Arriving at work on time is hard enough, especially on a Monday. Having to deal immediately with an OCD incident is enough to push one over the edge. How about having the same occurrence three days in a row?
An urgent request for a document was placed on my desk. Ordinarily, that does not cause any issues, but I hadn’t had time to clean janitor germs off my desk. I know the germs are there; I’ve seen him put his hands on my desk. Whether he had touched it that particular day, I don’t know. But that’s the problem – I don’t know. So, the desk gets a thorough wipe-down every morning. Now I had papers on my desk that I had to consider to be contaminated. What made it more problematic was that the front page had been flipped behind the packet so that the second page was visible.
It’s not easy dealing with this sort of stress early in the morning. I envisioned a lot of spraying with alcohol after I completed the documents and returned everything to the boss to look over. I managed to do that without too much contamination occurring by holding the papers by only the edges. But I knew that the papers would be returned to me to process once approved. I hoped that I would get back only the fresh documents I had printed and that my desk would be clean by then, but they were returned just a couple of minutes later and plopped down on the dirty desk. The boss decided that he wanted a change on the first page, but he had already approved and signed the second one. I was glad to be able to print a new one so that I could discard the contaminated first page, but what about the second one that he had signed? I looked closely at it until I found a reason to reprint it. I saw that the spacing was off in a paragraph and was relieved that I had an explanation for having him sign it again.
The crisis was over. Then Tuesday I had déjà vu. Right after eight o’clock, the boss came back with the same documents in his hands. I actually said to him, “Not those again.” But yes, he wanted another set of related documents printed. I knew what I needed to do, and my desk hadn’t been cleaned yet, so I stretched out my arms like a begging child so that he would hand them to me and not put them on the desk. He ignored me and put them down. What did he think the outstretched arms were for? I certainly didn’t want a hug. So the routine began again. I had to touch papers by the edges to get them out of the way and flip over others so that the clean top layer could be placed on a clean part of the desk. Again, documents went back and forth between us, and finally I was done with them – except I had a few contaminated documents that needed to be disposed of in the shredder. I thought I would have to sacrifice a few fingers to the filth gods, and do my best to wipe them clean afterwards. Then I remembered a trick I had used in the past. All I had to do was make a paper sandwich! I used a napkin to place the dirty documents on top of some cleaner papers that needed to go in the shredder. Then I topped the stack with some more clean papers, and I had my sandwich. I walked the stack to the shredder and disposed of them.
Day three. Another co-worker walked up right after 8:00, but it wasn’t the boss. She had a stack of papers that she put down on my unclean desktop. The only thing that made this better than the two previous days was that the documents didn’t have to go back and forth between us. I held them by the top edge and flipped them onto the clean area. I was able to clean my desk and process the paperwork later.
But three days is enough! Give a germophobe a break.