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Decorative, dust-covered potpourri that has no smell 

Decorative, dust-covered potpourri that has no smellMy company hired a new intern recently named Kyle. The other day, I was working in my cubicle when Kyle approached me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. 

“Excuse me,” he said, “but I was just in the restroom, and –”

“I really don’t like how this conversation is starting,” I said.

He swallowed. “Sorry. But I just happened to notice that there’s a dusty basket full of tree bark and pinecones sitting on the sink counter. Do you know if it belongs there?”

“Tree bark and pine cones?” I squinted my eyes, frowning. “Oh, wait. I think I know what you’re talking about. It’s shoved into the corner next to the paper-towel dispenser, right?”

Kyle nodded. “Uh-huh. Do you know what it is?”

“Well,” I said, “if memory serves me, 10 years ago that was a basket of potpourri. Someone put it in there to freshen up the restroom.”

“Oh,” Kyle said. “But isn’t potpourri supposed to smell?”

“It tends to lose its potency after a decade. I imagine by now, it’s breaking down into compost. At this point, you could probably grow tomatoes in it.”

“Do you know why they leave it there if it no longer smells?” Kyle asked.

I shrugged. “I guess it’s more of a decoration now than an air freshener.”

“It’s not much of a decoration, sitting there all coated with dust. It’s like someone scooped up a forest floor and dumped it into a basket. It’s gross.” 

“Well,” I said, “you could suggest to management that they liven it up a tad. Maybe they could sprinkle rose petals on top and add a stick of cinnamon.”

Kyle scrunched his lips. “I think it’s going to take more than a cinnamon stick to bring it back to its former glory. Someone should throw out the old stuff and add something new.”

“Like I said, make the suggestion to management. The restrooms don’t fall under my jurisdiction, so I can’t advise you one way or the other.”

“Yeah, but in the meantime, that basket’s just going to sit there, and it’s an embarrassment. Who wants to look at a pile of mulch when they’re washing their hands?”

“Kyle, I can’t agonize over the ornamentations of the office restroom. I’ve got things to do.”

“But this is important!” Kyle said. “It’s all about perception. Why have a non-functioning basket of scentless potpourri? Potpourri is supposed to smell! If it ceases to smell, then it should be disposed!”

“OK,” I said, holding up my hands, “I think you’re giving way too much thought to the potpourri, here.” 

“You know what I’m going to do?” Kyle asked. “I’m going to throw it out myself. I don’t care what anyone says. I’m going to make an executive decision!” He turned and marched down the hall.

“No, Kyle!” I yelled, calling after him. “Don’t do it! Save the depleted potpourri from such an undignified ending. Allow it to adorn our corporate restroom in all its exhausted glory! Please!”

My boss, Steve, ambled by. “What was that all about?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said. “Kyle’s just going to throw away the ancient potpourri in the restroom.”

Steve frowned. “Who’s Kyle?”

“You know, the new intern.”

Steve frowned.

I looked at him. “Remember? The college kid you hired last week?”

Steve shrugged. “Sorry. I hire and fire lots of people. Nobody really stands out.”

“That’s comforting to know,” I said. “Especially considering that my review is coming up.”

“What did you say the kid is doing, again?”

“He’s going to throw away the old potpourri in the restroom.”

Steve continued to frown. “We have potpourri in the restroom?”

“We did, during the last ice age,” I said. “It’s disintegrating into sawdust as we speak.” 

“Is that what the stuff in the basket is?” Steve asked. “I thought that was a decoration?”

“Steve, c’mon. Who decorates a restroom with a basket of pinecones and tree bark?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. The restrooms don’t fall under my jurisdiction.” 

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