CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Have you ever done a column on office pet peeves?" I was recently asked. "Because if you haven't, you should."
They went on to tell me about a woman they worked with who cleared her throat constantly, driving everyone nuts.
"It isn't like Tourette's or anything," the person said. "She can shut it off when she wants. Can be on a conference call or in a meeting for hours and never once do it, but all morning before and all afternoon after, it's like she's gargling yogurt."
Every office seems to have its share of offenders -- the chronic popcorn burners, those who endlessly clip their nails at their desks, who jam the copier and sneak away, who leave exploded food in the microwave and stinky, rotting lunches in the shared office fridge.
I had my first experience with office obnoxiousness right out of high school, when I was working as a secretary for a commercial construction firm. The engineers I worked with were a quirky but mostly well-behaved bunch. Except they loved to steal each other's lunches.
One of the engineers, Owen, brought the best sandwiches, thick with lunch meat and fresh tomatoes on what often appeared to be homemade bread. His were the supermodels of the sandwich world, but a few times each week, when Owen went to retrieve his lunch, he'd find someone had either taken his entire sandwich, or half, or a couple large bites.
So Owen went on the offensive.
He had a Doberman pup he had to take to the vet to get its ears docked, so he asked the vet to save the ear trimmings.
Which he made into a sandwich.
Effectively ending his problem.
I'm not sure solutions exist for some of the predicaments that exist in most workplaces. I posted a question to my Facebook friends the other day asking about their office pet peeves, and the responses, both public and private, quickly surpassed what I could've covered in a single column. And unfortunately, I found I could commiserate with many.
There's the friend from Texas who posted about the people in her office who "sneeze like they're throwing a lung across the room."
The same friend has trouble with noisy chewers and those who laugh far too loud. Obnoxious laughter is something several mentioned. One said there's a woman in her office whose "tittering" laugh sounds artificial, as if it were practiced in front of the bathroom mirror.
"It's like nails down a chalkboard, like a fork skitch-screeching across a glass plate."