Workplace Revenge Acts Live on Forever

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Democratic Vermont congressman Jim Carroll is not the only person angry at Republican colleague Mary Morrissey for pouring water into his canvas tote bag (a.k.a. a Vermont briefcase) over a period of five months.

Like most Republicans, Morrissey denied her involvement until presented with footage Carroll captured on a hidden camera and she was forced to take responsibility. Morrissey apologized to Carroll on Monday, but now she needs to apologize to me.

Reading about Morrissey’s act of workplace revenge stirred up memories that I had long suppressed. Back in 1988, I moved to Los Angeles to take my first writing job in television. The show’s co-producer (who doesn’t want to be named because as this story proves, people are nuts) was incredibly kind and generous and invited me to couch surf at her one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood.

The two of us didn’t spend much time in her apartment during the week and meals were consumed at work. After sleeping in on Saturday, we woke up to a stench that seemed to be emanating from the kitchen. We headed in to locate the source. As one does in these cases: you hope for a dead mouse and prepare for a dead rat.

We checked the corners of the kitchen, but there were no obvious rodents with Xs on their eyes. (That’s what they look like in Hollywood!) I went over to check behind the refrigerator while my roommate opened the oven.

She gasped loudly.

The stench got stronger as my roommate reached in and pulled out a baking sheet… that someone had taken a shit on.

We gagged. Then we ran for the front door. I opened it while my friend ran out holding the radioactive baking sheet. She returned a few minutes later, empty-handed and shaken. There were two immediate mysteries: (1) Who shit the pan? and (2) how did they get into the apartment?

We didn’t need Sherlock Holmes or a hidden camera to solve this one. The previous week, my friend had fired a production assistant for cause and forgotten to ask them to return her house key. Motive. Opportunity. Intent. Boom!

My friend went to the police station to file a report. She had the name of the perp and it was clearly a case of breaking and entering. Was it a crime to poop in someone’s oven? It should be!

The cop’s reaction was unkind and sarcastic. His response to the story was to chuckle and say, “Usually people are worried about what’s taken from their property, not what’s left.”

There was no investigative follow-up. Or, as my friend wrote me in a text this morning: “I was worried it would escalate, but the cop didn’t give a shit.”

Instead, locks were changed, ovens were scrubbed, and a new baking pan was purchased.

Back in present-day Vermont, The Guardian has reported that when Carroll, a Democrat, confronted his colleague and political rival at a meeting, she tried to make light of it at first. He stopped her. ‘You know, this has really f*cked me up,” he said.

This is a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating workplace revenge. Lots of people have mean-spirited impulses. Many might consider dousing a colleague’s canvas bag, chuckling at the private joke that Carroll had just gotten out of rehab and was now “dry.” But would we cross that line and empty that glass of water—not once but again and again for five months?

“I am truly ashamed for my actions,” Morrissey told the AP.

And what of the pan pooper? Did he ever feel ashamed of his actions? Morrissey reminded me that our story of workplace revenge had no closure. We’ll never know if he regretted his act of smelly retaliation. But thirty-five years later, my friend and I still shudder when we think about that sensory-filled moment.

The oven can never be unopened. Still, as we always note, it could have been worse… we could have pre-heated it.

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