The note appeared in haste sometime in early May, but by the time anyone noticed it, it had food and water stains on its presumably once clean visage. “Please Don’t Dump Food Down The Drain. Thanks.” It was printed, supposedly from a work printer on work time and hung up at work. They marveled at the clever usage of apparently intentional capitalized letters at the beginning of each word, particularly with the word “the,” as the most commonly used word processing software on the work computers would automatically lower-case the word. This seemed to suggest that the author of the note noticed the automatic lower casing and then went back to fix it, to make absolutely sure that the word “the” was capitalized. It then, no doubt, was electronically underlined with the green jagged line, as if pleading with its author please not to do this, to no avail.
The way the floor was designed was there were four departments all sharing one kitchen; accounting, design, NGA, and Help Desk. Two departments in each hemisphere with the kitchen acting as a sort of equator between the two. Each department looked the same with row after row of identical gray cubicles, a desert of false carpeted walls. They speculated that it was probably someone from accounting (the poster of the note), as that was the department with the most people who were, in their words, “big-nosed stuffed-shirts.” Also at last December’s holiday party, accounting looked as though they were having the least fun, with sour, judgmental grimaces on 3/4ths of their faces. They all sat at one round table and didn’t really mingle, until Jan got too drunk and made them dance to Mambo #5 which they did reluctantly. It was, however, unproven who was responsible.
Shortly after the appearance of the note… began the doodles directly under the text. They were sure that had to be the responsibility of Design. The drawings were a little too left brain, a little too good. With majority of the note’s message at the top of the page in size 20 font, the author had left ample room for the carefree expression of whoever might want to add. First a flower. No nonsense, black pen, petals colored in with yellow high-lighter, white stem, one thorn (which made little sense as the flower most closely resembled something like a sunflower which has no thorns or a daisy, say). After the flower came what looked like a bee in blue. The note was continuously tacked to the white brick wall above the sink, so the rendering of the bee would have been made difficult by the precarious angle at which one would have to draw. Nevertheless, a bee is what it probably was. Then came a city skyline complete with skyscrapers and a Christian church, nestled in the tops of trees blooming out from the blank white nothing. Lastly, a penis with balls and a jagged pubic mane.
Weeks passed with very little activity until the note was torn down and replaced with another identical copy of the original note, without water damage or drawings. This would seem to suggest its author had saved the note on their desktop or possibly in the shared folder. Still, no real indication as to who it could be. And then, where once stood a glorious erect phallus, there was on this otherwise blank note, in black sharpie marker and what appeared to be hostile handwriting, “Please Don’t Deface Note. Thanks.” Again, the first letters of each word capitalized with the subsequent letters in lower case.
Do keep in mind that all the while … the original message of the note, to not dump food down the drain – food such as oatmeal, rotting vegetables, chunks of meat, popcorn seeds, pizza crusts and watermelon rinds – was completely unheeded. The intention of the note was decrease the already unarguably disgusting amount of standing water in the clogged sink – the sides of which were stained rusty with old food. On any given afternoon one could find a green and brown puddle of water so thick and chunky that it once made Nell, the quiet monolith of NGA, throw up in her own mouth. But instead of taking the note to heart, the occupants of the twelfth floor of the Syndicate building on East Watertower Place decided to continue prodding the author for a stronger reaction. It was all they knew.
This was when the post-its began. Jerome, NGA’s catty gay admin, was the first to notice: a perfectly square, gently waving yellow post-it note, with blue pen posing the suggestion, “Represssed much?” He guffawed and ran off to tell the others. Maria in design saw it and snickered and drew her own post-it and posted it next to the first. Hers was of what was clearly a zebra, grinning. And then another appeared reading, “Some people think this sink has a garbage disposal! Imagine that!” Next day appeared two more, on smaller post its, one saying, “I love how hostile this is” and the other a drawing of feces.
Josephine (call me “Jo”) the mailroom lady who every Monday would say “Happy Thursday” to each person she saw, stood in front of the note frowning. She wrote and posted a note on green notepad paper, “You are all very rude, please just be nice to each other.” She sighed and hoped maybe someone would listen. They, of course, did not. Tim, in Help Desk, who was always fairly condescending to people who called, who would frequently interrupt questions to ask “First, is your computer plugged in?” Who wore t-shirts with words on them underneath his white button-up shirt, so you could still read some of the words, who thought of himself as very ironic and with a dry wit, wrote the word “bitch” on a post-it and then asked, “Get it?” to Jerome. Jerome grinned. He did not get it, but liked Tim’s mean streak.
The notes, of course, escalated until the point that the invectives were so venomous that even people who didn’t notice them anymore still felt an unconscious sense of dread when rinsing out a coffee pot, a feeling that would linger with them for several moments afterward. Stick figures plagued by curvy birds, accusations and insults ranging from earnest to ironic, even an army of erections with dinosaur legs breathing fire on a metropolitan area that too closely resembled their own.
And then, when it became almost too much to take, they were all removed at once. Word by the copier was that The CFO Richard did a walking tour and was aghast at the clutter area around the sink. Katousha told Selena that she could hear him yelling from her desk, as hers is located most adjacent to the kitchen. Shortly after, Richard’s personal assistant sent a company wide email essentially saying ‘no notes whatever’ were allowed on the walls, reason being the tape was so difficult to remove.
The sink, of course, continued its mad descent into health-code-violation history, no one ever once thinking to just put in a request with building maintenance to fix it. Passive-aggressive confrontation was, indeed, the only approach they had and after that option had been exhausted it was essentially “Company Breakroom Beyond Thunderdome.” It never was clear who wrote the original note. Some months passed and there were a few layoffs in all departments, nothing to get too worked up about. But the most widely held belief was that the note’s author was one of those who got fired and that there was now no way to find out who it was. Clearly someone with such little spine and imagination would never ever thrive in what was supposed to be a team-oriented atmosphere. No, sir, they were all certain they’d seen the last of the note-writing days, at least in this office. Until one day in October when a note in familiar script was taped to the fridge in the break room: “Please Don’t Eat Other People’s Food. Thanks.”
Robert Daniel Evers is a writer living in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. He is a contributing editor to Two With Water Magazine and a frequent reader at their Rx Reading Series. His work has also appeared in Graze and The Logan Square Literary Review.