my coworker is setting toilet paper on fire in the bathroom

A reader writes:

I work in a small office (about 20 people at this branch of our company) and we have two individual restrooms (as opposed to stalls) in our central hallway. There is certainly a smell situation because the hallway leads to all major sections of the office, but in general, people try to control this with air fresheners, PooPourri products, etc. Sometimes a book of matches is left there, which seems to help the most.

In the last few months, however, a coworker has begun to — from what we can best understand — light clumps of toilet paper on fire, throw the burning toilet paper into the toilet, and flush. Ashes often skitter down the hallway, like smoky tumbleweeds. The whole office begins to smell like a poop barbeque. This has begun happening at least twice a week, often more.

Now, I thought people understood that matches work to mask odor because of the sulfur released, not because of the fire. Clearly, this individual does not realize this. We all know who it is, because he’s one of the few smokers (i.e., carries around a lighter) and also has been seen walking away as the ashes go flying.

I have asked my boss (not this person’s direct boss) to speak to him, but he deflects and says we don’t actually have proof, and nothing wrong has technically happened yet. This person’s actual boss is the least confrontational person in our company, so I know he won’t do anything either. My boss said, “We’d have to email the whole company and ask them to stop lighting toilet paper on fire,” and I said, “That’s fine! It’s dangerous and disgusting! Explain the science of matches to them!” but my boss keeps deflecting.

Do I need to just let this go, or should I continue pushing my boss to do something? I’m seriously worried this person is going to accidentally set our building on fire from the bathroom out.

I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays.

It is magnificent.

But only because I do not smell the poop barbecue.

I don’t see any reason you can’t just say something to this guy directly the next time you see him emerging from the bathroom in a cloud of ash. Like, it’s totally reasonable that you might comment on that! In some ways, it’s actually weirder not to say anything when you see that.

You could say, “Holy crap, did you light something on fire in there?” or “Whoa, are you okay? What’s with all this smoke and ash?” … followed by, after whatever weird response he gives you, “You’re not actually lighting anything on fire in there, are you? That would be dangerous. The matches aren’t intended to start fires, they’re just supposed to be lit and immediately blown out.”

Your boss’s reluctance to address this in any way is weird. You don’t need “proof” to say to someone, “Hey, are you setting toilet paper on fire in the bathroom? Please don’t do that if so; it’s dangerous.” (And this wouldn’t be based on just a hunch; you have seen the ashes.)

In many offices, if you hadn’t already talked to your boss about this and explicitly been told that he doesn’t want something sent to the staff email list, you could have just sent that message yourself (assuming your office is small enough that it wouldn’t have been bizarre for it to come from you rather than an official facilities spokesperson or so forth). But now that your boss has vetoed it, that’s more complicated.

Really, though, if no one around you is willing to take this on, you can just say something to the guy yourself.

Also! I discussed this letter with Jolie Kerr today on a bonus episode of the Ask a Clean Person podcast (you need to become a Patreon to hear it, but you should because we also talked about Jolie’s dating life and her very funny bad Valentine’s Day date). And we discussed several other horrifying letters about office bathrooms on the (free) main Ask a Clean Person episode today.

{ 587 comments… read them below }

        1. The Original K.*

          Thank God I work from home more often than not and am home today, because I straight up cackled at “poop barbecue.” I love this letter.

            1. StellaBella*

              Mine too, just shard on FB the link and phrase and trying not to cackle as it is 11.20pm where I am and roommate is asleep.

            2. Suzy Q*

              SO FUNNY. The title got me, because just when I think we’ve heard it all here, there is yet another impossible thing that happens. Poop BBQ!

        2. Soveryanon*

          Me too! I happened to open this up as I was finishing a conference call and I had to put myself on mute as I was giggling uncontrollably.

    1. GRA*

      I can’t stop laughing !! (Sorry, OP. I know this is a gross situation for you and your co-workers. But thank you so much for writing in!!)

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      Honestly, it’s writing like this that keeps me reading AAM:

      I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays.
      It is magnificent.
      But only because I do not smell the poop barbecue.

      Sorry, OP – I wish I had more constructive advice for you! But I do wish you the best of luck in dealing with the Poop-B-Q.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          *gasp* And here I thought this thread couldn’t get any better – now there’s a power ballad! OBVIOUSLY all the coworkers need to stand outside the door holding up lighters. OP, please organize a team building event around this image, because it is amazing.

            1. an infinite number of monkeys*

              You know, this is one of those rare occasions when the most outlandish fantasy response to a problem might also be an effective solution.

      1. No Mas Pantalones*

        I went Barbeqoop.

        Also, I’d probably print out an infographic on why matches work and flaming bog roll doesn’t, but I’m also petty.

