Lozenge, please

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
I can't possibly be the only person who has encountered this situation in the workplace...enjoy!

Submitted: May 13, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 13, 2008



Lozenge, please
She clears her throat.

And, given that I hired her, I have no one to blame but myself.


In fact, during the interview she cleared her throat. Demurely, she paused, uttered a small “mm-hmm”, and offered a sincere apology for having to break the rhythm of our conversation. Once recovered, she went on about her business which, at that moment, was selling herself, her skills, and her fabulous interpersonal skills to yours truly.


I’m not naïve. I’m the first one to admit that my manners, manner of dress, and all-around ability to look fascinated by the person sitting across from me are a million times better during an interview than in real life. But, in all my life, I have never seen such a Jekyll and Hyde transformation as exhibited by this throat clearer.


I noticed it on the first day she reported for duty as an official employee. I was sitting in my cubicle, munching on dry cereal and poking around on my computer figuring which mind-numbing task I should start first.


Then I heard it.mm-hmm Two minutes later I heard it again – this time a little longer, and a little louder. mm-hmmm Five minutes after that, I heard a throat being cleared of, what sounded like, every last bit of live tissue it encompassed in a sort of machine-gun-ping-pong-ball-ricocheting-off-my-basement-floor manner.


I couldn’t believe it. The noise entered my ear canal in a manner as startling and pointed as an earwig flying at a speed of about 90 miles an hour. I think I actually broke a sweat.


There was a period of silence after that. Then the cycle began again.

(five minute pause)
(two minute reprieve)

This was, quite possibly, the most horrific thing that had happened to me in a work setting. I am one of those people who gets things ‘stuck in their head’. As in “Build Me Up Buttercup”, “Ehhhhh Macarena (ay!)” and the theme song from the cartoon “Arthur” (which has been stuck in my head since my daughter was four. She is now eleven and a half). Tragically for me, this stuck-in-my-head-itis is not only limited to songs. It’s noises too. My cubemate blows her noise in a pattern. brr-pa-brr-pa-brr (alternating nostrils as she goes). God forbid she does it more than once a day and I’m practically tapping the rhythm out on my keyboard. I have a friend who fills every awkward pause with Sooooooooooo. When I get off of the phone with her, I hear it over and over again in my head – like a wheezy old accordion.


The throat clearing has taken the concept of annoying background noise to a whole new level. This woman is a professional. She goes about her business, working along, sharing coffee with peers in the breakroom, not a care in the world. But to me, she’s nothing short of a sniper, waiting to strike as soon as she hears my fingers rapidly type on my computer keyboard. I’m convinced she lets me type long enough to get into a deep, productive thought and then I hear it.


I stop, my fingers suspended above the keys. Listening for any other sign of vocal hostility.


It’s affecting my home life too. My daughter coughed in her sleep the other night and I shot out of bed like I had been jabbed with a syringe. I frantically grabbed for something that would serve as a weapon, convinced this woman had infiltrated my safe haven and sat crouched on my stairs waiting for me to finish losing my sanity. In fact, I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that I am now a victim of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


I’ve tried a number of tactics. If the throat clearing occurs when I’m walking by, I turn to her and say “Oh dear, are you okay?” A variation of this is “My, someone has a tickle! I keep all kinds of tea bags at my desk. Help yourself – ANYTIME!!!” (Author’s note: I literally have ALL kinds of tea bags – herbal, chai, caffeine free, orange pekoe, tea bags, loose tea. I even have a huge bottle of clover honey and a note that says “Help yourself to lemon wedges in the fridge!” Out of desperation, I went out and stocked up on shortbread biscuits to further entice her.” 


I’ve replaced the bowl of Hershey kisses I keep for coworkers with a bowl of Luden’s lozenges.


Lately, I have resorted to rudeness. I have been known to shout out from my cube “Does anyone hear that? Is someone choking to death?” Usually by 2 pm I’ve completely gone off the deep end and just groan “ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” without care or consideration of the throat clearer’s feelings (although I’m sure she doesn’t have any).


Once I went to the doctor under the pretense of a sore throat. I let him do a cursory examination and then told him that the REAL reason I was there was I had a horrible throat clearing problem that I was SURE was irritating my co-workers and loved ones. He suggested tea with honey or lemon. He also recommended throat lozenges. My undercover medical mission yielded no alternative suggestions.


I’ve been around long enough to have encountered all kinds of freaks: The soft talker. The nose whistler. The shoe squeaker. The pants whoosher. The out-in-public-nail clipper. The in-the-ladies-room-stall-next-to-mine-underwear-snapper. I have friends who talk on the cell phone while they’re peeing. Peers who take their shoes off under their desks and crack their toes. I can handle all of these and more. In fact, I say “bring em on!”


I’m also the first to acknowledge my own flaws. I’m sure there are at least a few people in my office cursing me at lunchtime. Everything in my lunchbox tends to be in a Tupperware that makes a burping noise when you open it. I favor pretzels, granola, rice cakes, and carrots. The crunching must be maddening. But I do my best to at least be somewhat considerate. I eat the carrots and rice cakes when my cubemate is out having a cigarette. I snack on the carrots while I’m making tea in the breakroom. I keep it down to what I consider to be a dull roar.


This woman, however, is downright cruel. She has tea, lozenges and an office vending machine full of chocolate bars – all things that are soothing and, frankly, right at her fingertips. Does she take advantage? Heck, no. She sits there, passively refusing the tea while aggressively

to her heart’s content.

Recently, I was asked by several supervisors to provide some feedback on a few employees. She was one of them. I was given a form that had a number of items that I was instructed to ‘check’ if they were truly descriptive of the person.

I checked off ‘punctual’.
I checked off ‘appropriate attire for the workplace’.
I checked off ‘excellent written skills’.

And then I hesitated, pen in mid-air. Could I really use this vehicle of communication as a means of subversively punishing this woman? Had I honestly deluded myself into believing that she was doing this on purpose? What if she had a chronic, rare, medical condition whose main symptom was throat clearing alongside a severe allergy to tea and cough drops??


But, then, I heard it. mm-hmm Sweat formed on my brow. My eye started to twitch. I lost all concentration. Time slipped away. I looked down at the form and I had written “SHUT UP YOU FREAK!!!” in the margins.

PTSD, for sure.

So, I checked off ‘noisy’, ‘bad attitude’, ‘takes credit for others work’ and ‘liar’.


The next day, I was walking down the hall and saw her being led into her manager’s office. She turned, looked at me, and shot me a death look. I just smiled, walked by, and when I knew she was out of sight but still within earshot, I said


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