The Office Clepto

One very nice thing about a new job is that you have a fresh start. No one in the office knows you, and you can build good relationships from scratch. One bad thing about a new job is that no one in the office knows you, so if you make a bad impression within the first few months, it’s more likely to stick.
I am the office clepto.
The thievery started small. The woman who worked in the office next to mine quit at the same time I was redecorating my office. I had a new lamp. I couldn’t find a bulb. So I took a bulb from her lamp – she wasn’t going to need it! Besides, she was greedy and had two bulbs in her lamp, and I only needed one.
The problem is, there is a woman who is filling in until the replacement is hired. She works in another building, but comes to the office next to mine a couple days a week. After I had finished rearranging my furniture, I noticed that my desk chair really looked a little shabby. The desk chair in the office next to mine was one of those big, black, faux leather types that would look much more professional. Fortunately, my building clears out at 4:58, so I waited one afternoon until 5:01 and I switched the chairs. I asked one of my close associates, and she said it seemed a fair thing to do. After all, for me it’s an “every day chair.” For the other woman it’s a “sometimes chair.”
I was feeling quite good about my new office furniture until two days later when the woman came to work. I was running a little late, and when I passed her in the hall she said a hardy “hello” to the person next to me and a muffled, “hey” to me. Was I imagining that she was upset with me? Then, I heard bits and pieces of conversation during the day. I’d hear her say to someone else, “don’t know what happened.” The person would reply, “thought I saw someone take it.”
Maybe they were talking about something else, right? Suddenly, the chair didn’t feel very comfortable anymore. What had I been thinking? How stupid was I to take the chair even though the temp worker was still using the office? I shut my door so she’d be less likely to look in and see her chair (as if she hadn’t already).
Then the next day, I saw her pass in front of my door, rolling my old, ugly chair down the hall. I heard her tell someone as she passed, “I guess I’ll just have to find another one.” I felt really bad.
I could just imagine the inter-office chatter. “You’d better start locking your doors when you leave, that Ginger girl will just come take whatever she needs.”
Or, “have you seen my three-hole punch?” “Why don’t you check Ginger’s office, that’s where all the missing items seem to end up.”
“Can you believe that new girl? She just comes in here and starts taking whatever she wants.”
So that afternoon, I waited until 5:15 to be sure no one remained, and I returned her chair. I found my old one in a closet, and put it back behind my desk. I intended to say something to my office neighbor, something transparent like, “Oh, I didn’t realize you were coming back so I borrowed your chair.” But I never had the nerve. She never said anything to me, and I never said anything to her. But I’m sure she noticed the return of her chair. I hung my head in shame.
Then a couple of weeks later, I bought Lee some yummy instant coffee for home, when I realized we hadn’t unpacked any cups that could handle heat. No worries. I handed him a mug one morning, and he asked, “Where did you get this?”
“The office. I just borrowed one of the office mugs.”
He buried his head in his hands. “Ginger, you have to take it back. It has to stop.”
It’s just a stupid mug from a stupid hospital! But suddenly, I worried that someone in the office would miss it. “Have you seen that Memorial Health mug?” “Did you check Ginger’s house? I hear she took it home even though it wasn’t hers.”
I really am a good person. I really do respect other people’s things. My good friends at work know that. But some of the other folks on the third floor, I swear they look at me funny. And they lock their doors.