      1. Syfygeek*

        I just laugh snorted and tried to cover it as a cough as my boss walked by.

        The back up singers singing “That Smell”
        Ooooh that smell
        Can’t you smell that smell
        Ooooh that smell
        The smell of death surrounds you

    3. thankful for AAM.*

      @my favorite thing – imlate to the party but me too.
      I mean, walking out in clouds of glowing ash!
      Poop bbq!

    1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

      Ditto! Everytime I think I’ve heard it all, something comes along that proves me dead wrong.

    2. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

      Oh no. There are always more depths to plumb… Humans are a very strange species.

  1. Emi.*

    I actually didn’t know that about the sulfur.

    But I still wouldn’t have done this. Can you put up a sign?

    1. Anti Poo BBQ*

      I was thinking about putting up a sign, actually. I always worry signs are so passive-aggressive, though!

      1. Avocado Toast*

        I feel like “Please don’t light things on fire in the bathroom” might be an exception to this rule

        1. Jennifer*

          Can someone go into the bathroom after he’s been in there a few minutes, maybe with nose plugs in, and pretend they are hanging out by the sink grooming themselves or something, then casually ask why there’s smoke coming out of the bathroom stall once this guy comes out? When he explains why he is doing it the look of horror on their face might do the trick.

          Also – I was a bit confused, do the employees suspect he is using his lighter to start the fires or the provided matches? If he’s using the matches the simplest solution is just to take them out of the bathroom. The Poopourri should be sufficient.

            1. Jennifer*

              Oh! You’re right! Someone would have to stand near the door and pretend to be casually walking by.

              “Hi, there coworker that I just so happened to bump into in a way that was not at all planned. Did you start a fire in there, my man? Looking a little ashy.”

              1. AKchic*

                Fake panic? “Oh my gods! I smell smoke! Is there a fire? Somebody get the fire extinguisher! Turdison has ash all over himself and the bathroom is smoky and smells like it’s on fire!”

                Seriously treat it like an actual hazard (it is, and has the potential to be a bigger one). He’s being extremely unsafe.

                1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*


                  Whatever insurance company insures your building is going to have a conniption fit if they find out about this… especially if, god forbid, the fire catches on something.

                2. Jers*

                  Turdison!!! I need to go pee now bc i’m laughing too hard for comfort!! Oh my gosh this is the funniest AAM i think i’ve Ever read. Thank you guys for all these comments i needed this laugh just now.

        2. Alli525*

          I love weird signs like that in office restrooms. Ours says “Please be sure the door is fully closed before locking.” I just know there’s a story there, but really I’d prefer the sign to say “Please make sure the toilet has flushed all the way and you’ve used the air freshener we provide you before exiting the restrooms.”

          1. Midge*

            We have signs asking people to make sure the automatic toilets actually flush. Someone add a handwritten “It’s not your fault!” and it always makes me chuckle.

            1. JKP*

              FYI: women have to wipe front to back, which you can’t do sitting down. You have to stand up so you can reach your hand between your legs to wipe front to back.

              1. Nonny-nonny-non*

                At the risk of TMI, I (a woman) do wipe front to back, and I do typically do it while sitting.
                I used to stand up, until I had two broken ankles in my late teens and standing stopped being an option for long enough that new habits (sitting not standing) got formed.

              2. JKP*

                Wow, I’m super impressed at women who can do that sitting down. I can’t imagine how I could do that without lifting off the seat enough to fit my hand behind me. Otherwise the toilet seat is in the way.

              3. Nonny-nonny-non*

                More TMI risk…

                I don’t go in from behind, I go in from in front. Which makes the whole front-to-back thing easy, and then just drop the TP.
                For more umm..thorough wiping needs I start with the sit, front-to-back bit, and then perhaps stand for fuller access for a second wipe.
                Aren’t you glad you asked ;)

              4. stump*

                ???????? My vagina has never been an impediment to sitting while wiping (and doing a correct/thorough job), so I’m extremely confused. I honestly never knew that people stood and wiped at all.

                Also, trans people exist. :)

              5. We All Wipe Differently*

                Maybe that’s how *you* have to do it but please don’t assume all women wipe that way. I go much like Nonny-nonny-non, in from the front. The only time I might need a second wipe if I’ve gotten a “surprise!” period.

              6. JSPA*

                It’s close to 50/50 for men. more like 60/40 for women. And some do either, depending on situation. (The majority sit.)

                Whether you can conveniently reach one way or the other has a lot more to do with your individual flexibility, arm length, back length, sense of balance, shoulder rotation, “cleftiness,” poop consistency (where applicable), hair presence and growth pattern as well as clothing…and a whole host of other even more detailed factors even less appropriate for public vote.

