Book Marks

The First Rule of Office Life is as follows: Once an employee moves on to a new job, it is permissible for his colleagues to ransack his office. Everything left behind is up for grabs.

This explains the state of my office when I started my new job. On my first day, I was led into a room that had been picked clean. Inside was nothing but a desk too large to steal and a desk chair no one could ever want.

Seriously, that chair would’ve looked at home on the front lawn of a Paterson crack house.

Those vultures even took my phone and computer!

This violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the The First Rule of Office Life. The officious, German part of my personality (the part of my personality that makes people say, “You remind me of your mother,”) could not abide by it. At a time when I was supposed to be making a good impression with my bosses and colleagues, I was running around crabbily saying things like: “Jesus! I don’t even have a garbage can?”

It took three days to get my computer and another three days to get it to work. (The Second Rule of Office Life is as follows: A computer must never work properly on the day it is installed.) My phone didn’t arrive for two weeks because the phone guy had the flu. Once the phone was installed, the speaker phone button didn’t work.

Slowly and surely, however, things were put in order. I found a garbage can, ordered a Swingline stapler (the Rolls Royce of staplers) and when I spotted an unattended office chair without suspicious stains, I snatched it like a lioness taking down a wounded gazelle.

All the while I waited for someone to quit so I could raid his office.

I shared my office suite with a Vice President. For purposes of privacy, I will call him Vice President Man. Vice President Man was friendly and courteous when we spoke, which was pretty much never.

The only time he did speak to me was when he found me in the men’s room. Vice President Man would sidle up to the urinal next to mine (a violation of the First Rule of Men’s Room Etiquette) and make small talk while he peed (a violation of the Second Rule of Men’s Room Etiquette).

Remember Men: There should always be a one-urinal buffer between two pee-ers! Conversations may only take place at the sinks! If you do not respect these rules, you are a lout and a Trump voter.

So I pretty much hated talking to Vice President Man. During one of his urinal monologues, however, I learned an important bit of news: Vice President Man was leaving for another job.


Vice President Man had a nice office. Really nice. And I wanted every damn thing in it.

But there was a problem. The Third Rule of Office Life is as follows: When you take something from an abandoned office, you must have plausible deniability. In other words, you should be able to convincing say, “Oh, yes! This [stolen] thing is totally mine.”

In the office hierarchy, Vice Presidents (him) and Administrators (me) do not have the same kinds of office things. A VPs desk chair, for example, it much too nice for a plebe like me to own; I can’t steal it and convincingly claim it was mine all along.

That restricted the scope of my grabbiness to whatever I could find on Vice President Man’s shelves. So on the day he said goodbye, I went shopping and set my sights on the book pictured at the top of this post.

I had always wanted to read The Innovators. I loved Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and was eager to read his other stuff. I did a silent “woo hoo!” and plucked the volume from the shelf.

That’s when I discovered this.

What the…

This is not the way hardcover book should behave. This is what it looked like when I placed it flat on my desk:

Hold on...
Not the usual wear…


Son of a...
Son of a…

Vice President Man had completely mangled the binding!

I cannot even begin to tell you just how long I gawked at this thing. I tried to comprehend why someone would do this. Then my thoughts shifted to how. It’s not easy to snap the spine of a new hardcover. It requires effort.

I tried to give Vice President Man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he left the book open on a chair (a violation of The First Rule of Book Care) and sat on it. Maybe he folded the cover over, mistakenly assuming he was perusing a People magazine. Maybe he left it on the sill of an open window and it fell six stories onto the pavement below.

I knew none of this was likely. But the truth was almost too much to bear. I had shared an office suite with a Book Abuser. A Book Abuser who doesn’t know the rules for peeing.

So a psycho, basically.

What kind of university would hire a man who treats the written word with such disrespect? Was Vice President Man an anomaly, or was he part of a systemic University-wide personnel problem?

Then I wondered: What could my other colleagues be hiding?

As soon as another office goes empty, I’ll find out. In the meantime, I will leave The Innovators on my desk, unread, to serve as a reminder that this place may harbor more casual evil than I could have ever possibly imagined.


72 Replies to “Book Marks”

  1. Oh the horror!! Poor book! and poor you! *tears* Too much?? I thought so too! LOL! I am sorry the poor book was broken but it serves a good lesson! You can’t judge a book by its cover! 😉

  2. I am STILL trying to get my son to use bookmarks ALL THE TIME. But it’s WAYYYYYY too much work for him to get up from his chair or bed and pick one up from all of the exposed surfaces in his room or living room or kitchen table, or…..We have buckets of bookmarks lying around our house for these types of emergencies. But he’s learning….I make his life miserable if he doesn’t comply.

    I say we deport all book abusers!!! Hmmm, but that won’t get rid of our top problem. He’s never cracked a book in his life.

    1. My wife (an English teacher, for God’s sake!) is a dog-earer, which is a Mortal Sin. Fortunately, I got to my son before she did. He is now a loyal and devout bookmark user.

      I shall pray for your child’s rapid conversion.

      As to your final point, if we deport the non-readers, Trump-like figures will never get elected again.

      1. Nope, this is a kid’s book AND I’ll have you know, I stopped by Barnes a couple of hours ago to read Ame’s new one (You DON’T Want a Unicorn—LOVE it :D) and on my way out that damn cover caught my eye AND right next to it, a similar one by the Smithsonian ALSO with that heathen’s picture on with all the other ACTUAL U.S. Presidents. Ugh.

