Mar 21, 2008

too many people on one computer becomes a hot button (literally)

Dear F,

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with etiquette - but here's my problem:

At work I have to share a computer with two other colleagues.

Lately, as I navigate through websites - via mouse and keyboard (though, especially mouse) I've noticed that my hands feel dirty.

As a result, it's difficult for me to focus on what I'm doing on the internet while at work.

I should mention that the keyboard and mouse at this computer don't actually look dirty (though, obviously, I don't have a microscope).

And, if it's possible, it's as though my (mouse) hand feels a few degrees hotter. That is, hotter than my other hand or the rest of my body.

Perhaps the microbes on the mouse (if not keyboard) are multiplying at an exaggerated rate due to multiple users.

Maybe, due to these distinct conditions, the temperature on the mouse actually rises (infinitesimally - but just enough for me to notice).

Am I'm just more sensitive to this rise in temperature than my co-workers are (for some reason)?

Could this be a health situation? Am I just the first one to notice this problem?

And, in what other circumstances (than sharing a computer) would I need to deal as directly with other people's microbes?

What steps should I take to try to get things back under control?

just another cog in the Starbucks machine..
~ Patti ~

Dear Patti,

I must say that I'm not sure how it's supposed to be obvious to me (from where I sit, here at my desk) that you don't have a microscope.

I was similarly unaware that the waitresses at Starbucks needed computers for their research (you mentioned the internet).

Though knowing such makes me happier. Somehow.

(Moving on) it appears that you have reluctantly stumbled into the thankless position of the under recognized (all too often taken for granted) everyday hero.

Take a bow.

A quick, pretend bow.

Now, may I remind you (darling - before we pop open any wine coolers, or break out the Lionel Richie - as all good leaders are entitled to do) that you do indeed deal directly "with other people's microbes" in a number of ways at work.

The restroom. The register. The coffee making equipment. The exchange of money.

Not to mention the air that you (all three of you) breathe.

I suggest that you call an informal meeting with your colleagues.

Close the door behind you when you do this. This will not only unnerve your co-workers, but will underscore everything you say from that point on.

Tell these two (soon to be friends for life) that you would like it if they washed their hands before using the computer from now on.

Just make sure to say it with a smile.

Between the dirrectness of your speech, the smile on your face, and the closing of the door - Your co-workers will be confused. Maybe a little alarmed.

Which is good.

They will see you as serious and genuine.

And they will understand your concerns (even if they don't admit it - ever).

And what's not to understand?

Now do the following:

1. March right down to the nearest dollar store.

2. Invest in the biggest bottle of disinfectant you can find.

3. Place it near the computer that the three of you share.

4. Attach a note explaining that, due to unique microbe mingling, and the resulting (though infinitesimal) temperature changes detected by you on the mouse - a disinfectant will be employed by all users of the computer from now on - bla bla bla.

5. Sign it Patti.

And, Patti, keep smiling..

(no matter what)

Consider politely informing your customers that microbes are probably everywhere. They have a right to know. Ask them not touch anything unless absolutely necessary.

Also, email HQ detailing your intentions to clean up the microbes at work!

Use the word manifesto in the subject line, run a spell check, then copy it to every single person at Starbucks.

All done?


Now go ahead and break out those wine coolers, Patti!

And as always..
Youuuuu're welcome!
f !


  1. Obviously she has psychic fingers and has detected the fact that the previous user was watching YouPorn before going to make the macchiato.

    I used to have to job share with a Barbie-Doll (Actually more like Ganguro Girls) kind of girl whose face make-up would cake the mouthpiece and receiver of the desk phone. Every time my shift came on, I made a display of pulling out my antiseptic wipes and cleaning the fleshtoned scum off the phone. Unfortunately, nothing could remove the impregnated stench of Kenzo Flowers from the plastic.

  2. Perfume phone!

    I used to work at a salon back in the day when all (ALL) women were wearing stong scents (Obsession, Poison, etc), and our phone smelled like so much Amerige (possibly the strongest perfum in the world) that I rememebr trying to wipe it off with rubbing alcohol!

    (So funny you said that)

    And - I wound up smelling like Amerige - my clothes and hair. All you had to do was be in the room with her.

    And it nauseated me. Literally.

    Those were the days of headaches and sneezing. I like perfume - but, come on!