updates: the office pooper, the fake brainstorming meeting, and more

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here this year.

1. My coworker wants to find the office pooper — and it’s me

I have an update and it is a good one!

First, my wonderful mother bought me some Poopourri and it works wonders!

Secondly, the Poop Patrol has retired from her position of patrolling the bathroom. Within a day or two of my letter, she just stopped talking about it. I was beginning to wonder if she had seen my post. Then, at the end of last week she announced that she is pregnant with triplets! We are all so happy for her, as she has been wanting this for a while. Turns out, Little Miss Shit Don’t Stink is having morning sickness. But without throwing up. Just lots and lots and lots of pooping. She is terribly embarrassed about having to go to the bathroom so often now. I’m going to share my Poopourri with her, but I think I’ll let her squirm for a bit first. I really appreciated all the feedback I got on my post!!

2. We have public shamings about how often we say “um” and “uh”

I can’t tell you how helpful everyone’s replies were to my workplace situation. I ended up setting up a meeting with my manager and letting her know how I felt about her idea and how I was perceiving it. I didn’t say “a lot of us feel…” because I didn’t want to speak for anyone else even though I knew most, if not all, of our office felt the same way. I told her I thought it should be a volunteer based activity if people want to improve on their public speaking skills, but making everyone do this activity while the rest of us judge seems more negative than helpful. I tried to word everything where she wouldn’t feel attacked and as if I was just expressing my feelings toward the activity.

It took a lot of courage for me to talk to my manager about it because I didn’t think she would take it the right way, but she did. She said she never thought of it like that and would give it some thought and if she did continue the activity, she would make it voluntary. No one has had to do it since! :) I think pointing out to her how I viewed it helped her see another side to this whole activity. It gave her a new perspective.

3. We weren’t told our active shooter drill was just a drill

I’m not sure it’s a very satisfying update because not much has really happened since then. I did find out more information in the days that followed. Most employees are behind a secure door that requires a badge to get in. I am in an unsecured area and I found out later on that I was one of the only employees in the unsecured area not told that a drill was happening. I know one the of the other employees who wasn’t told happened to be in a manager’s office when the announcement came over the intercom and so the manager immediately told her it was a drill. It seems like more people knew a drill was coming than didn’t but when the HR director found out I was upset, she told me it was important it was a surprise to see how people would react.

I think I mentioned in the comments that we had a Sergeant from the sheriff’s office at a staff meeting the year before to discuss workplace violence. He offered during that meeting to review our policies and make suggestions. I have no idea why she didn’t ask his advice before deciding to do the drill herself.

She told me a few days after the drill that before another is done she will be contacting the sheriff’s department to collaborate.

I really appreciate your advice and all the comments that letter received. I seemed to be the only person upset about it and was really beginning to wonder if I was just being silly about the whole thing. It was so great to hear that my gut reaction wasn’t so far off.

4. I faked a team brainstorming meeting

After reading everyone’s comments I ran straight into my boss’s office completely terrified. He basically laughed at me and was extremely understanding. That being said, I really do appreciate everyone’s comments because it pushed me to have that conversation and I understand how serious this is, especially if I were to continue this pattern. My past work experience was all internships where interns were expected to get the work done without being heard and there has been a learning curve for me now that I am working with such a collaborative team and being given so much responsibility. I was given this assignment during my second week on the job (still not an excuse) and now that I have been here over a month I am much more comfortable with everyone and have been running meetings and communicating more with coworkers. Thanks everyone for their feedback!

As for in general, I’ve definitely grown exponentially since I first had this issue and have no problem scheduling meetings, asking questions, or pursuing things on my own. I recently just got complimented by my boss for taking initiative during a meeting, and I don’t think I ever would have done that at the beginning of this job. Looking back it honestly seems so silly to me that I would have not just scheduled and meeting and sent notes to people who were unable to attend, but at the time it literally seemed like the end of the world. The best part is we ended up not even being able to implement any of the brainstormed ideas (although they were complimented by others in my department) due to things outside of our control. I may not have performed very well on that first test my boss gave me, but I think I’ve stepped up to the plate ever since.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*

    Office pooper! I love this update. Not that your co-worker is feeling ill (or having triplets…because one baby is hard enough!) but that she’s stopped and has seen the error of her ways.

    1. Murphy*

      I seem way too excited about the office pooper…I was thinking about this letter earlier in reference to the letter writer who was concerned about being seen peeing too often (this morning’s 5 answers post). I was thinking that really no one is that concerned about anyone else’s bathroom habits, but then I remembered this letter.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Exactly. It’s good all around.
          (I can only imagine the amount of poop you get from newborn triplets….!)

              1. Jadelyn*

                …now there is a mental image I NEVER NEEDED TO SEE, thanks. :P

                I mean…I stayed at the Bellagio earlier this year. Cannot un-see.

          1. BeautifulVoid*

            I have twins, and we all caught a stomach bug when they were nine months old. I nearly had a nervous breakdown, and I think at one point they were just rolling around in their diapers, despite it being January, because I simply could not keep up with the amount of laundry that was generated.

      1. Samata*

        I equal your excitement! I was actually just thinking about the office pooper Friday. I walked into our bathroom and someone had obviously just used it and I thought to myself..”well, I’m not doing cartwheels because it smells like poo in here, but I’m certainly not offended. That poor office pooper and her colleague.” And the THIS! YEAH!

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I was really hoping for an update on that one as well. It’s been on my mind since I’m newly pregnant and having those pregnancy poops again!

    3. Lumen*

      Same! She’s gonna have to get used to a lot of poop with babies around. I think the OP is being really compassionate. Laughing it off and offering to share the Poopourri (which is kind of expensive for how much you get!) is really kind. :)

          1. ItsOnlyMe*

            Love this LOL

            And I have to say that after the original post, I bought a version of PooPourri for my purse and an extra to leave in the shared office washroom.

      1. Borne*

        I recall seing poopourri ads offering a small free sample.
        Perhaps LW can get a sample and pass it on to her co-worker.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Pregnancy cranks your sense of smell way, way up. Which contributes to any nausea caused by an off odor, like poo in a poorly ventilated bathroom. I have more sympathy for the coworker, who may have thought her sudden strong reaction to the bathroom must mean something external had changed, rather than three fetuses ensuring that she would be able to pick out barbecue ribs being cooked two blocks away.

      1. fposte*

        Even if something external had changed, though, she doesn’t get to hunt people down and ask them about their poo.

      2. Specialk9*

        Oh yeah, my sense of smell was so acute in pregnancy. It’s still heightened, especially in the morning.

        1. CMF*

          I couldn’t go to the grocery store until I was almost in my 3rd trimester, or at least couldn’t go to the edges, because the produce and meat sections made me so nauseous. I could handle the smell of small amounts of wrapped uncooked meat, and also normal amounts of fresh produce, but the quantity out for display in the store was far beyond what I could deal with. The times I did go, my husband would have to get everything we needed there and I would just camp out in the freezer aisles.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I had to stay away from the coffee. Which was bad, because I really wanted the peppermint tea. (Same solution – sent my husband.)

      3. Rebecca in Dallas*

        That’s what I was just thinking, no wonder the poo smell bothered her so much! Every pregnant woman I know has developed super smell.

        And to quote Michael Scott, “How the turntables.”

        1. whingedrinking*

          I once saw a pregnant person working at Lush, and while I didn’t ask, I wondered how they could stand it. I love Lush, but I have to store my bath bombs in an airtight container or my bathroom gradually fills with the smell.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            By the time I was visibly pregnant, my super-sense of smell had abated somewhat… maybe she was a really recent hire? I can’t imagine trying to keep an early pregnancy a secret while working in such a scented environment, though.

