aired April 20, 2014 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/S8bUHv8TNa0
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of April 20th, 2014.
Last Monday, Michael Utz, of Culpepper, Virginia, was awarded $5,000 in punitive damages from a former fellow employee. That coworker, James Carroll Butler, also spent a month in prison back in 1999 for a little prank he pulled on Utz at the office.
Butler was mad at Utz – in a way that only people who have to work next to each other 40 hours a week, week after week after week, can get angry at each other – so Mr. Butler grabbed the office coffee pot and took it with him to the toilet. No, don’t get ahead of me; he did not pee in the coffee pot. He peed in the toilet. But then he took the coffee pot and filled it from the toilet. He then waited – tee hee, tee hee – for Michael Utz to use the pot for coffee.
Luckily for Utz, he smelled something unpleasant in the pot before he went to use it. So instead of brewing a pot of Chock Full o’ Nuts – or, more accurately, chock full of pee from his coworker’s nuts, Mr. Utz brought the coffee pot to his superior who sent it to a lab. Tests came back positive for fecal matter, and Butler was arrested, charged with a misdemeanor and given a one-year sentence with 11 months suspended. As far as his job was concerned, he was, of course…relieved. Oh, and just for the sake of irony, did I mention they both worked at a waste-treatment facility?
As anyone who has labored day-in, day-out in a cubicle, offices can be fraught with tension, jealousies, grudges and disappointments. Surrounded by strangers you’d never bother with otherwise, you’re forced to put up with the aggravations of office politics. Either that or you quit, or you get yourself fired if you want unemployment, or you whip out a semi-automatic rifle and shoot anyone who jams up the copy machine. Which is pretty much everyone.
That, of course, is going too far, but let’s face it: revenge is a dish best served piping hot. Or in this case, fresh brewed. We’ve all seen the movie “9-to-5” where they tie up Dabney Coleman and improve the workplace in his absence. And who didn’t enjoy the pranks Jim and Pam played on Dwight in “The Office?” Well, Dwight didn’t, but he deserved them.
So I’m not about to delve into the moral equivalencies of crime versus prank punishment. I’m not here to ask: What would a co-worker have to do that would make you justified for crazy-gluing their telephone receiver to the hook? Or to their ear? What would a boss have to put you through so you’d get to the point of saying, “Yes, I deleted her hard drive and replaced it with a grilled-cheese sandwich, but in fairness, that was a good sandwich”? How badly would a superior have to piss you off before you offer them piss? We all have our breaking points and our tit-for-tat total tallies.
What I do not understand is why it took five years for this incident to be resolved – to the tune of $5,000. How many man hours, how many lawyer hours, how many other cases were pushed aside in order for this to come to trial? Were there clerks of the court sitting in front of their calendars going, “Okay, we have a guy who shot three people in a hold-up, and there’s this other fella accused of planting a terrorist bomb at the graves of Afghan vets at Arlington . . . But wait, no, stop everything! James Carroll Butler took a whiz in his co-worker’s Café Bustelo. Clear the dockets! Clear the schedule! And somebody sniff the coffee maker; I don’t like the looks of that intern.”
Half a decade of legal wrangling to find out that Butler did it. Why the delay? It should have been easy to find a jury of his peers. After all, being a pee-er is what got him in trouble in the first place. Couldn’t this have been settled out of court? Maybe Utz could have crapped in a bucket and made brownies. “You eat mine; I drank yours – we’re even! Let’s shake hands. Or maybe not.”
There should be a way to resolve small disputes – or, in this case, piddling ones – without tying up tax dollars and the justice system. I’m not saying discharging in the Dunkin Donuts is acceptable behavior. It’s just that you don’t need to turn it into the next O.J. trial. Unless someone pees in your o.j..
So I suppose the moral of this story is, well, don’t urinate in the Yuban. But, also, if someone hands you a cup of joe, and you can taste Joe, report it – but also don’t expect to hit the lottery. And if worse comes to worst, and you do take a sip, even then just remember: it will still taste better than Starbucks.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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