            2. Airy*

              How on earth can you wipe sitting down? Do you mean only in front? For the back, people with larger bottoms are unlikely to have enough space between the toilet seat and their body for a hand holding toilet paper to fit through. I don’t have a particularly large bottom but I can’t imagine that being feasible. Also, who wants to put their hand down into a toilet bowl if they don’t have to?

              1. Tired of Winter*

                You just move forward on the seat a little. I have a big ass and I can do it, geesh. Not that hard.

              2. Wannabikkit*

                I’m also a woman in posession of an ample posterior. I have no trouble wiping from behind, as I too just move forward on the seat a bit.
                It never occurred to me that some people stand up, or wipe from the front!

              3. C Baker*

                I typically reach my hand in from the front to the back. It works just fine.

                But the important thing is THAT we clean ourselves, not HOW we do it.

              4. JSPA*

                You lean, to get in from the back. You lift a leg, if needed, to get in from the front. It’s all doable (so to speak).

                The warnings about back-to-front wiping (of poo, resulting in fecal contamination and potential yeast infections and UTI’s) always seemed to me to presume women are clueless about their functions, and can’t in any way control a gesture if it’s under their…undercarriage. I mean, yes, it’s all part of the same body, but your underwear covers both sections, and sweat can also drip past one to the other?

                I have no UTI problems (and also no problem doing some butt wiping from “taint” towards back, as well as from back to, uh, before I hit that point. I do not suffer from UTI’s. If I’m in a situation where the toilet is nasty and I’m doing all my business in a high crouch anyway, and my quads are screaming for help before I’m done, then I wipe from the back. It…all works, with a little extra attention if you’re doing something different than you normally do.

                I figure as we get old, we don’t know what abilities we’ll lose first, and having more than one way of doing all of life’s essential processes means more independence, longer.

              5. teclatrans*

                I am 6′ tall and 250 lbs, and I have no idea how I would wipe standing up — the, um, access closes offwhen I stand? I just have to scooch forward a bit.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I was in a restroom that had a sign saying please make sure they flush. When it didn’t, I tried to find a button, lever, something. There was no way to make it flush.

          3. Teapot Librarian*

            There’s a restroom that I’ve been known to use that has a sign saying not to flush jewelry. Every time I use that restroom I wonder what could possibly have caused someone to include jewelry in the list of things not to flush.

            1. Airy*

              I’ve flushed an earring that I accidentally dropped in because come on, an earring that’s fallen into a toilet is dead to me.

            2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

              Once worked someplace that had the following sign on the office water fountain:
              I can’t process solids, so please don’t feed me any more spaghetti, hamburgers, or pizza slices.
              Water fountain was in a random hallway, no where near any kitchen or breakroom.

            3. Anjou*

              There’s a sign at a hiking area I frequent instructing people not to wash their shoes off in the toilet.

          4. JKP*

            A friend’s office has a sign above the bathroom sink saying, “It’s a small office. If you make a mess, we’ll know who did it.” Hung by the bathroom police who would go in and quality control the bathroom after each person used it and then shame them if there was a mess.

          5. Classic Rando*

            My gym has signs in the women’s locker room asking members to stop flushing tampons and threatening loss of membership for any who do. They’ve been up (and occasionally replaced) for as long as I’ve been going there, so I guess their (obviously) hollow threats aren’t working

            1. Bookslinger*

              How would they identify the culprits? *Cue search for hidden cameras!* Joking aside, I learned that lesson when I was a teen and stopped up my family’s toilet…and was the only person there when the plumber came in holding the dangling tampon he’d hauled out of the septic tank.

      2. Rey*

        A commenter shared this on Alison’s post about anonymous notes, and I think it would apply equally well to posting signs. The Venn diagram of these three issues does not overlap–it’s just three circles that aren’t touching: 1) people who respond positively to anonymous notes (posted signs); 2) people who are so unreasonable as to require anonymous notes (posted signs); and 3) problems that can and will be fixed, but only if you send an anonymous note (post a sign).

      3. Cat Fan*

        I think in this case, it is perfectly acceptable to put up a sign saying “Do not light fires in the bathrooms or anywhere on the premises. Matches can be lit and immediately blown out. Not sure how that works? Google it!”
        Or something to that effect.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          I completely agree. What would it say? Unless you roast your own weenie, please stop with the poop BBQ?

      4. Kara*

        A sign is the way to fix this. Signs are not passive-aggressive in a group environment. They are a way of providing information or instruction in a way that everyone gets to save face. The sign should explain the function of the matches and sulfar – not just be an instruction not to light TP on fire. That could be an aside, but I’d use the sign first and foremost as a match/sulfur tutorial. This guy will almost certainly fall in line – what he really wants is to de-stink the place. Help him out!

    2. Jennifer*


      THANK YOU,

      THE MGMT

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        Your mother doesn’t live here!