        2. Gloucesterina*

          I did not develop super smell when pregnant. Or the ability to do the same amount of work in 1/2 the time, which is the other super power people around me claimed pregnant/new parents would acquire. My kid is awesome, but I was sold a bill of goods on the magical productivity essence.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Ha, pregnant me acquired the ability to do 1/2 the amount of work in the same amount of time. I was so absent-minded and exhausted near the end. But I do feel like now (a year into parenthood) I am more efficient in a lot of ways, just out of necessity.

            1. Gloucesterina*

              Haha Elizabeth the Ginger (great name!), my child is actually 3 years old so I should have adjusted to having less flexibility by now. I think I may have made some gains in efficiency in terms of routine/rote tasks but for better or for worse, thinking-heavy tasks aren’t going any faster. I’d like to think I do have a better attitude about what’s “good enough” and a bit less perfectionism to contend with, so that’s something!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              I stole grocery carts. I would be over on cereal and think “But…. I didn’t get artichokes.”

          2. Anion*

            I had those magical skills with my second, not with my first.

            Where I feel cheated/sold a bill of goods is on the (apologies if TMI) incredible, uh, physical intimacy things that were supposed to happen. According to TV and all sorts of others things I’d seen and read, I was supposed to be some always-rarin’-to-go, incredible Fast Finisher.

            Did. Not. Happen. Not once.

          3. College Career Counselor*

            I don’t know if I became more productive after my kids were born, but in some ways, I became more efficient. For me, it was a case of, “if my kids are up at 5am, I might as well start doing the laundry and cleaning the house.” I used to joke that parenting me got more done before 9am than single me got done all day.

      4. einahpets*

        I came here to say just this. When I was pregnant with my first I was basically nauseated the entire 9 months and almost every smell was just awful at the beginning especially. I actually feel much worse for the coworker now.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          Same here. My toddler got an awful GI bug while I was pregnant with #2. I sympathy-barfed/etc. many times through that illness.

      5. Cercis*

        I still remember traveling down the highway at 65-70mph and announcing to my husband that I smelled cigar smoke. He looked at me like I was totally crazy. About 5 minutes later (with me saying “it’s just getting stronger and stronger”) we finally passed a panel van and the driver was smoking a cigar, but the windows were up, so I’m still not sure how the smell could have been so strong.

      6. NylaW*

        I got super smell when I was pregnant and I still have it, but only towards things like flowers or perfume. I can’t wear any of my perfume anymore, at all, I can’t stand cologne, I couldn’t even use my regular deodorant or laundry detergent! Everything has to be perfume/scent free now because if it’s not I get headaches. It’s the worst. I’d rather pee hourly than this.

      7. Kat T*

        I got super smell with my first two kids. Could smell things from a mile away and my husband would look at me like I was crazy.
        Yesterday I randomly was absolutely overpowered by the scent of the laundry detergent my husband was using when washing a load of clothes. I was on the second floor of my home and the washing machine is in the basement. I’m secretly panicking inside that this means something I was NOT expecting. Hopefully it was just a random coincidence…

    5. Nita*

      Hmm… so was the smell police one of the office poopers after all? Or did her problem start afterwards? Can’t tell from the update, but in any case, glad she’s off OP’s case! And it makes more sense now why she was so upset in the first place – the smell sensitivity that comes with morning sickness is out of this world. I still have vivid memories of not being able to drink plain water from a clean cup because of the horrible stink.

      1. Robbie*

        I believe that her new bathroom habits started after being the Poop Patrol, at which point she either saw the error of her ways, or more likely, was too embarrassed to continue policing the bathroom. Either way, it sounds like this is a happy ending for everyone.

      2. Anion*

        I couldn’t go near the kitchen sink with my second–the drain was so horrible, and the green apple dish soap my husband bought was even worse.

        But Comet cleanser? I scrubbed the toilet, tub, and sinks every day, that stuff smelled so good. If I could have eaten it I would have.

    6. MashaKasha*

      The poop karma!

      I didn’t even know pregnancy pooping was a thing. I had the throwing-up kind both times.

      1. many bells down*

        Not to be SUPER TMI but uh … as a woman, I kind of wonder how this problem didn’t come up for her earlier, what with certain intestinal issues that often occur on a monthly basis.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Since we’re rocking the whole TMI thing, I’ll just say that mine goes to the other end of that spectrum during that time of the month. Based on conversations with friends, it can be either one extreme or the other. I’d guess Poo Police had the stopped-up kind of issue rather than the other.

          1. Candi*

            It can be either for me. >.< Ugh.

            Sometimes I think I should just eat a bushel of mozzarella cheese sticks a couple days before and have done with it.

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I have menstrual cramps so bad I usually need to take opiates for them (no disorders, they just are), and STILL end up making nonstop bathroom visits during my period. Loads a fun, I tell ya!

    7. accidental manager*

      I had thought that Poop Police person must have a weird relationship with her body, probably with a long history of suppressing its urges and needs, so I’m thinking that pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting are likely to be very challenging for her.

    8. sfigato*

      it makes sense, since pregnancy can make smells more intense (judging from my wife’s experience). Maybe having triplets made it triply sensitive?

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #3 – if you were one of the only people who didn’t know it was a drill, how come none of your coworkers enlightened you when they saw how upset you were?! I think this makes me even more angry on your behalf.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Is it possible they didn’t realize she didn’t know? Even if I knew in advance it was a drill, I could see myself getting too invested in it and getting really upset.

      1. tigerStripes*

        I guess, but it seems like someone would have mentioned it to her, just to “remind” her that this wasn’t real.

    2. Kate*

      It seemed like from the original letter that the OP was in her office by herself, and the first person who came in (a maintenance tech) did tell her it was a drill. I don’t think her coworkers were intentionally being jerks. They may not have known beforehand that she was not told, so they wouldn’t have thought to bring it up to her. But I really feel for the OP here because when I first started OldJob (my first time working on a military base and right after the Fort Hood shooting), we also had an active shooter drill where we were not notified that it was in fact a drill. Luckily, OldJob realized the error of their ways and promptly sent out an apology as well as remaining diligent that all future drills were marked as such. I hope the same will happen for the OP.

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, and another co-worker went to the HR director after noticing the OP was upset, presumably out of concern.

      2. tigerStripes*

        “and promptly sent out an apology as well as remaining diligent that all future drills were marked as such.” This is how a company should act when it makes a mistake.

    3. Tara*

      I read this letter as the LW in her office by herself and freaking out at the drill. Then the drill was over and she was still visibly shaken. That is when people noticed she was upset. At that point, they didn’t necessarily mention that they had known it was a drill, and they might have thought she’d been warned about the drill, too and were confused why she was upset at all.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think you’re right. I just remember how upsetting that letter was and I feel so bad for OP.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It bothers me that they call it a drill. A drill is when you practice something you know.

      This was a test. They said they wanted to see what reactions would be. So that makes this a test not a drill.

      Heaven forbid, but in a real emergency they could all go around asking each other if this is another drill. The little boy who cried wolf comes to mind.

      Small consolation, OP, but in the random shooter practice drills I have heard about even some the PROFESSIONAL rescue workers ended up shook and crying. That tells me that even if people know what it going on, it still can impact folks. You are not alone.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Not only that, but even if you don’t know the exact time or day of the drill, you are notified ahead of time that one is coming. I’ve never worked somewhere that didn’t let all staff know that an emergency response drill would be conducted within a certain timeframe, even if they didn’t give the exact time and day. (Usually Thursday at 9 am at my old job. But it was a surprise the first few times.)

