’t wash his hands. Ever, apparently. Someone else brought some cookies in one day, and put some in a special baggie for this man, so he presumably wouldn’t put his disgusting hands in the bowl with the remainder of the cookies. It didn’t work.

It’s hard not to think about this when treats are brought in for everyone. I’m struggling to decide whether this is an etiquette issue or a public health issue. Maybe it’s both. I’m also struggling not to run around constantly with a bottle of disinfectant wipes. Surely someone has dealt with this and can give me some direction on how to handle this in a sane manner.   0924-14

If this is a government office, your supervisor has most likely done nothing because he can do nothing.   Due to the power of the employee union, it is virtually impossible to discipline or fire government employees deserving of it.   This is especially true of US government agencies where the requirements to terminate an employee are so rigorous that it almost never happens.   An employee would have to be convicted of a crime to be removed.   So, give up looking to management to address the problem because the likely scenario is that they cannot.

In order to bring treats for the entire office, you will have to think creatively on how to avoid your co-worker’s touching food.   Instead of a specific baggie for him, I suggest packing cookies in separate bags for each person and giving them their own treat bag.   They are then free to do with those cookies as they wish, namely eat them, give them away, take them home, trade them or put them back in the common break room area for someone else to consume.   Same goes for cakes, pies, breads,cupcakes…..bring it covered/wrapped with plastic wrap or in a carrier container, before lunch slice it up and place on small paper plates which you then individually cover with plastic wrap with a small container of plastic forks nearby.   One would hope he’s not so crass as to open the plastic wrap of more than one piece of cake to touch it with his fingers but will take his piece leaving everyone else’s untouched.

And so what if the hand washing sign disappeared from the door?  Put up another one only this time use one of the acrylic 8X10 document holders that mounts on a wall.  and if that disappears, do it again.


When We Overhear Distasteful Opinions

by admin on September 22, 2014

My husband and I recently attended a birthday party for our 4 year old nephew. It took place in a large backyard. There were a lot of people and everyone was having a great time.

There were small tables set up in the yard. My husband, our 16-month-old and I were sitting at one table eating dinner. A few feet away were three women. It was Fay, her 17 year old daughter Mary, and another woman I had not met. I know Fay and Mary as they had been at numerous family gatherings. My husband and I are not related to her.

Our tables were close enough together that it was impossible to not overhear their conversation, although nobody else was close enough to do so. They started discussing Fay’s job, which led into her mentioning a certain religious group always causes problems for her. As I am part of this religious group (Judaism – I am not sure if you want to include that or not), I was surprised at what I heard. The women then spent about 10 minutes talking about how “disgusting” people of this religion are, how they can’t stand them, and they are always the most difficult people to deal with. They also discussed many fallacies about the religion (sex through a sheet, etc.).

This whole experience was very upsetting to me and I was nearly in tears. I did not say anything because I did not feel that a 4 year old’s birthday party was the time or place. My husband agreed that I should stay silent.

My questions are: Did I do the right thing in staying quiet, or should I have politely informed them that I am part of that religion and find their comments highly offensive?

Do I discuss what happened with my sister-in-law? They are her family members and I do not want to upset her, but I do feel uncomfortable about being around them in the future. I had not originally planned on telling her. It should be mentioned that she is a wonderfully sweet person and would be devastated that something so upsetting had happened.

Thanks for your help!   0819-14

Had you said something to Fay you would have acknowledged that you were eavesdropping on their conversation whether you intended to do so or not.   Just because we may be placed in situations where we hear things we’d rather not does not mean you need to pay attention to it.   The presumption most people have is that their conversation is private and if it happens to be overheard, that unintentional hearers will, at least, pretend to have not heard it.  And you are correct that a 4-year-old’s birthday party is not the time for a confrontation on religious differences.

Judaism is not the only religion to  suffer from stereotypes and hatred.  Religion is not the only area of life in which people have negative opinions and stereotypes.  The point being that there are a lot of ugly opinions about a lot of things out there and a large part of learning to live a happy life is to recognize the badness, realize you cannot singlehandedly change all the badness in the world, don’t perpetuate any new badness, bide one’s time to speak out about badness when the circumstances favor it and, finally, never let someone else’s badness ruin your happiness.

As I understand it,  your sister-in-law is your husband’s sister, not yours.  I’m a firm believer that any information that has the potential to blow up one side of the family should be addressed by the spouse whose family is causing the drama.   That means it falls to your husband to use his discretion as to if, when and what he would say to his sister regarding the inclusion of guests to his family’s functions that hold obnoxious opinions.

As for you, I would never let the distasteful opinions of someone else dictate my relationships or actions.  If you love your sister-in-law, keep attending her family functions but now you know who the snake in the family grass is and you are under no obligation to get friendly with Fay.  Civil, yes, but bosom pals, no.



