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The Stinkiest Thing Is How Much She Doesn’t Care

, , , , , , | Working | February 17, 2023

I have a coworker who is allergic to perfumes. The chemicals in perfume literally take his breath away and can cause a rash. He was diagnosed quite late in his life, so his body is covered in scars.

When he was hired and put on our team, we were told about his allergy, and of course, we didn’t mind. We work from home half the time, and the other days, we minimize our use of perfume. He can handle one type of deodorant, so those who feel self-conscious have a roller of that brand in their desks for when they need it. [Coworker] did want to reimburse us, but we declined that. We removed the air freshener from one bathroom. If [Coworker] comes on a different day than usual, we air out the office room. We made him feel so welcome that he started wearing short-sleeve shirts in the summer, something he hadn’t done at a job for years because of his scars.

Enter [Manager], the manager of a different team that moves in next to our office. Since we have no connection other than being neighbors, we don’t feel the need to disclose [Coworker]’s allergy.

Manager: “Why do you have the windows open? It’s the middle of winter! Close them; we don’t heat for the outside!”

This is when we tell her about [Coworker]r’s allergy. We keep the explanation basic: “He’s allergic to perfumes and he’s coming in today, so we’re airing out the room, just in case.”

At one point, [Manager] sees [Coworker] walking by.

Manager: “Jeez, what happened to him? All those scars… Was he caught in a house fire or something?”

Us: “It’s his allergy.”

Manager: “Is it contagious? He should cover it; what if his scabs infect us?”

Us: “It’s an allergy, so it’s not contagious. Don’t worry.”

Later, when [Coworker] goes to the restroom, he hurries outside, wheezing and coughing. While we give him fresh air, one of us goes to check things out. We find an automatic air freshener. We remove it, handing it over to Human Resources. 

Manager: “Has anyone seen my automatic air freshener? It’s missing!”

Us: “Was it the one in [specific men’s restroom]? We handed it over to HR; you can pick it up there.”

Manager: “Why? That restroom stinks!”

Us: “It’s the only one [Coworker] can use because there is no air freshener in there. Remember, [Coworker] is allergic to perfume.”

Manager: “This wasn’t perfume; it was air freshener!”

Us: “Fine, he’s allergic to perfume and air freshener. What were you doing in the men’s room anyway?”

Manager: “A visitor of mine complained about the smell.”

Us: “Then next time, use [other men’s room]. This one is perfume-free!”

We did sniff ourselves several times. The restroom did not smell.

The worst event happened on a damp autumn day. [Coworker] was out of the office for lunch. Suddenly, we heard “pssht, pssht” and smelled something flowery.

[Manager] was walking the hallway, spraying air freshener all around like she was waving a magic wand! We could just see the spray filling the hallway. 

One coworker rushed to her, telling her to stop. She started arguing. One coworker opened all the windows in our office and placed a fan to start an airflow, hoping to air it all out. One coworker called [Coworker] and told him to stay away until we aired everything out.

One coworker called Human Resources, who called for [Manager]. 

We don’t know what was discussed, but [Manager] no longer works on the days that [Coworker] works.

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