As you know, the managerial staff in my office building has not treated me kindly. They took repeated pleasure in spelling my name incorrectly on my door and seemed to truly relish my frustration. They’ve recently knocked down walls to change pipes without any regard for patients’ privacy or comfort. They tend to scream at each other in the hallways without the slightest attempt to show even a vague hint of professionalism. But after last week, they have officially outdone themselves.
On an afternoon when I had about 5 patients lined up for treatment, I began the day with a telephone session . At the end of the session I heard a slight thud coming from the waiting room. I suspected it was the mailman leaving a box in the waiting room or perhaps an office mate bringing in reams of paper to the common area. As I hung up the phone, I opened my office door to see what was happening in the waiting room, at which point I immediately began to gag.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that I do not engage in, encourage, condone or laugh at any toilet humor whatsoever. I find it puerile, unoriginal and simply gross. I didn’t laugh at it as child (perhaps because I’m a pretentious prude) and I certainly do not enjoy it now. I actually find it, from a writing perspective, quite lazy. In television, film and books, you can almost see the writer think it through. Hmmm, I can’t think of anything humorous or witty to say here. I got it, a poop joke! Brilliant! With that in mind, do not consider anything going forward as an attempt to be funny.
What waited for me in the waiting room was a large, kidney-shaped pile of ashen-colored sewerage. It was about one inch thick and was slowly growing, moving toward me, like a slow-moving killer from a Stephen King novel. To describe the smell, just consider the following (while noting that I am not a plumber, nor do I possess any plumber-like expertise): 15 office suites sharing one bathroom for each gender, multiple breakfasts, lunches and dinners eaten in the space, the subsequent using of the facilities to eliminate the waste, all of that product running through a pipe that somehow rests in the closet of our waiting room. When that pipe broke and hit the floor, all of that…material came into the room.
I ran and leapt over the pile of Satan’s snow and ran out the front door. Fortunately, one of the workers was in the hallway.
“You!” I yelled, and curled an angry finger toward me. “Come here.”
He looked a little surprised, although given the fact that our air conditioners were recently damaged and the walls needed to be repainted, he couldn’t have been all that shocked that one of the shrinks was bitching about something yet again. He simply followed me into the office and, upon arrival, said, “Oh Christ!”
While he got a Wet Vac and summoned his men over his walkie-talkie, I dove back over the pile, closed the door to my office and immediately opened all of the windows. As the noise from Madison Avenue filled the office space, I texted all of my appointments explaining, with as little detail as possible, what had gone wrong. They would all need to be rescheduled. As part of my office policy, 24 hours notice is required for a cancellation if the client does not wish to be charged, but since I had done this very thing to them, I informed them that they would each get one “freebie,” where they could cancel at the last minute without penalty.
All of the clients were great about having their appointments disrupted. In fact most asked me if I was, in fact, okay with a broken pipe. “Did it hurt your ears when it burst,” asked one woman. And after I had everyone squared away with new dates and times, I walked out to assess the damage.
There were three men in the waiting area, one of which was a supervisor. One man was using the machine to clean up the waste which had spread to essentially the entire surface area of the floor, another was spraying Lysol (clearly in vain). The supervisor immediately began a lame explanation.
“These things just happen in buildings, you have to roll with it.”
“Excuse me,” I said. “But I’ve never heard of something like this ‘just happening.’ I had to cancel multiple patients today and I expect the building owners to provide restitution.”
“Well, that’s not my issue to resolve with you. I’m just in charge of maintenance.”
“I understand that, but don’t tell me this is routine.”
“It is routine, though.”
I sighed. “I’ve got a great idea. How about you and I have this conversation at some other point. Specifically, when neither one of us is, literally, STANDING IN HUMAN URINE AND FECES.”
“Fine, fine” he said, finding my disgust just a little too funny.
I left the office for the day and emailed my office mate. She has the lease with the building so she deals with the owners directly. Unsurprisingly, while they were willing to repaint the office suite yet again and replace the carpeting, they pointed to a clause in our lease that doesn’t require them to remunerate any tenant unless he/she could prove there was negligence involved. That’s code for “go fuck yourself, you’re out of 1/2 day’s pay.”
They say that one happy customer brings you seven new buyers, but one unhappy patron loses you fourteen new people. So let me just aim for a few thousand ears right now. If you are in New York City and need office space, consider this before renting from 315 Madison Avenue: use your current waiting room as your personal toilet for the day. See how that feels and the response you get from anyone else in the space. If you and everyone else is cool with it, then just come on over and take out a lease with my landlord. You and he can talk shit all day long.*
* Yes, I understand the hypocrisy of that last line.