        (reference to passive aggressive signs in office kitchens but also in case someone’s mom was in the habit of cleaning up bathroom in this manner)

          1. valentine*

            “Dear Cool Guy Who Doesn’t Look at Explosions: Your colleagues decline in perpetuity the invitation to your poop barbecue”.

        1. Jennifer*

          Give a hoot! Don’t burn poop!

          Only YOU can prevent toilet paper fires! With old school Smokey the Bear at the bottom.

          1. Snark*

            Smokey all with his pants around his ankles, hat on a hook. “Also, I shit in the woods, so that goes double for all you forest creatures out there.”

    3. Amber T*

      I also didn’t know this. I’m also the tiniest bit disappointed that this is for a “legitimate” (meaning, they *think* they’re doing something beneficial) reason and not just a bored coworker who decided lighting toilet paper on fire is fun.

      Keep pushing the boss. I think this is a situation where a group email to everyone isn’t going to be seen that negative – it’s for a very specific action that will have more people going “wtf?” than “hmm, could this apply to me?”

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        Oh, I think the co-worker is having fun and it is under the cover of “legitimacy” – oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to make a poop barbecue, there were matches in there!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I also didn’t know this. I’m also the tiniest bit disappointed that this is for a “legitimate” (meaning, they *think* they’re doing something beneficial) reason and not just a bored coworker who decided lighting toilet paper on fire is fun.

        I know, right? I mean, it’s an amazing story, but the story my imagination had started was magnificent.

      3. Artemesia*

        Since candles in bathrooms do work moderately well, I actually thought that the flame was the key thing here although of course the sulfur from the matches does set out another strong odor.

        1. valentine*

          The matches have to go and the company needs to prohibit setting things aflame. I wonder how many worker’s comp claims involve bathroom arson.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Actually you’re probably right. With matches AND air freshener available, this guy is just being a douche. (Or should I say flaming douchebag?)

      5. Anonybus*

        I didn’t know about this either. Interestingly, my workplace recently had a gnarly bathroom fire involving flaming tp, so maybe this is a thing now.

        Lifehack gone horribly wrong, or weird internet “light a bathroom fire to assert your dominance” challenge? Who’s to say.

          1. Anonybus*

            Not a cigarette butt is all I know atm. Also there was A LOT of burnt tp.
            Like it suggests that either someone was using it as fuel to start a fire on purpose, or a fire somehow started and they tried to smother it with tp somehow.

      6. Cat Wrangler*

        I knew about the matches trick but I can’t imagine ever working in an office where they were left in the cubicles for people to use due to Health and Safety rules (it would probably be a sacking offence if caught). Air freshener would be as good as it got in terms of improving the general aroma. Having said that, I can imagine a huge investigation happening into the toilet paper burner and much hilarity/speculation amongst everyone else!

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Now, I thought people understood that matches work to mask odor because of the sulfur released, not because of the fire

      I always that the lighting a match thing was some kind of old wives tale/BS and didn’t mask or clear the smell at all. I’m not sure how the brief smell of sulfur when a match is struck is supposed to cover the first smell more than 5 seconds.

      1. Asenath*

        One of my aunts used to swear by the light-a-match method. I never bothered with it myself, since I come from the branch of the family that swears by cleaning the toilet regularly (with toilet cleaner, not burning tissue!) and opening the window, if more is needed, or (if no window) heroically ignore any smells.

        I must say, this site is very informational about toilet habits, and I’m learning a lot of new things. Thanks to the blog, I also wasn’t terribly astonished when we had not one but two incidents in which someone missed the toilet while doing #2. What’s still puzzling is the name of the culprit – because our offices are located in a remote bit of our building, relatively few people use our toilets.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          I completely agree. What would it say? Unless you roast your own weenie, please stop with the poop BBQ?

      2. Seller of teapots*

        The light a match trick totally works! I don’t understand the science of it, but can vouch for its real life marriage-saving properties. We have that poo-pouri spray which is also pretty effective but honestly nothing beats just lighting a match.

        1. Rainbow Roses*

          I agree. I don’t understand it either but it works. It doesn’t just mask, it gets rid of the smell.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          Eh. When I use the staff restroom, and it smells like someone lit a match (or there’s a lighted incense stick in the faucet), I conclude that someone before me had a stinky poo. Just as the smell of Lysol tells me something disgusting happened recently.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Sure, but you don’t have to smell the stinky poo. I mean, it’s a bathroom. I don’t need to smell anything to know that stinky poos happen in there.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            The point isn’t trying to make people think no one ever poos in there. The point is making it smell better than poo.

        3. Bostonian*

          Yep. Works for cutting onions, too, apparently. (I use the “breathe through your mouth” trick instead.)