Dress Code For Shower Gifts

by admin on September 17, 2014

A friend of mine was invited to a co-workers baby shower and this was included in the invitation along with blank gift tags. I don’t know anything about the personality of this co-worker but to say the least my friend was a bit taken aback by the request. The baby showers I’ve been to, including my own, maintained a designated time to which the mother-to-be would ceremoniously open her gifts and all would ooh and aah at the goods. Is this something new that is surfacing? I would really like to know your thoughts and well as fellow e-hellions. Does this break some sort of etiquette rule? Would you abide by the request or “forget” that part of the invite? 0910-14


While it has noble intentions of increasing socializing time, one cannot dictate to guests bearing gifts just what those are to be and how you expect them to be wrapped.  It’s like having a dress code for gifts with admittance only given to those who conform to the dress code.

Every shower I’ve ever been to had social time during refreshments and most of us chatted with our seat neighbor during the gift opening section of the event as well, stopping at appropriate times to ohh over the newest cute thing that was unwrapped.  I have never felt under socialized at a shower.



Fruit Loopy Entitlement Pigs

by admin on September 15, 2014

I have a front yard planted with super dwarf fruit trees to give a green fence, and three grape vines being trained to grow over a pergola to give shade and fruit. The peach has been producing for a few years IF the frost doesn’t get it which happened so we only got a few fruit. The apple trees finally put some fruit on and held them, I got a few. The quince has been fruiting for a few years, it puts on BIG YELLOW apple things, and I’ve had to explain, those are NOT apples, they are quince (I love quince jam).  I don’t have a huge harvest, but it’s enough to enjoy some fresh fruit and I knew what was put on them (sprays or not).

There’s going to be a dip in temp so I spent morning plastic sheeting the screen house and moving container veggies in for the few days; then I get about another month of growing…. and this afternoon went to harvest the front yard. The red table grapes has been harvested for a few weeks and are nearly gone; the green table grapes turned out rock hard this year and it put on very few.  The Concord grape vine is happy and it gave. I am about through harvesting a full  cake pan off that and a car rolls by. I hear “she’s harvesting already” and they take off.

Less than ten minutes later, I’m getting off the step stool and up pulls a pickup truck and five adults and four kids get out. They start across my lawn with baskets and pails in hand and start looking at my trees!  I say, “‘Excuse me”,  to those descending on the quince,  “but that’s a QUINCE and it’s nowhere near ripe yet.” Someone picks a couple of the green grapes and tries them and does,  “Eww gross”, and spits.

The mother of this batch, starts in… “You don’t have any fruit?!?!?!?”    Um no, I didn’t get much harvest as spring frosted a lot. I have a big cake pan full of concord grapes in hand, the last of the harvest.

“Oh OH NO! I need 10 bushels of Peaches, 15 bushels of apples, and 6 flats of grapes! How can you not have ANY!?!?!?!?!”   She’s staring at the grapes I’m holding.

“What about the Farmer’s Market, their last weekend is this weekend? The (another state) peaches and (different state apples) looked really good last weekend.”

“Oh no no no. You always have LOTS in your yard, always. I just planned on coming over here!”

My DH has heard voices, and opened the front door. I hand him the grapes and make the gesture with my body blocking “close and lock door”. He does, stepping out of sight in house.

“What! Wait! Where are those going!”

“Into a pot dear, I’m making jelly tonight…”

“How dare…”

“No, how dare you, please leave NOW. And I counted the quince. If any leave I’ll turn the picture of your truck sitting in front of my house over to the police. Go, now, please go.”

I called the non emergency dispatch number and left a note for the dispatcher so they have a heads up in case I have to call on these … people. My lawn when it’s fully mature might do 1/3 to 1/5th the amount she was looking for… I mostly got a good fresh taste this year. Just because you can SEE it doesn’t mean it’s yours for the picking… 0911-14

I’ve encountered several land entitlement pigs over the past 30 years of home ownership.    Everything from kids walking right into the property to eat the cherries off the tree to hunters who sauntered into my pasture intent on shooting crows.   More recently a neighbor decided he and his employees liked our driveway better than his own until told that was not acceptable.  Anyone with a large piece of rural land can tell stories of hunters or people on motorcycles/ATVs trespassing to the point of  breaking down fences, cutting fence wires, etc.

In case of such narcissistic entitlement, the only remedy is a spine of titanium to confront it head on and not back down from the guaranteed guilt trip that is sure to justify the behavior.


About three months before he passed away, 17-year-old Sam Berns gave this TEDx speech explaining his dislike for obstacles and his strategies for beating them. When he was 2 years old, Sam was diagnosed with the rare disease progeria, which causes rapid aging and various other side effects, none of which could prevent Sam from leading a happy life.

I love TED Talks.


What Is Yours Is Mine…Particularly Your Hotdog

September 11, 2014

I have an issue with my MIL, and I’m not sure if the blame lies with me, her, or somewhere in between. I wouldn’t say I have issues with personal space, but I have firm opinions on what I find acceptable. For example, our bedroom is our own space, mine and my husband’s. I do […]

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No Courtesy For The Hydrant Hogs

September 10, 2014

I am writing because I am not entirely sure as to what I should do in this situation. My house is situated in front of a fire hydrant, therefore, nobody should be able to park in front of our house. My husband and I have never parked there, nor have any of our friends or […]

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