  3. Jenny*

    Ah! With the update to #1 you also might be able to blame her sensitive sense of smell. When I was pregnant, normal ordinary smells would make me feel so sick. I lived in a city at this time and had to take the bus and train and I can’t tell you how many times I’d have to hop off and vomit because of a smell that no one else with me could smell.

    1. fposte*

      For how she felt about it, sure. For what she did about it? Nope, that doesn’t get her off the hook for a bizarre witch hunt.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Agreed. Also, I think the witch hunt had been going on for quite a while now? It sounded to me like this was a longer ongoing thing.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        Exactly. You could say, ‘wow, that smell really bothers me so I am going to put an air freshen plug-in at my desk and a small portable fan and not ‘flush out’ someone conducting normal bodily functions.’

      3. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        Exactly. My sense of smell became super heightened while pregnant and the smell of bread would send me running for the bathroom. I stopped eating bread for the duration for my pregnancy. I never asked or expected my co-workers to stop eating bread just because I couldn’t. I learned to deal with it – quietly and without pointing out the bread eaters on my team.

        1. Amber T*

          This reminds me of an opening scene from The Office after Pam and Jim announce she’s pregnant and she sort of pushily demands how everyone needs to change what they do around her to accommodate her (like, it’s one thing if she asked nicely, but it’s very much “now that I’m pregnant, here’s how you need to change.”). Everyone else kinda scoffs and is like, “uh, no” (which, fair). One of the “requests” is that Dwight, her deskmate, not eat hard boiled eggs at his desk anymore because it makes her super nauseous. So in typically Dwight fashion, he takes out his hard boiled egg the next morning, and while staring very pointedly at Pam, cracks it and eats it. Pam, used to his antics, stares right back, picks up her trash can, and pukes right into it, which ends up causing a chain reaction of puking around the office.

          God I miss that show.

        2. Specialk9*

          I did have to ask coworkers not to bring coffee into the conference room. I felt bad, but I was sitting in meetings, practically Lamaze breathing and chewing ginger to try to keep from puking even without that smell. Coffee was too far.

          And eggs, I would have puked too. My husband had to cook eggs outside if he wanted them. Eggs smelled and looked so awful when I was pregnant.

          But I had an extra fun pregnancy. It was extra rough and the puking lasted the whole time. (I actually still have residual morning sickness several years later.)

          1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

            My heightened sense of smell lingers to this day. My youngest turns 12 this year. My family calls it my X-men super power.

          2. Candi*

            You might want to look up hyperemesis gravidarum. I’m sorry that it won’t help you now, but I know having An Explanation tends to make me feel better. :)

            Don’t know what’s up with the long term sickness, though.

          3. Rana*

            It’s so weird what ends up grossing one out when pregnant, and what effects linger. Eggs were great; I joked for a while that our kid was made out of blueberries and fried eggs, because I ate so many of them.

            But salmon, and trout, which I loved, gave me the heaves. It’s only just this fall, four years after she was born, that I can actually eat them again without gagging. (And the gagging… I had a stomach of iron before being pregnant – could see or smell anything and not be bothered. Now there are so many stupid small things that bring it on.)

          4. 2 Cents*

            My heart goes out to you. My morning sickness lasted with a vengeance till Week 17 (I’m week 22 now), but there are still things that are just NOT ALLOWED at home because it sets off a horrible reaction. I didn’t cook between Weeks 5 and 17 and it’s still hard to smell anything cooking in my kitchen now. UGH.

      4. Nerdling*

        100% this. Pregnancy is not an excuse to be an obsessive jerk about your coworkers’ bathroom habits (or anything, really).

    1. New Window*

      Turns out, Little Miss Shit Don’t Stink is having morning sickness. But without throwing up. Just lots and lots and lots of pooping.

      I don’t really believe in karma, but then things like this happen, and it makes me smile a little.

      Okay, it makes me smile a lot.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        How tempting would it be to exclaim, “POOPING FOR FOUR, HUH?!” when she comes out of the bathroom…

        1. AKchic*

          “Well… the rest of us use this” and hand her the Poopouri. And then, “be sure to note your bathroom usage on your spreadsheet.”

        2. The Other Katie*

          I am now laughing so hard Mr. Other Katie is looking at me funny from the other side of the room.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          All of the Office Pooper-related comments have been cracking me up, but this one made me laugh out loud.

  4. 5 Leaf Clover*

    Oh what I would give to get to read her internal monologue on the day she realized that she, too, was going to have no choice but to use the bathroom for its intended purpose.

    1. whyo*

      If I were the OP, I would report in a loud whisper to Senora Pregnantwithtriplets that someone has been pooping in the bathroom! Like, a lot! I’d use the exact same words she used to use. Then I’d stare at her with wide eyes.

      I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

  5. Been there*

    #4 Glad you found your feet, so to speak, on your team. I remember your letter and it made me giggle at the time because I totally would have done the same thing at one point. Great job coming clean to your boss and learning from it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Great update. And the problem is a perfect example of something that could be really minor if you cop to it in a timely manner, giving your manager a laugh, while being a real blow to your reputation if one of your coworkers comes out with “Wait… what do you mean Jane said I said in our meeting? There was no meeting.”

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes! Owning your mistakes before they get found can actually make people trust you now. Admitting after found out destroys your credibility.

  6. Alice*

    Am I the only one who thinks the “office pooper” update might be made-up? Between triplets being super-rare, and the poetic justice being just too good to be true, it strikes me as STDH.

    1. TCO*

      Alison would have verified that it came from the same e-mail address as the original poster. It matches OP’s tone and style, and this site’s comment rules also ask people not to speculate whether a letter is fake.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to clarify because this gets repeated a lot here, the site rules don’t actually ask people not to speculate on that — I did used to ask that because it feels unhelpful and derailing (and unkind to the letter writer), but then realized how tyrannical it sounds to say “you cannot question these letters!” So now the site rules just say: “I have no way of knowing if the letters people submit or real or not. I assume all advice columnists get trolled now and then, but I don’t really care as long as the answer might be useful to someone.” But I will still jump in if it becomes derailing or unkind.

        That said, people cry “fake!” about some relatively mundane stuff. It’s odd.

        1. Robbie*

          My theory is that they may feel it is so mundane that there is simply no way someone would write in a make a stink about it.
          On the flip side, some things seem so bizarre (e.g. the office demanding everyone be tested for organ donation) that your brain can’t possibly reconcile it.
          Regardless, there is almost always someone else dealing with a similar problem who didn’t write in, so the advice is helpful all the same.

        2. Lissa*

          I know that for me it isn’t always the craziest letters that feel fake, so even if something is mundane, it’ll just….feel off and wrong. I usually don’t say anything but just for me it’s not really about whether a situation could ever possibly happen. There’s one letter here that gets referenced fairly often that I would seriously bet my life savings is fake, but … eh, no way to prove it.

          There’ve been the occasional news article quoted here where it’s like, OMG if it showed up in an advice column that would seem totally fake, too – thinking about the poop/explosives in lunch boxes, uh, thing.