  3. Lot’s of Rules, Mike, with a capital R. I had no idea there was Peeing Etiquette in the men’s room, though I am familiar with Office Rules having raided many vacated cubicles in my past. ;-D I think the book fell off the roof of his car and he accidentally drove over it.

  4. I laughed at the absurdity and the reality of your post. Oh, the empty offices. Been there done that! But, I never knew about urinal rules — had to ask my husband. But to destroy a book — you didn’t say the title. That’s inexcusable.

  5. The Librarian that resides within is laughing at your post, yet writhing in annoyance at such flagrant book abuse. He was probably tweaked about not being counted as an Innovator and used the book as a doorstop. So, what does a MM do at at a university?

      1. I hope they at least gave you a window since they didn’t give you a trash can. Happy editing–may your magic with words flow with effective aplomb.

  6. Mike, it is obvious that this was quite the “spineless” VP. OH, the shame! I only had a brief stint in an office environment some 35 years ago, and it wasn’t quite like this. I worked in a separate room off the large one filled with cubicles. You’re making me wonder why they weren’t lined with barbed wire! And you make me laugh out loud at LEAST once—every time 😀

  7. My name is Joanne and I’m a Book Abuser.

    I admit it. Not proud, but it is a fact and I’ve been shamed. That’s why I can’t be trusted with nice things like books with intact book bindings and unblemished pages free of stains and folded corners.

    However, in Mr Vice President Man’s defense, the book might have been ‘liberated’ from another office and he was simply its rescuer.

    1. It is never too late to turn your life around, Joanne. Do God’s work!

      As to your other point, I don’t buy your hypothesis. VPs don’t liberate stuff from other peoples offices. They are given whatever they want.

      1. I’ve turned to ebooks. I can’t abuse them the same way and I’m not inclined to take my reader into the bathtub.

        As a side note … do you have any idea what happens to a book when it’s accidentally dropped in a bathtub full of water?
        Let’s just say it never closes again :/

  8. You have a lot of rules here. All necessary, I will grant you that. Book abusers are the worse. He probably didn’t even respect it enough to read it while he was abusing it. You are lucky to see the back end (not the front end, that wasn’t lucky at all. Just another broken rule) of that psycho.

  9. It looks like it fell in a tub full of water, but since we never like to imagine our co-workers naked in a tub, I wouldn’t want to dwell on that thought. There is no excuse for a broken spine, UNLESS the abuser is also sporting a broken bone (wanted to say spine but that’s over the top).
    As for the men’s room etiquette, even I know that. Duh! It’s kind of the same thing in women’s bathrooms. Try to keep at least one stall in between if you can. My MIL always wants the one right next to me. eww!
    Let it be known I detest public restrooms in general. They’re gross!

    I do have to disagree with your disparaging remarks about Trump and point out that not all of his supporters are what the media portrays us to be. While I am trying to give Liberals the benefit of the doubt, I would appreciate the same courtesy. Not trying to get political. Just a reality check. I have all my teeth, I am educated, I do read books – many of them, and I consider myself fairly intelligent. All said for the purpose of showing you the other side. 🙂

    Good luck on future scavenging!

    1. It seems unlikely that Vice President Man is taking a bath on the University’s campus, but I’m not sure I can put anything past this guy.

      And you, are, of course, correct about Trump voters, Jude. I know many fine people who voted for Trump — many of whom are in my extended family. That joke was really directed at them (and especially YOU Auntie Susie!). In the interest of full disclosure, I am a registered Republican — though I registered back in the Cold War 1980s when the party operated under a much, much larger tent. These days I think it’s more accurate define myself as a centrist pragmatist.

      1. I am so glad to find that you published my response and replied to it. I really believe the majority of people want the same thing, we just have different ideas on how to go about it. 🙂
        Have a great day Mikey!!

  10. First of all, and most importantly, you’re offering SCONES now? What happened to the donuts?
    Secondly, I always knew I liked you, but now perhaps I love you. I, also, have a difficult time being friendly to a book abuser. Dog-ear-readers are wrong. I like to assume they just don’t know better (although that’s hard to believe). I have so much respect for Ellen, but really, you haven’t convinced her the error of her ways? Absolutely no dog-earers are allowed in my house. But BOOK BINDER destroyers? That’s worthy of a call to the local police. Your former vice president man did something very nefarious to that book. I shutter to think of it. I’m also wondering if your new co-workers are aware of your blog….

    1. Oh, Pam, I shall always have a scone for you. Or a donut. Danish? Éclair? Whatever you want — except that ridiculous tea drink you insist on having. Only fresh ground coffee is served here.

      As for Ellen, she has improved her book reading ways. She no longer dog-ears pages and only once in a blue moon do I five a volume open, lying face down on a table. It’s not a perfect situation, to be sure, but it is a much improved one.

      I don’t know if my new coworkers are familiar with the blog. Only a future pinkslip will tell!

      1. May no pinkslip be in your future – dog-eared or otherwise! Jelly doughnut, please. Strawberry (goes great with my Earl Gray tea latte). 🙂

      2. Not unless you like to make 911 calls. Hmm, maybe you’re best friends with the paramedics in town. Nix on the coffee –unless it’s coffee ice cream!

  11. Problem is, if you ever leave that job and leave that book behind, someone will have the same thoughts about you. From your first picture of the book not sitting properly I got the impression of water damage. My mind immediately jumped to him likely dropping it in the can. You should be thankful it was just messed up binding.

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