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It’s a dirty world, and the workplace can be just as nasty sometimes, judging from your stories. You told us about everything from foul odors to crufty keyboards to stains in the microwave. We had a few laughs and learned some good lessons about office etiquette. We hope you do, too.

Here are a few of the best submissions.


Rich S. wrote about taking charge of a yucky situation in his office:

"Microwave ovens are a big problem in offices. I went so far as to post different notices on ours. For example, the first said, ‘I am not your mother; don’t expect me to clean up after you.’ It didn't work. My plan B was a pretend notice from the health board, complete with a biohazard symbol. This did not work.

"Then I wrote a nice letter from me personally: ‘I know you are all concerned about the condition of this microwave... so I cleaned it for you since I like to use it occasionally. Please help me keep it clean by covering your food with a paper towel (I put a roll of paper towels next to the microwave). And please clean up your spills (I put a Windex bottle next to the paper towels).’

"Success! That was a year ago, and it is still clean. People just need someone to be personable and to take charge. Don't be anonymous. After all, anonymity is what causes office fridges and microwave ovens to become a mess in the first place."

We received many great stories from other contestants. Here are a few of the best:

A note from mom can work for a short time, according to this funny entry: "Our break room microwave looks OK from the outside, but don't be fooled! This handy little box endures repeated abuse with every passing workday. Look inside and you will be amazed to find remnants of meals gone by: splattered spaghetti sauce, grease from a hamburger or leftover pizza slice, spillage from frozen dinners and… the dreaded, crusty, unidentified food particles everyone is so scared to touch that they remain in there until ‘someone else’ cleans it up. You know what I'm talking about!

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"One day, I decided to be that ‘someone else.’ I spent the better part of my lunch break soaking, scraping, and sanitizing the microwave… with gloves, might I add. I even took before and after pictures. At last, the small white box was restored to a socially acceptable, sanitary state, and I had just enough time to warm up my meal and inhale it before returning to work.

"Not too long after that, a note appeared in the break room, stating: ‘Your Mama & Your Maid DON'T work here… and if they did… they'd be appalled. You have 2 Choices: Clean Up After Yourself OR Don't Use the Microwave! You decide. Have an enjoyable break!’ That did the trick… for at least a week."

Exercising at work, or on your lunch break, is great, but so is cleaning up before going back to the office: "We have walking breaks at work to encourage a healthy lifestyle. While these are great for a mental and physical break from your cubicle, they can cause problems in the hygiene department. It gets much warmer in the afternoons. Khaki's are a staple in business casual, but they also show sweat marks rather easily. This can be embarrassing. Also, people who leave their ripe shoes under their desks could use a locker room. Pew!"

Little introduction needed here: "Algae growing in the water cooler."

Then, there’s always the crufty keyboard story: "When I was cleaning out one of the drawers in the new workspace I was sharing with others, I used a can of forced air to clean the computer keyboard. A HUGE cloud of dust flew everywhere. When I stopped spraying, my black dress was totally gray, my brown hair was totally gray, and my face had dust bunnies stuck to my eyelashes and my lipstick!"

Finally, having a Refrigerator Nazi helps one organization: "In the few short years of our company's existence, we've survived: exploding cokes in the freezer that no one is responsible for, hairy green chicken breasts kept in foil for the owner to reclaim, a dead baby copperhead snake frozen in a Tupperware dish awaiting the landlord, bloody drain off from defrosting raw steaks pooling up in the bottom of the fridge and even unidentified home cooked dishes that sit until the containers fog up and sprout fuzz. But, the absolute strangest thing we have learned and survived is -- if you leave a bowl of leftover guacamole lightly wrapped in plastic in the back of the fridge for 3 weeks, you cannot tell the difference between old guacamole and new chocolate fudge until someone tastes it!

"That's why we have the ‘Refrigerator Nazi’ -- a self-appointed frig monitor who now watches over the rest of us to protect us from ourselves. If it does not have a name on it or if the date is expired -- every Friday at 4:00 PM sharp -- it goes in the trash.

"So far, we live again to start each Monday anew."

Thanks to all who entered, and congratulations to the winner! Good luck to all in our next contest.