          1. Jesca*

            I have been doing QMS and Production process changes for years in some of the most horrible places you could ever imagine, and nothing surprises me anymore. Even in the the most mundane (mostly in the mundane places), people really freak out about really mundane things. The bigger issues always come from places of true management mayhem. Almost everything I have read on here (sans the organs haha), I have actually encountered in real life. So even if they are “made up”, I hate to say they do happen and are not uncommon.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Even if a particular letter is fake, I don’t see how that hurts us. We keep talking with each other and learning things, therefore it’s no loss on our parts.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      If you’re doing IVF and don’t do selective reduction, it’s not that rare. And the super-sensitive pregnancy nose would explain the potty patrol behavior.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Yeah. The comment from OP that the poop patroller has been wanting to get pregnant for a long time (and was open about that with her coworkers), plus triplets, made me think IVF.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I know someone with twins who bought a house in a neighborhood that by whatever roll of the dice was all twins and triplets. A family brought home a new singleton infant and one of the preschoolers asked where the others were, since in his limited experience this things always come in sets.

      3. sunny-dee*

        I’m doing IVF, and they don’t transfer a ton of embryos (unless the quality is really low). The chance of having triplets is typically 1% (with a one embryp transfer). If you transfer two embryos, it’s 3%.

        1. Observer*

          It depends – sometimes they do. And, then you can wind up with division. (I know someone it happened to.)

          So, true it’s not common. But definitely possible.

    3. Mustache Cat*

      No. First, triplets are becoming less rare. And given Pooper Patroller had been wanting kids for a while, it’s totally possible she opted for IVF which increases the odds. Second, you absolutely can’t determine truth or falsity using statistics, unless you want to claim every pregnant woman claiming triplets is lying. Even with a 0.013% chance, there’s millions of pregnant women at any given time, which adds up to a lot of triplets. Thirdly, come on.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      I got pregnant with triplets on my third try with IUI. I ended up losing them all, but it’s not that rare with fertility treatments to go for one and end up with two or three. A lot of people choose to reduce so don’t take all 3 babies to term, but there are more early triplet pregnancies out there than you think.

      I don’t think this skepticism is warranted.

    5. Aubergenius*

      To be honest, I thought the whole thing was made up. I’ve also found several of the updates quite unsatisfying, with people ignoring the advice and the problem not being resolved in any way, or providing insufficient information, the coworker who copied everything the OP did. (Maybe the OP in that one didn’t know the reason either, but it makes the update quite inconclusive, in my opinion).
      Obviously Alison can only publish what people send in, but maybe it’d be better to hold off on some of the updates so that more information can be given.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I personally have known several women in my life who were vocally against people pooping in public restrooms, so the letter seemed very real to me.

        1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          Agreed. I remember, quite vividly, the moment I learned the phrase courtesy flush. A woman I worked with had stepped into our bathroom where someone had just finished pooping. The woman started ranting to all of us washing our hands about using the courtesy flush to minimize the smell. I totally believe that the office pooper is a real letter.

              1. Soon to be former fed*

                The point is not for you at all. Its so other people aren’t forced to smell your shit. I think you are rude.

                1. Cercis*

                  And a bunch of people think you’re wasteful and also rude. Bathrooms will smell like poop sometimes. It’s why you shouldn’t just hang out in there (thinking of former coworkers who would go into the bathroom to make personal calls and stay for a long time).

                2. Amy*

                  I think you’ve missed the point of bathrooms. They are the place to which we as a society have agreed to limit bodily waste related activities. They exist specifically so the shit smells can go there, so we don’t have to deal with them everywhere else.

                3. Onyx*

                  And some of us would rather just smell your shit, in the restroom that’s intended to deal with that kind of thing, rather than be forced to listen to a bunch of noisy unneccessary flushes or smell the stench of artificial air stinkener–sorry, air “freshener” (inevitably overlaid over the smell of shit) while we do our own business.

                  My office has at least one “office flusher,” and I swear she must have flushed at least 10 times during a single session, after spraying a huge waft of artificial floral scent. I wish I was exaggerating on the number of flushes. I really do. But I’m not. And of course she did this when I was already in my own stall and a captive audience. It was incredibly annoying.

                  Clearly my preferences are incompatible with those of the courtesy flushers and air freshener sprayers, meaning we aren’t going to make everyone happy with a single approach–labeling everyone who doesn’t follow your particular approach as rude is pretty presumptuous. I’m sure our Office Flusher is trying to be polite and considerate, even though it drives me up the wall. At the same time, I’m going to continue being considerate of my water-conserving, anti-perfume brethren even though that may frustrate the Flusher. I don’t think that makes either of us rude.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              With the state barely out of a drought, no way am I wasting water on something as ludicrous as a courtesy flush.

          1. Candi*

            No way on this green earth am I flushing while sitting. You’ve read about studies that figure out how much aerolized water sprays out of an open toilet when it’s flushed? And toilets in public places are often stronger then home toilets?

            If you flush when you’re sitting, all that is going right up your sensitive parts. And if you’ve already pooped, it’s gonna have bacteria in it.

            I have enough problems down there, between soft tissue damage when my son was born (difficult birth), an ovarian cyst on my left ovary that pops up several times a year (I feel it; before I was pregnant, it was dehabilitating) and other female-typical problems. I am NOT literally opening myself up to a potentially nasty infection.

        2. No Parking or Waiting*

          Oh, I heard a comedian on one of the satellite stations going off on people who poop at the bar. He was like, “you don’t DO that!”
          and yes, I am friends with a woman who drove home from work any time she had to poop.
          so for all the “no ways!” out there, there are, perhaps not an equal amount, but still an amount of “yes ways.”
          people are crazy.

          1. Parenthetically*

            My brother only poops in his bathroom at home unless it’s absolutely impossible for him to wait. If he’s at my parents’ house he’ll sometimes drive home to do the deed. Fortunately he’s not judgmental about other people’s habits, he’s just poop shy.

            1. AnonforThis*

              I feel this way. I totally get other people do it. But yeah, I would rather do this at home…when I am on vacation with friends…not so great….

          2. super anon*

            My husband will only poop at home unless we’re traveling, then in our hotel room. Unless it’s an emergency. But he would rather hold it all day and wait to get home or to the hotel.

            I had a co-worker who would leave work to poop.

            Poop weirdness is definitely out there.

          3. valc2323*

            I once worked in an office that had a “poop shuttle”.

            We were on temporary assignment in a developing country, and toilets were rare. We had one in the office. One day the water stopped working, so we couldn’t flush. With 20 people sharing an office (actually a 3-bed, 2-bath apartment), not pooping wasn’t feasible, nor was letting it build up until the water came back.

            One of our drivers ended up doing endless circles between the office and our hotel (about 10min drive away) for the next three days until water service was restored. Yes, we had a sign on the bathroom door directing people to please take the poop shuttle rather than leaving a local deposit.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            Animals can do this, too. My first dog would wait allll day until we came home from our day long trip (about 13 hours) to poop and pee in her own yard. Nothing we could really do about it. We walked her often and she repeatedly chose to do nothing. We felt bad about that.

            After a bit we started taking her on over night trips. And that caused her to learn that holding it was not going to work out all the time.

          5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I have a friend who had to poop while she was at work, made up an excuse to leave so she could poop at home, realized she was almost out of gas, so had to stop & refill etc. just so she didn’t have to poop in a public place. And all I could think was WHYYYYY?!
            I’d pee in an alley or poop in a paper sack if I had no other choice before I’d hold it for hours & risk health issues or severe pain/discomfort.

        3. ClownBaby*

          I think the reason I have such a shy bladder and colon is because in high school, some girls would harass and humiliate others who used the bathroom for its intended purpose. I never wanted to be the subject of their taunts.

          I’ve seen this happen in public bathrooms at shopping centers and sporting events too. Some people refuse to believe bathrooms should be used for anything but the occasional pee and for putting on makeup.

