Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eau d'Office

I can take a hint. I smell.
For 51 weeks of the year, my coworkers apparently are too polite to tell me, and are forced to spend our time together breathing through their mouths.
But there is something about the last week of December that gives my colleagues the courage to confront me. Not directly, but in a back-handed kind of way.
How else to explain the onslaught of perfumed items deposited on my desk right before I leave for vacation?

I work in an office with many women. Since I myself am female, I have never knowingly received a gift meant for a male. So I cannot speak for what men give each other. But I would venture to guess some of the men I work with would give each other sports-related or barbecue-oriented presents. Such gifts might make men work up a glisten, so to speak. Yet I didn't see any heart-shaped boxes of scented body powder on the desk of Allan down the hall.

So what's the deal with the annual showering of odor-covering tokens? I shower. I even have been known to exfoliate on occasion. 

Every year, women I know and barely know knock on my office door to present me with an array of presents with one thing in common. They all reek. The items usually come from Victoria's Secret or Bath and Body Works, a store whose name continues to puzzle me. If a body is working, it will need a bath? Shouldn't it be Body Works and Bath? This year, I am pretty sure a trip to Rite Aid or even Wal-Mart may have come into play. Some sort of freshening device was made by Glade, a company I associate with freshening bathrooms. And this person had never even been to my house. The label on a Jamine Rose hand lotion seemed to imply that it had at one time been part of a set. And more than one scented candle may have come from a giver's personal collection, since several were missing the plastic wrap that indicates it has not been used. 

I think many people in my company barely know my name and do not really know what I do, so they err on the side of bestowing gifts on me rather than risk offending me if it turns out I am actually in their department. I am embarrassed to say that I receive a significant amount of lavender body spray from support staff who have not updated their departmental lists and do not realize I have not been in their division for several years.                                      

Because of the placement of my office in the building, I tend to be one of the first stops for the parade of potions.  So if I am unfortunate enough not to hear the heels clicking en route to my door, I end up having to not only fake a smile, but fake a smell of the item being gifted. I am never sure if a hug is appropriate in these instances, since I am not yet wafting the scent in question, so I usually make sure I am holding several large folders and mutter something about having a cold.

And it just so happens that I have intense allergies to pretty much anything scented, making the receipt of such gifts exponentially more awkward. Not only do I really hate having to endure the pleasantries involved with exchanging workplace gifts, but I have to put on even more of a show so as not to offend the givers of the offending gifts by informing them of my medical condition. So I smile, thank them, and itch and sneeze in the privacy of my own home.


  1. You and me both about the gift thingy...last year I was new at work and got much of nothing...fine with me, because I hate the whole gift giving thing. This year I guess people decided I was going to be around and so I got many things, from jewelry to gloves (I haven't worn gloves since I left Alaska). I just wish I could leave work for the whole month of December and hole up in a motel in the mountains with lots of tea and books. Now THAT is my idea of a holiday... :D

  2. Hi, Cath! Ugh! I try to find the positive in thinking that at least I will be able to figure out some coworkers names by looking at the cards... but the one I still can't identify has horrible handwriting! Hope you can regift as many work presents as possible... maybe to coworkers next year? Have a great holiday! Best, Karen