        4. Do we call this a bathroom flamewar?*

          Yeah! I keep a book of matches in the bathroom for occasions when it’s, uh, particularly needed, and have done so ever since my parents discovered the trick (after I was an adult, so it’s not a thing I grew up doing.) They have a little ceramic dish for disposing of used matches; I just run then thoroughly under water when I wash my hands. It’s not a replacement for cleaning the toilet regularly; it’s about immediate smell reduction. And it really does work! Plus it avoids perfumey smells in a small enclosed space, which I very much appreciate. I too always thought it was about the methane burning off rather than the sulfur, but either way, it really does work amazingly well. You do get a brief burnt match smell, but that dissipates pretty quickly, and it’s not a smell I mind.

          I’ve never seen matches in an office bathroom, but I’ve often wistfully wished regulations would allow it. Honestly I would be envious of OP that theirs does, except for the rampant poop griller! A significant “except.”

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        It masks the smell pretty well, imo. You blow it out and like wave it around a bit and the sulfur neutralizes the smell.

        1. Rocky*

          I always thought the flame ignited the methane in the smell and burned it out. Certainly a flame lit in the presence of a strong poop smell burns brighter and taller (IMO).

          1. Birch*

            The gas and odor molecules are too dispersed to ignite. Lighting a match is part match smell and part placebo effect.

          2. Electric Pangolin*

            Methane is completely odorless. That’s why they add the ‘gas smell’ (mercaptan) to town gas so you can smell leaks!

      4. Cat Wrangler*

        One of my relatives has an ileostomy bag and striking a match to disguise the smell after a bag change was in the official advisory aftercare leaflet from the NHS. An open window, bleach in the toilet and a good air freshener are better imho.

      5. Anonny*

        I thought it burned up all the stench molecules in the air. I also thought it sounded very dangerous, and air freshener was a better idea.

        Please note that I am not a chemist.

    5. Clorinda*

      I did’t know it was the sulphur. I thought the flame burned off the methane. Also, I am visualizing the logistics of setting the used TP on fire and I really, really hope this guy washes his hands.

  2. Naomi*

    “Nothing wrong has technically happened yet”? Is your boss really copping out on the basis of “ain’t no rule you can’t light the toilet paper on fire”?

        1. valentine*

          Then he won’t confront you for asking your coworker to stop? As know who it is, why did boss think an all-staff email be necessary?

          Also: It’s arson. I’m sure your employee manual doesn’t prohibit most crimes, but you still don’t expect people to perpetrate them.

          1. Bostonian*

            such a good point! If the boss is so non confrontational that the poop fire starter doesn’t get talked to, you certainly won’t get in trouble for talking to the guy!

          2. Mockingjay*

            Can you imagine the insurance investigator’s reaction when the building catches fire? “So you’re telling me that you ALLOWED this guy to keep setting fires?”

      1. Anonysand*

        I mean, there’s also no office rule that I can’t eat potato salad with my bare hands and then handle the TPS reports, but that doesn’t mean I’m free to act like a campground raccoon in the workplace. I would definitely say something, if not only on the basis of safety… This is a fire hazard.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          STOP. I’m crying because the mental image and because I recall a story of someone just picking up some kind of food you need to use a serving spoon for with their bare hands…so that’s not even something that hasn’t happened. Tears. Laughter. Soul hurty.

          1. Anti Poo BBQ*

            My old assistant once got a bunch of cake frosting on billing paperwork for our top client, actually.

            (I mean, my boss found it and made him reprint it, but, still.)

            1. Laoise*

              I had a coworker once bleed on some printed customer orders, then give me the bloody orders to fill.

              Like, she could have printed them off again. Her task was to print them from email so I could fill them. But she did not. I got to deal with 20 pages of blood-smeared order forms.

              Honestly, I will never again feel bad about the occasional droplet of coffee I leave on forms.

          2. Ms. Afleet Alex*

            You had me at ‘campground raccoon’. My officemates have no idea why I’m giggling wildly.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I know, right? I have no idea why the phrase “camground raccoon” is so funny, but it is KILLING me right now (in the best possible way)!

              1. AKchic*

                I was already singing the poo-themed songs above. Now I have:

                Campground raccoon eat this grub
                Doo dah, doo dah
                Campground raccoon, file this report
                Drop the potato salad!

                I really need a nap. Or a vacation. Preferably both.

          3. Meg Murry*

            Me too. I was trying to laugh silently, but that means I’m sitting at my desk with my shoulders shaking and tears streaming out of my eyes – and I had 2 coworkers so far ask me if I’m ok and all I can do is laugh!

