The other day I was shaken by a truly tragic event. I returned from lunch to my desk at work to discover that a plastic grocery bag I had been saving was gone. After an hour of investigation, I discovered that the cleaning lady, Estela, whom I had loved prior to this event, had callously thrown it out. I scrambled to search the trashcans, but it was too late: The bag was lost to the bowels of the trash chute forever.
It took me a while to wrap my head around it. Who goes under someone’s desk and takes a loose bag that’s innocently sitting there and just throw it away? A bag that I could have used to take home some leftover lunch or a birthday cake if someone in the office got me a cake on my birthday? When I started to put the pieces together I was certain that Estela took the bag for herself, for her own devious cake plans, but she insisted it wasn’t so. She claimed that she “thought it was trash.”
What?!!! This is a woman my company pays to make judgment calls like this on a daily basis, and she has been fooling us all with her apparent competence. Can’t you be fired for lying about your skills? I mean, what kind of person sees a plastic bag full of napkins on the ground and throws it away? Her job is to throw out errant trash, not throw out errant “my stuff.”
I feel betrayed.
I will never be the same after this. I won’t be able to trust anyone. You can forget asking someone to watch my stuff at a restaurant or save my seat on a Greyhound bus. And on a more personal level, you can forget me expecting any degree of respect or consideration from the people in my office. The people I consider friends, colleagues, kickball team members. Now they are just vultures waiting on the prey, waiting for a misstep from me, one slip up – leaving my prized Dunkin Donuts receipt in the breakroom, my dusty Chapstick on the bathroom sink, my only half-snotted tissue in the conference room – anything they might steal without consequence.
I am no longer the woman who keeps out a dish of candies for anyone to take, because now I know what it is to be taken advantage of. That bag was mine. Mine to use or throw out. And I was robbed of that choice. Robbed of that freedom and the freedom to feel safe in the workplace. You’ll never see my Monet mug in the breakroom ever again.
My only piece of mind is that I’ve purchased a lockbox, which Estela has been instructed not to go near, and any future bags will go into it directly.
Sorry Estela, this bag’s not for you.