          1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

            This is why I can hold it all day! The bullies hung out in the bathroom as well as the smokers. And the bathrooms were never monitored by teachers.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              In my day, the teachers did not dare go in there. The few times they did they formed a group first.

        4. bohtie*

          I actually *just* saw an argument on my facebook yesterday between several of my friends debating whether it’s okay to poop in a public restroom, and a number of people openly found it either gross (because public restrooms are gross, fair enough) or rude (because other people have to use that bathroom too).

          (Personally, as someone with a chronic GI illness, I couldn’t care less because when you gotta go, you gotta go, but it’s definitely out there!)

      2. Lissa*

        I actually like the more “unsatisfying” endings because if every update was justice of the type that was meted out here or to spicy food stealer, it’d start to feel really fake. These things happen occasionally but more often, sadly we don’t get the Hollywood ending..I’d prefer to have what we do than not get updates at all!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree, it plays out just like the rest of life. Sometimes we encounter our own situations where the resolve is not satisfying or maybe even unsettling. It’s not up to the OPs or Alison to create happy endings.

          I do think we do a great job of cheering on an OP who has a good outcome. And we do a good job of consoling the OPs whose outcome was less than we hoped for.

          1. Candi*

            And if the LW shows growth, we cheer that on too. Thinking specifically of the exclusive workplace manager.

      3. Rainy*

        I have worked with a non-zero number of people, all women, who were extremely vocal about the unsuitability of public bathrooms for pooping.

      4. whingedrinking*

        Except…that’s life. Sometimes we get narratively satisfying endings like a movie, sometimes the problem fixes itself or has a mundane resolution, sometimes there’s just no real closure. Like the commentator above, I’d say it’d be way more suspicious if we always got dramatic and awesome updates.

        1. Candi*

          Real Life is Unrealistic is a trope for a reason. Life never ends its story, and doesn’t play according to narrative rules.

      5. Carpe Librarium*

        People can write in to seek advice, but they’re under no obligation to follow that advice.
        They’re also not obliged to provide any update at all, let alone one that will be deemed ‘satisfactorily cathartic’ by AAM’s readers/commenters.

    6. El*

      Oh, it’s really not that rare. I’m a triplet from a small town in Scotland – and there have been other triplets born in that town since then!

    7. Editor Person*

      According to my favorite line reading on Parks and Recreation (an established resource on medical issues), not that rare if the coworker is of a certain age.

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          It was all in the (you should pardon the pun) delivery. It’s hands down one of my favorite TV quotes!

    8. Specialk9*

      In the US in 2015, there were 140 thousand multiple births out of nearly 4 million total births. The rise in multiple births comes from older moms, ovulation drugs and assisted fertility techniques. Rates are going down in the case of assisted fertility, because it’s hard on babies and on parents.

    9. Myrin*

      I mean, triplets may be rare but they do exist. Meaning, there are people who do indeed have triplets. So why shouldn’t OP’s coworker be one of them?

    10. NylaW*

      A coworker did IVF and on their 3rd round decided to do their last two embryos hoping for at least one to stick. Both stuck, one girl, one boy, and then the boy ended up being two boys! We’ve had two other sets of triplets from IVF among the workers at our clinic in the last year. It’s really not that rare. What’s rare is “actual” triplets where they all look the same. That’s still pretty rare. But three babies in an age of advanced reproductive technology? Nah.

      1. Stacy*

        Identical triplets and fraternal triplets are all “actual” triplets. Identical triplets and identical quadruplets where one is lost are less common than fraternal IVF multiples in this day and age, but still very real. People who are multiples are more than a natural phenomenon or a result of IVF. We are actual people too.

    11. Candi*

      I love collections of weird facts. It’s amazing how strange and crazy and just plain wonderful our world is.

      I also mod the Darwin Awards. That Candi? That’s me.

      Rules on the DAs are that you MUST send in a verifiable, reliable resource for anything that’s not a Personal Account. (PAs are where many medical stories land… Although they tapered off after HIPAA.) We’ve refused to pass stories on to the slush pile because the resource submitted is questionable, and Googling didn’t resolve the issue.

      The stuff. on the DA site. is SERIOUSLY bananacrackers. Nutty. What the blazing h***. Bizarre. People can be incredibly weird and nuts.

      And the stuff we get that winds up provably fake? Most* of the time… it’s fairly mundane. It’s the writing style that tends to be suspicious, not the information itself. There’s quirks, patterns, to the writing involved with fake stories, little things that set off the gut feeling even if it seems okay on the surface. It’s hard to really explain in words, since so much of it is wordless thought and understanding. Although one thing is, in accounts that are more than a paragraph or so, they tend to pile on the details. All the details. So many details.

      One way to spot fake stuff, though, is read lots of true stuff. Like learning how to spot fake money; you get very familiar with real money. (Beware, because you’ll start questioning so many news stories. The answer to the funny feeling in the gut is to research and verify.)

      * Sex with a crocodile is not a mundane thing. But the story was only available on one site. A site that tried so hard to look legit -but we read the fine print.) :P

  7. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    “when the HR director found out I was upset, she told me it was important it was a surprise to see how people would react.”

    What??? I just…I don’t get people sometimes.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Part of our Active Shooter Training involved step 3: Fight. Run, Hide, and if you can’t, then you may need to fight. I’d hate to think that a surprise drill would end up with someone being stabbed or beaten because they were mistaken for the shooter.
      Such a short sighted move. Employees should be trained and prepared, but you shouldn’t need to terrorize them.

      1. Narise*

        Agreed. I can hit anything I aim at so I can imagine grabbing tools or staplers etc and throwing it at someone’s head. That would leave a mark or a concussion.

        I think a letter from a lawyer to the company not to HR stating that if future drills occur without warning it will be met with a legal battle. Going to work everyday wondering if you’re going to have a drill can’t be easy to live with and no one should have to. I remember in government locations years ago they would have voluntary participants in drills so people would know how to respond but it was planned and voluntary.

      2. Mockingjay*

        About half our employees are former military. You do not want to surprise them with an unannounced drill.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I cringed just imagining that.

          That HR person definitely did not plan things well at all. Hopefully working with the local police next time will lead to a more appropriate drill!

        2. Antilles*

          Given that most states allow concealed carry, I’m struggling to think of anywhere that you actually would want to surprise people with an unannounced shooter drill.
          Are you sure not a single one of your employees is carrying a concealed weapon right now? Are you sure nobody’s violating the corporate policy on not carrying firearms into the office? Are you sure nobody is going hunting/range/etc tonight and has it with them just for today? Are you suuuuure?
          Let me remind you that you’re betting your own career, the company’s financial future, and the life of your fake ‘shooter’ on the fact that nobody is carrying a gun today. You still fully confident that nobody’s got a gun?

          1. Candi*

            Even if you have searches or whatever and no one has a gun:

            An article I read after Sandy Hook recommended putting a CO2 or chemical extinguisher in each classroom. The idea was the teacher (or a student in a high school) would lie in wait with the extinguisher, then spray them full-on in the face when the shooter opened the door.

            It didn’t sound like a teribbly good idea to me, since the argument completely ignored the human factor and random chance.

            But you really want to take the chance that someone will take an extinguisher to your shooter/actor?

            What about cleaning chemicals? A face full of Tilex would be dangerous. What about pepper sprays? Especially homemade ones.

            What about industries that work with chemicals? If you feel you have nothing to lose and reach for the weapons at hand, what will happen if they get a beakerful of Chemical X? Barry Allen was LUCKY he became the Flash.