        2. frostipaws*

          OMG. Campground raccoon!
          Smokey the Bear, Ranger Rick, a poop barbecue and a side of potato salad?! Please don’t let me get thrown out of the library reading this thread.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Campground Raccoon…. the next contestant in Jenny Lawson’s “Midnight Raccoon Rodeo”?! (I’m way too tired and slaphappy to navigate google…it’s in thebloggess somewhen.)

        4. Anonybus*

          I am basically the resident campground raccoon coworker at my job, and it has still never crossed my mind to combine toilet paper and open flame.

      2. Jennifer*

        Oh my. I’m sorry too. As my grandma used to say, there are certain things you shouldn’t have to tell grown folks. This is one of them.

        1. Anonybus*

          Also, the bathroom could be unavailable for use if damaged by smoke or fire, which could be either a minor inconvenience, or a real time suck, depending on the physical location of other bathrooms.

        1. Jennifer*

          Oh my…

          Is this what the world is really coming to? “Who says I can’t explode watermelons in the parking lot? SHOW ME THE SIGN!!!!”

      1. The Original K.*

        I mean, I kind of want to see how far this could go. Remember the person here who drove out to a remote area and set a bunch of documents on fire? If he worked at this office he could have just done it at his desk, apparently. There are no rules against setting stuff on fire! /s

      2. Elaine*

        Maybe someone has already mentioned this, but this may be a fire code violation. I know in my city we can’t so much as light a candle without falling afoul of the fire code.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          If he’s starting fires in the bathroom he’s already got the weenie and the buns out.

    1. Amber T*

      I mean, I’m looking through my employee handbook and I don’t see anything saying I’m not allowed to light toilet paper on fire…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Actually it’s probably okay to set anything on fire because the handbook probably makes no mention of any deliberately set fires.

        So, OP. Perhaps you could ask the boss what is NOT okay to set on fire. Boundaries are important.

    2. Classic Rando*

      I’m interpreting that as the manager suggesting that since the building hasn’t actually caught fire yet it’s not a problem. Which, y’know, isn’t the benchmark I’d choose, and if something does catch fire one day, I’d imagine corporate won’t be too pleased when they find out how it happened and how long he’d been doing this prior to that.

      1. Not Australian*

        Surely ‘no naked flames in the building’ would be enough? It would inconvenience (sorry!) those who want to light matches to get rid of the smell, but otherwise it would be a lot safer.

      2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        I would be slightly tempted to fully start an actual fire in the bathroom trashcan and walk away. Maybe that would be enough to enact an overall don’t-set-things-on-fire rule?

    1. Narise*

      We had a fire in our middle school and high school, both times someone lit trash on fire in the bathroom/locker room.

        1. Miss Bee*

          At my high school you could pretty much count on one non-drill fire alarm each year that always originated from the boy’s bathroom, for exactly this reason.

          1. Jennifer*

            I thought of someone overusing the toilet paper and the office constantly running out or something. I didn’t think it literally meant that someone was starting fires.

          2. Stormfeather*

            I imagined someone eating chili or curry or other hot items regularly and leaving… distinctive odors and hints of spiciness, maybe moaning in pain and such (sorry for the visuals), not literal fire.

    1. Cobol*

      The more you examine it the better it gets. Economy of words, vivid while unique description. Without hyperbole, all writers should strive to attain the excellence of poop barbeque.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Alison, I appreciate your ability to create a vivid mental image.

    LW, I have no idea what to even say other than keep a fire extinguisher handy?

    1. m*

      ngl part of me wants someone to wait outside the bathroom with a glass of water or extinguisher and douse him when he comes out: “oh sorry! i smelled smoke! I wanted to make sure you didn’t get burned!”

    2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Alison – “I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays.”

      Is nothing short of brilliant. Literal LOL on that one.

  4. Karen from Finance*

    Seriously, the degree to which people will avoid confrontation is amazing.

    Even after “poop barbecue”.

  5. 8DaysAWeek*

    ! OMG
    Alison if you were contemplating retirement, this would be the post to go out on. Poop BBQ! I can’t.
    I don’t want anything else to top this. And the OP’s screen name: Anti Poo BBQ

  6. WellRed*

    It’s all fine and good to have a poo BBQ until someone sets the bathroom on fire, thereby triggering the sprinkler system and ruining all the computers.

        1. Jennifer*

          I need a Lifetime movie about a woman who unknowingly marries the town firestarter called Ardor for Arson, stat!

      1. Snark*

        Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bring a golf umbrella to work and, if this actually happens, to nonchalantly deploy it and carry on typing.

        I just need to know that that happened in this world.

          1. Jennifer*

            And when the sprinklers start, just nonchalantly open the umbrella and keep working as alarms go off and people run around screaming behind you.

