Jack Advises a Grossed-Out Worker



Dear Jack,

At work, I share an open cubicle space with three other people. We work together as a team on many projects, and for the most part we get along fine and work successfully without much conflict. They are all good people and we’ve been together for several years.

However, there’s one woman on our team who does something that drives me nuts. She eats like a horse. I don’t mean she eats a lot, or that she eats all the time. She doesn’t. She rarely snacks at her desk. But when she does, she sounds like a horse – slobbery, sucking, smacking, lip-popping, jaw-chopping disgusting. Oh, and throw in grunting, eyerolling, and commenting about the deliciousness of whatever she’s got in her mouth.

I live in dread of her snacking moments. I’ve taken lollipops off her desk when she wasn’t looking. Whenever someone offers her a stick of gum, I just want to slap them. I can’t imagine what it must be like for her family, having to sit at the table and listen to her devour a full meal. The sight of an apple in her hand makes me want to hang myself.

After putting up with this for all these years, I finally got up the nerve to ask my other team members if she bothers them. They said they hadn’t noticed. I don’t know how they couldn’t notice. I suspect they’re lying in order to keep the peace.

Is it just me? Am I overly sensitive? Should I say something to her, or should I just look for a new job?

About to Ralph

Dear Ralph,

There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ But ‘team’ backwards is ‘meat.’ Which is to say, office clichés make me want to hang myself.

Your need to work together probable prohibits you from transferring to another desk, or preferably another building, much less telecommuting. No way you can say something to her without shattering the esprit de corporations and generally making everyone else miserable. So I’d say you’re up the office creek without a mouse-pad. Those Bose noise-eliminating headphones are expensive, but I suspect you’d pay almost any price to escape the guttural symphony of her feeding.

Rest assured, it is not just you. As a kid, I hated having to mind my manners at the table, but I have since learned that manners are an under-appreciated social skill necessary for the prevention of needless effusion of blood. Whenever I see the friends of my children moil over pizzas like a pride of lions, cracking the bones of the crusts with their teeth, their cheeks blood red with pizza sauce up to their ears, I thank my sainted mother for smacking my hand and telling me to sit up.

Perhaps I can offer an alternative to resignation and suicide. In the gag-inducing parlance of the office, this is not a problem, it’s an opportunity. Like most office workers, I suspect you don’t get enough exercise. Whenever the horsewoman commences to chomping on an apple, why not take a break, stretch your legs, do some stairs, go outside for a bit of real air and natural sunlight? You’ll feel better, and one day you might even find yourself bringing her suckers instead of stealing them.

Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com.

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