            Plus there is all the damage that can be done with a variety of blunt objects thrown or swung. Fear is not rational, especially when the being in question feels they are in a corner, and especially if they feel it is kill or be killed.

            It is a bad, bad idea to surprise people with a shooter drill. People are hypersensitive these days to shootings and will react, and not always by running.

        3. Former Hoosier*

          A town very close to where I work and live had an active shooter situation at a work place. It has been devastating to the town, employees, and others. I cannot imagine thinking that letting everyone believe it was real was a good idea. That alone could cause PTSD as well as other serious consequences.

    2. paul*

      That’s just such a bassackwards thing too; people get hurt during panicked evacuations, during desperate escapes, people might fight back effectively (I mean, really, run hide FIGHT–fighting back is on the list of of responses).


    3. BePositive*

      My co-worker thought it would be funny to scare me when I was all alone working late. I threw my coffee mug at his head and hit him. Lucky it was on the cheek and the mug was empty but it was a bruise. I’m sure I could have broken his nose. I was mortified but he manned up and reported it to HR as a accident the next day as I was instinctively was trying to protect myself

      HR was not impressed and then had to schedule sensitivity training to all

      We still have a good working relationship

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You have got an amazing aim there. Congratulations on being able to keep a good working relationship.

    4. Emergency Planner*

      This line makes me stabby. It’s hard enough to get workplace violence training and drills approved because they, legitimately, scare people silly. So for someone to ruin the ability to have potentially life saving drills because they chose this path… Argh.

      Btw, my family member in a hospital has had 3 armed threat situations in just 1 year. This stuff happens.

      (Deep breath)

      Ok, putting away my soapbox.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I know a teacher (long time personal friend) who had to deal with an armed threat (not active shooter) situation in his classroom several years ago. It did make local news in his area. He handled it well and no one was hurt, but the school had to reevaluate their response system afterwards because they weren’t prepared.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes! And as I think was brought up in the original thread, we more or less *know* how people are going to react if they’re not prepared. The point of a drill is to practice how to react more safely/efficiently/etc. so that hopefully you do that rather than what you’d do naturally if the event ever actually happens.

    6. Jesca*

      I always like to ere on the side of “would a professor be considered cruel if they ran an experiment/test/drill like this while conducting a study?” If the answer is yes, then best not to go there … LMAO

      1. fposte*

        You’d never get approval for this in the first place. There’s not an IRB in the land that would let you.

    7. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, no. It’s acceptable for the *timing* to be a surprise – like if you say “There will be an active shooter drill sometime next week” – so that people aren’t sitting in the most convenient spot waiting for it. (I worked at a school once that announced the timing of fire drills ahead of time, and teachers would often schedule something like read-aloud during that time slot so the kids weren’t in the middle of anything messy. Which means if a real fire ever broke out during finger-painting time or recess, the kids wouldn’t have ever practiced how to evacuate under those circumstances. Fortunately they changed the policy when someone pointed that out.)

      1. whingedrinking*

        I was once teaching at a place where we were told there’d be a fire drill “soon”. So a couple days later, when the alarm went off, I just rounded up my students and took them to the meet-up point, everyone all chill – until we heard sirens. (Turns out it was a false alarm, of all things.) The drill was cancelled after that, on the grounds that we’d basically had it. :P

    8. Antilles*

      Yeah. The HR person trying to justify it is almost as ridiculous as doing it in the first place.
      1.) This isn’t actually how you do drills, especially in the civilian world. Because if you do it the wrong way during training (as a panicked reaction), if the real thing happens, your first thought in the real thing might be to think back and do whatever you did originally. Or, if my ‘wrong’ reaction ended up being successful in training, I very well might ignore your postmortem description of what I should have done instead given that my reaction was actually successful.
      2.) If you think you’re being actively attacked, ‘people can react’ in ways which make *no sense* in a drill. Calling 9-1-1. Attacking the intruder with anything at hand. Breaking the office window and jumping out. The HR person might argue that this isn’t what you’re supposed to do…but it only takes ONE person to panic and you could be looking at a disaster.
      3.) The obvious issues with PTSD. Someone posted this on the original thread, but there have been a few lawsuits where unannounced ‘drills’ like this have led to successful lawsuits and/or worker’s comp claims for PTSD.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I remember in high school we had a surprising number of bomb scares. I think we got a little numb to it.
      The bells were used to signal to return to inside the building. This one particular scare we assumed it was okay to return so all 2000 of us piled back in. I got to watch the bomb squad dismantle that bomb in my hallway. It was the change of class bell, not the okay to return to the building bell. We had no way of knowing the difference.
      No one ever corrected the problem.

      1. Mischa*

        My university had the same thing happen in the 90s. There was no policy limiting the number of finals a student was permitted to take in a day, so feasibly a student could be forced to take five finals in one day without having the right to reschedule. After a wave of bomb threats, the university changed its policy and students can now only take three finals in one day. The threats suddenly stopped after that.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        We had a lot of bomb threats in my high school.

        They were always just somebody on suspension calling them in so that a friend could get out of a class. They never once found a bomb and would just go through the list of students out sick or on suspension for the day and figure out who it was, then give them suspension. (So they could call in more threats, I guess?)

        The 1980s were a different time to go to high school.

    10. SusanIvanova*

      I used to teach karate – my startle reflex is to hit whatever surprised me, as a couple of my fellow karate teachers learned the hard way when they thought it would be funny to jump out from a blind corner. I *did* pull my punch – but just barely.

    11. babblemouth*

      If it was important that it was a surprise, then why did they tell everyone else? Someone’s fishing for an excuse…

  8. Oxford Common Sense*

    So excited to hear the Office Pooper update! We have poo-pourri in our bathroom too, and every time I look at it I think of the Office Pooper! I’m so happy OP that you can now poop in peace.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It mysteriously showed up in my office bathroom not too long ago. I’m not sure if one of my colleagues reads here or if it was a happy coincidence.

  9. Anita-ita*

    #3 – you have every right to be upset. Sorry you had to go through that, it’s awful. My husband is a Colombine survivor which in turn has made me very anti gun and take anything related to active shooting drills/training very seriously. I would probably be traumatized if I went through the same thing you did!

    1. Marie*

      I was thinking about something like this. How do HR know that no one at the company has had an issue with something like this? It is possible that a member of staff has either been involved themselves in an incident or known someone who was involved in such an incident which could then trigger PTSD or other issues.

    2. NylaW*

      I was thinking this same thing when I saw the original letter. Sadly these kinds of things are becoming way too common, and after the large number of people affected by what happened in Las Vegas, you can’t know that you won’t be causing some serious harm to people, even if they know it’s a drill! Someone could still be told it’s fake and yet the practicing of what to do and the talking about it can bring up bad memories.

  10. Fabulous*

    I didn’t know that morning sickness could manifest as stomach issues instead of nausea! Oof, that’s probably going to be me since that’s already how my hangovers work, LOL. Plus I have IBS on top of it. Stomach issues suck, but I’ll take it over throwing up constantly!

    1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      For the first month…before I confirmed pregnancy…I was horribly constipated. It was pretty awful. The human body is a wonderfully weird machine. :)

    2. super anon*

      Isn’t nausea a type of stomach issue? In any event, I think sickness with pregnancy can affect people in so many different ways, mornings and at all times of the day.

    3. Rana*

      I was fine on stomach issues, fore and aft, but was incredibly exhausted. Like, walking a block required me to stop and rest. Bodies are weird; pregnant bodies even more so.

  11. legalchef*

    I love the pooper update. Also, if she has a problem with poop now… just wait until she has the babies!