      2. It's Business Time*

        Most building sprinkler systems only activate when there is heat applied so if he sets fire to the bathroom, only the sprinklers around the bathroom should go off, and the rest of the building should be ok. Sorry you have to deal with this, sounds like a sh$%^show!

        1. Little Spawning Flower*

          $#!+ show! I see what you did there! Also, these are the best comments in response to the best letter I’ve ever read here, and joined just to make this comment. Hahahahaha!

    1. m*

      some sprinklers are sensitive enough that smoke from burned popcorn in a microwave can cause them to go off (even heard of one going off just from hot water vapor) so really, there doesnt even need to be a full blown fire to risk this.

      1. LD'S Mom*

        Me too! Maybe mention that fact to the boss! As in “Someday it’s going to trigger the smoke alarms and the sprinkler system. Maybe you should deal with it before this happens. Just a thought, boss.”
        Goes to prove you’ve never “heard everything”.

      2. WellRed*

        I wondered that too, but maybe he hurls into the dousing toilet waters so quick there’s no chance of that?

    2. Classic Rando*

      This reminds me of an episode of King of the Hill when Cotton accidentally sets the church bathroom on fire by lighting matches to get rid of smells left in secret by Bobby.

      1. LH Holdings*

        This comment has made my entire week! I love that show and when it comes up randomly is the best!

      2. stump*

        I was totally just thinking about that episode! But even more Dramatastic, it was Bobby who accidentally burned the church down, but everybody blamed Cotton because Bobby used the matches Cotton left behind in the bathroom (from a STRIPCLUB in HOUSTON) and Bobby was wracked with guilt because of it.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I read this post and thread 15 minutes ago, and I cannot stop silently laughing at my desk like a deranged, female version of Beavis or Butthead.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      I can’t imagine that the local fire marshals wouldn’t have something harsh to say about (and to) a company that lets its employees *light* *fires* in the bathroom (or anywhere else). All it will take is one little slip and the guy will light *himself* on fire, and put everyone in the building at risk. There’s really nothing amusing about this situation. The guy’s a fire bug.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Might it be a good idea to talk to the fire marshals about this problem now so that they can talk to the boss before there is a fire ?

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    And I thought I had some colorful characters for coworkers over the years. None of them would light anything on fire in a bathroom…woah.

    Tbh it’s not acceptable to have matches in the bathroom. An OSHA inspector or fire Marshal would be unamused to say the least. That’s a huge safety issue. I don’t care that they throw it in the bowl, there is a flame inside the building nope nope nope.

    1. Spargle*

      I don’t think OSHA has specific regulation on matches being used in this manner – I know there isn’t specific OSHA guidance on open-flame candles, although there certainly is on the state level. But I’ve never seen anything on the federal level regarding just matches.

      1. Anonny*

        Is this for the same reason the OSHA doesn’t have specific regulations on not sticking your head in a wood chipper?

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Huh? Why would OSHA and the Fire Marshall care about a book of matches in the bathroom? We’re not talking about Napalm or C4. I can name about 4 offices in my work building that either have active candles burning and/or matches and lighters always out in plain sight.

      I’ve never failed a fire inspection for a book of matches.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, we have people here who light candles. The use of candles in the workplace can be debated because of the scents (I’m firmly on the “please ugh oh no” side), but I never thought twice about coworkers having matches.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        WHAT? No. You can’t have open flames in an office. You’re lucky that it hasn’t been flagged. It’s fine to have them in someone’s possession but not just laying out to strike in a public space.

        They don’t even recommend you use candles in a power outage anymore.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          There are many workplace policies that address open flames/candles, OSHA does not. However OSHA does have regulations surrounding the conditions and environment of open flame. Example you have to have signage on a cabinet that holds flammable material that indicates no open flame for X feet (as well as not actually having open flame within X feet). Maybe this is what you are thinking of?

    3. noahwynn*

      No specific OSHA restriction but if management is knowingly letting an employee start fires in the workplace that might fall under the general duty (doody?) clause.

  8. LawBee*

    LW, this is 100% something you can say yourself – no need for management involvement!

    “Todd, there’s ash following you down the hall. Don’t light anything on fire in the bathroom.”

    I wouldn’t mention the poop bbq smell because that just opens the door to an obnoxious reply.

    Signed, a woman whose office is next door to the office bathroom, and it sucks

    1. Ella Vader*

      My desk is near the men’s room and then there’s the poor associate who is directly across the hall from it. He’s taken to calling the men’s room the “aromatherapy room.” He also likes to do sounds effects for the noises coming out of the restroom.

      1. Close Bracket*

        > He also likes to do sounds effects for the noises coming out of the restroom.

        I like the cut of his jib.

        1. Ella Vader*

          I would love to let other people hear his shenanigans. It’s hilarious. After one particularly loud fart in the men’s room, the associate moaned and said, “Oh, my god, that one hurt!” He’ll moan and groan through most of the bathroom blowout specials.