  12. Kvothe*

    The Office Pooper update is my favourite update of the year I’m pretty sure…I’m actually laughing at my desk at the karma of the situation (plus OP you have such a great way with words)

    1. Office Pooper*

      Thank you! Some people have posted that they don’t believe the update. I don’t blame them. It is kind of unbelievable. But I swear on everything that is good and holy, these events are true! I actually walked in after her earlier and it was AWEFUL. I decided not to ‘let her squirm’ any longer haha!

  13. PollyQ*

    LW #2 — Well done! Give yourself a whole heap of credit for being brave enough to raise the issue and for being tactful enough to successfully make your point! Bravo!

  14. Amy*

    Active shooter drills sound incredibly dangerous to me. I’m imagining people hurling themselves out of 3rd floor windows in terror, attacking the “shooter” with chairs and fire extinguishers or pulling out a concealed weapon in self-defense. Not to mention the PTSD. It makes me wonder if it’s ever a good idea in the civilian world.

    1. Zinnia*

      The idea is that people can practice what they’d do in a calm environment. That way if there is an incident, they can repeat what they did, rather than just trying to remember what they read in a policy on the spot in a panic.

      The is you must have advance notice, because if you are panicking, you are not learning.

    2. paul*

      You can do a planned one–where to barricade up, evacuation routes, stuff like that–but people *have* to know in advance. Otherwise yeah, it’s a horrible, no good, idea.

    3. KayEss*

      I’ve never heard of an active shooter drill where there was someone actually in the role of “shooter,” at least not for civilian employees. But I’ve also never, EVER had one that wasn’t announced clearly in advance… I’m young enough that we had them in school, and I’ve worked at a couple places where they were done at least annually. They should play out roughly like a fire drill–the code word alarm is announced and everyone goes through their procedure, while security does a quick walk-through to verify compliance and identify any problems.

      Everywhere I’ve worked announces fire drills and alarm testing in advance, as well. Emergency services shouldn’t be tied up by a miscommunicated drill, and I can’t even imagine the PR damage that could be done by a rogue tweet from an employee who wasn’t told about an active shooter drill in advance. OP’s workplace has not thought this through at all.

      1. MommyMD*

        As well as people calling 911 and having a SWAT team show up for a misplaced drill. Whomever thought this was a good idea should be fired.

      2. Hallway Feline*

        I was an RA in college, so we did these twice a year at the trainings (along with fire and earthquake drills, what up fellow Californians?). The University Police would come in and show us how to disarm/capture a shooter (emphasizing that running/hiding/staying safe first is always the best course of action, the moves were taught just to show that most people who aren’t specially trained could do something to stop an intruder if needed).

        So I think that ALICE training/active shooter drills are good but should definitely be announced in advance and everyone should be on board with them.

      3. GiantPanda*

        My company does unannounced fire drills. The rules are simple: everybody leave the building, do not use the elevator, walk to the assigned meeting place, team leaders count their people, check the time until everybody is safe outside and accounted for.
        The fire department is informed in advance (no emergency calls) and usually has somebody supervising.

        They seem to work great (last one was 7 minutes I believe), but you can absolutely not do this with an active shooter drill!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It was a while back, but a nursing home in the area practiced regular fire drills. And one day the real thing happened. They got everyone out, they got out all their meds and their medical records too. Near by residents tore their blankets off their own beds and ran to bundle up the elderly people some more than they already were.
          It was an amazing thing.

      4. Grits McGee*

        One of the field offices at my agency did a drill with someone role playing as the “active shooter”- I think the staff knew what was going on, but the shooter actually “shot” people with a laser pointer or stickers, so it was (kind of inappropriately?) next level. I have no idea why they needed something that intense, our agency is basically made up of librarians.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, we did them when I worked for the feds. With an actual person playing the role of a shooter. It was very helpful.

        But we never had a drill without warning, for all the reasons you mentioned.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I worked for a company that was a federal contractor. They didn’t do drills when I was there, but we got online, active shooter “training” – a video produced by some company in Texas. It was pretty ridiculous. One of the most egregious things that I noticed was that there was no closed captioning of the training. Since we were required to have all our communication be accessible for people, it was extremely inappropriate that our own training for this was not accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. Who, by the way, have additional challenges in many kinds of emergency situations (and this would be one of them).

          Also, they never told us what our protocol would be if they were announcing an active shooter situation. They gathered our cell numbers around that time for emergency announcement, but only used them once for a long, non-emergency text. I assume they would text us? Since many employees were required to keep their cells out of site while working, I’m not sure how they would be alerted.

          Bare minimum all the way! I’m pretty sure that was the working motto of executive management.

    4. ClownBaby*

      I head up my company’s safety committee and I am so torn on having a drill here because of this. Employees here tend not to take fire or tornado drills that seriously (which I am trying to fix). Heck, they don’t even take actual gas leaks seriously…our last gas leak, I did a quick check of my assigned section of the building and found an employee casually cutting cake in the break room because she wanted something to eat outside, so I can’t imagine them taking an active shooter drill seriously either. At the same time, I definitely would not do one unannounced because of the reasons you list…I could see employees running into the warehouse, tripping, getting hurt. I also feel if I tried to announce it, there’s bound to be a few employees that don’t understand it’s a drill.

      I am hoping to appease the committee that is pressuring me to do a drill by sending managers and maybe a few lower level employees to some CRASE training. Or at least having everyone watch Run, Hide, Fight.

      1. KayEss*

        Ouch, I sympathize with being in a position where you’re pressured to enforce compliance but don’t have any consequences to mete out when people blow you off. That sucks. I hope the gas leak cake-cutter was at least given a talking-to.

      2. whingedrinking*

        I once had to evacuate a classroom due to a gas leak when I was teaching English as a second language. Boy was that fun. They were low enough level that only a few of them even knew the word “emergency”.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      They’re not dangerous if they’re done properly. I have never heard of someone running an uncontrolled drill where they don’t notify all participants well in advance (or train them in advance). This was more of a “test” than a drill, but given that it happened with no training and non-universal warning, it sounds like a massive liability.

  15. AKchic*

    Hope the Office Pooper’s coworker doesn’t forget to update her spreadsheet when she makes her own deposits!

  16. Elsewhere1010*

    Re: the shooter drill, I too worked in an office where you needed ID badges to unlock the doors at each end of the elevator banks. Since people used these doors all day, most felt it was just plain silly to make sure the door closed and locked, it was so much easier to prop it open.

    This was at 101 California in San Francisco, and I was working there in July 1995 when a lone gunman exited the elevators and walked into our office through the open doors. Eight people were killed, four were injured. I hid in a storage closet with two other employees until we were ordered by a SWAT team to come out.

    Your manager, who planned this surprise drill, acted foolishly. My own experiences with PTSD (which,thank goodness, have tapered off over the years due to some good therapy) have taught me my judgement becomes cloudy and boundaries disappear. The phrase that springs to mind is that, if it were my manager who did this, at the time I found it was just a drill I probably would have been screaming obscenities at her face at the top of my lungs –, at least, that’s what I did to some acquaintances who showed up at a backyard barbecue water guns shaped like rifles.

    1. MommyMD*

      I’m so sorry you went through that. It’s a life-altering experience. I think at least transiently about shootings every day and locked doors and windows. If my employer played Active Shooter without notice, I would sue them. And immediately go off on stress leave. The idiocy astounds me. I wish you luck on your recovery. I’m two years out on mine and it shades your entire life. You go to a mall or an event and that little voice of alarm still goes off.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Thank you for sharing your experience and illustrating why this is was such a monumentally bad idea.

      I am glad that therapy helped ease your PTSD.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Oh my. A good friend of mine worked there too, and since (I think) she was the receptionist you’d probably recognize her. But she missed all the fun because she was taking a long lunch to buy a fancy party outfit. (Thank all the deities for fancy party outfits!)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I thank you for sharing this also. I think it’s important for people to read.

      If I may, I would like to ask a question. Of course, you can chose not to answer. How did you decide that this was probably indeed the SWAT team and it was safe to leave your hiding place? I picture being terrorized out of my mind and being unable to decide.

      1. Elsewhere1010*

        Different members of the SWAT Team used the megaphone to order anyone in hiding to come out; it was, I think, the use of different voices that we found reassuring.

        We had been hiding for about an hour (the gunman was already dead, but we didn’t know that yet) when we decided to obey the instructions we were hearing and I volunteered (“You, Elsewhere, get out there and tell them we’re back here!”) The orders were to come out into view with my hands up over my head, and that’s what I did.

        I exited the supply closet, and about ten feet away from me was a squad of six SWAT Team members in full kit, rifles drawn and aimed at my head; three team members were kneeling in the front row, the other three were standing right behind. One of them asked me if any others were hiding and I couldn’t speak, only nod my head.

        I’d like to thank the people of this community for their comments and kindness. It’s the kind of thing that never really goes away, but you have to let that be all right. This whole “fake drill” thing pulled a string in my head, and the strength of that made me want to make that first post.

    5. Former Hoosier*

      I am so sorry. I have never experienced this but do have PTSD for another reason and sometimes very small things can cause me to have a reaction.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Oh crap, I remember that one. I’m sorry you and your colleagues had to go through that.

      Yes, you’re right about the boundaries disappearing. I noticed that in myself after the sexual assault in college. In situations where someone tries to restrain me, even playfully, I can very much overreact, even now. I typically warn new partners about it so they don’t do it in intimate encounters, because if they don’t take it seriously and stop immediately when I say, it’s possible I could hurt them inadvertently.

    1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      “Making me feel lucky I’m not you!”

      (Hoping this was intended as the Avenue Q reference I interpreted it as)

  17. Jo*

    Re the office pooper, if the OP weren’t as nice as she sounds, it might be an idea for her to become the new Poop Patrol and tell her colleague she is keeping an eye out to catch the office pooper as the bathrooms are sooo stinky… just after the former Poop Patrol has been in. Of course that would be a bit mean so I wouldn’t advocate actually doing that, but it made me chuckle imagining it!

  18. MommyMD*

    The Active Shooter drill without prior knowledge can result in some pretty serious psychological damage. I think I would have gone out on a few weeks stress leave. The way I did when involved with a true shooting. Your company is so out of line my head is spinning. And they have no idea what their employees have already experienced in life. You’d be justified in filing a formal complaint.

  19. CaribouInIgloo*

    I’m glad #2 worked out for you, OP!
    Sure, it’s great to have polished public speaking skills, but it shouldn’t be a requirement for most jobs, unless you’re a stand-up comedian or professional TED talk giver.
    Heck, in Canada we have a Prime Minister who uses filler words all the time. Still it doesn’t hurt his approval ratings because he’s an effective leader who knows his stuff.

  20. PersephoneUnderground*

    Sheesh- seems like they’re trying to cover by saying most people were informed who weren’t in a secure area. But seriously? Most people isn’t good enough when it comes to safety. And being in a secured area doesn’t mean they don’t need to know it’s a drill either- it’s not like that means that they’re always 100% safe and shouldn’t be upset by being told there’s a shooter in the building. Seriously? We probably will consult with the police next time isn’t good enough! I don’t know what you can do, but the person who planned this clearly still doesn’t get how dangerous and wrong it was to do it that way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      All it takes is one person who does not know it’s a drill and that person calls the police.

  21. Broadcastlady*

    #3, that’s awful! Our PD is across the street, and we could hear rapid gunfire one morning that sounded like it was in our parking area and everyone took cover. I called the PD to let them know we thought we can active shooter outside and needed help, and was told it was a SWAT training they’d decided to do out back of the department. We were not amused. They do call us now when they train.

  22. SallytooShort*

    The whole point of a drill is to *drill* the correct protocol into your brain. So, if, God forbid, the worst happens you can act on rote memory. For that to work people *must* know it’s about to happen. So they can really focus on the steps they are taking.

    Terrifying people is no way to get them to remember the correct procedure. All you’ll remember from that day is the fear. Not what steps you are meant to take.

    I hope the sheriff shames your HR director when they handle the next one. I know she meant well. And I can sort of see what she was thinking. But just absolutely not.

    OP4: I missed your original post but this is something I totally would have done when I was younger. I think a lot of people can relate to feeling uncomfortable putting a group together at first. You handled it right when it dawned on you that maybe this wasn’t the best way to handle it. You feel more assured. You have a bright future!

  23. Nanc*

    Personal Life Lessons from AAM: be glad I never had children as I have a freakishly good sense of smell and if it ramps up when one is pregnant I can’t imagine how I would have survived. Seriously, I can smell blown light bulbs, which is how we once discovered a small fire at the office . . .

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I’ve never been pregnant, but my understanding is that it also affects “how” you smell, so things that once smelled good or at least OK to you now don’t. (I imagine it’s similar to how your sense of smell is keener and your appetite changes near menstruation – but way, way more so.)

  24. Candi*

    #1 -That. Is. Hysterical. I do feel a little bad for her, but there’s also a little bit of turnabout is fair play in there too.

    #2 -Yay!

    #3 -M. HR needs a clue by four. She does not get How These Things Work. Ergh.

    #4 -As long as it’s not something egregious or so far beyond common sense you can even see the line, most decent bosses are more concerned with how you react to making a mistake then the mistake yourself. Your reaction shows so much character and drive. Keep rocking it!

  25. MommyMD*

    It should be illegal to do an active shooter drill without every single employee being notified in advance. It’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard a company do. SMDH.

  26. gl*

    Geez #3. Glad they figured things out. Imagine if someone overreacted and brought their own weapon out and someone got hurt? What a nightmare.

    My work will start having these drills soon. It’s such a strange feeling and so awful that we actually need this kind of stuff :(

  27. Princess Cimorene*

    #1 LOL Wow what an interesting turn of events. Maybe she was so stuck on finding the pooper because her olfactory sense were crazy heightened due to the really big pregnancy and the smells were driving her crazier than everyone else!! lol. Finding out your carrying not one, but three little ones might have explained it to her (and then of course a little bit of poetic justice to boot) and she was like oh, that explains it! lol.

  28. anon so I don't "out" myself*

    I write emergency plans and plan and execute emergency drills and exercises for a living. There is no circumstance in which it is a good idea to have people participating in an exercise and not know it. That is NOT best practice in any way.
    There IS what’s called a “no-notice” exercise, where it’s a “surprise”, but you would still begin all communications with “exercise-exercise-exercise” or something similar. I know the HR person who did the planning isn’t an emergency manager, but common sense should still tell you that you should at least announce it is a DRILL over the loudspeaker. There’s so many ways in which people could have gotten hurt, or first responder resources unnecessarily dispatched to deal with a fake shooting.

  29. 2 Cents*

    To the Office Pooper, as someone who’s pregnant, it’s possible that before she announced, she was experiencing heightened smell (I know I STILL do), so regular bathroom smells (and others) were really bothering her. Doesn’t excuse her vile behavior, but I can commiserate that much. (I swear our brand-new fridge at home has a smell.)

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