            1. Ella Vader*

              There’s zero sound proofing with the bathrooms in the middle of the office where there is zero privacy. You can hear EVERYTHING going on in there.

              1. Close Bracket*

                That means people in the bathroom can hear his sound effects…

                I have the harbles for a lot of things, but I don’t think I could add sound effects to bathroom noises, especially knowing the people making the noises could hear me.

    2. JeanB in NC*

      I spend 2 hours a day at the front desk of a small school, and the bathrooms are right beside me. THere are so many parents that come in to pee when they pick up their kids, and I get to hear it all. (I also get to hear screaming babies, but you can’t blame them for being tired and cranky.)

  9. RJ the Newbie*

    I am now picturing a music video and song by Vampire Weekend called “Poop Barbecue”.

    OP, thank you. I really hope you’re able to speak to this co-worker and get this behavior to stop. On a personal note, after spending nearly eight hours straight working on project billing, this is the greatest post I’ve never knew I’d need so much. Thanks for the laugh!!

  10. TooTiredToThink*

    And we just thought that the Home Depot customer had taken things to a new level when he told people he was about to blow up the restroom, but then comes along this guy….

  11. CL*

    Is it possible he’s lighting the TP on fire to mask the fact that he’s smoking in the bathroom? And I concur that having matches in there is a safety issue. There are other ways to mask or eliminate the smells, get rid of the matches.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      It wasn’t until my 20’s that I understood even why some folks had matches in their bathrooms and honestly… until *now* I didn’t know you were supposed to light it and immediately blow it out. I knew you weren’t supposed to set anything on fire, but I guess I assumed you let it burn for a bit. And I had no idea how it worked either.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        I guess I kinda assumed there were matches in the bathroom at their home to light scented candles when they take a bath? If I saw matches in an office or public bathroom I’d automatically assume someone was secretly smoking in there.

      2. Sharrbe*

        Me too. My childhood friend’s family had matches in the bathroom and I was so confused. I asked one day and my friend just said it was because of her dad. That confused me even more.

    2. Anti Poo BBQ*

      I don’t think so because he’s outside taking smoke breaks, so why wouldn’t he just do that? Also unless he’s smoking AND pooping, it wouldn’t fully explain the smell. BUT WHO KNOWS WITH THIS GUY.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I need you to watch the episode of The Practice where a man blows his butt up with a match smoking on a toilet at a gas station ASAP!

        1. fposte*

          That’s one of the great classic urban legends that’s turned up in a bunch of TV shows over the years (Snopes notes LA Law and The Dick Van Dyke Show) and in lore before that. It will never die as long as the writers’ room needs a quick plop. Um, plot.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            He was warned! They told him it was freshly painted!

            They turned it into a feel good “learn a lesson, you rude lawyer” story for The Practice at least…

            LA Law…aaaaah shucks David E Kelly reusing things, I SEE YOU, SIR.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        I was thinking more along the lines of garden variety pyromania? Maybe he’s not smoking or really interested in covering the smell, he just likes fire and bathroom is a “safe” place to do it?

  12. BRR*

    I vote for letting him know. I hate to provide less directly alternatives but I think casually dropping your information on the matches* so he hears it might put a stop to it. If everyone in the office is going to go super non-direct, someone can even buy a can of air freshener for each restroom. But if the guy is almost burning the building down, I think you should directly say something.

    *I didn’t know this either. I also haven’t nearly burned down my office (at least by accident)

        1. OhNo*

          Same. My first instinct was do NOT give him anything that sprays until AFTER you’ve gotten him to stop lighting fires. Otherwise, something very dumb and very dangerous is liable to happen.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      You could wait until he emerges in clouds of smoke and ash, then empty the CO2 fire extinguisher over him and surrounds. That might cool his heels.

  13. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I was totally thinking this was going in a different direction.

    Yes OP (a.k.a Anti Poo BBQ) Just say something the next time you see it happen.

    “Yo, Smokey Sam, Are you setting things on fire in the bathroom?!? WTH? Most people find that lighting a match and immediately blowing it out is enough to take care of things.”

    And then wander off like you just asked him what the weather is like.

    1. Cowgirlinhiding*

      My thought exactly. Put him on the spot then walk away! Love it.

      What would be even better, if other co-workers joined in and said the same thing or something similar every time, so he knows you know it is him burning up the bathroom with is own BBQ.

  14. Snark*

    Every question, and every answer, on this site will forever be compared to this, your magnum opus. Sorry it had to involve the phrase “poop barbecue,” but life’s rich tapestry and all that.

  15. Granny K*

    Moving forward, I think that things that seem obvious NOT to do, but are done anyway in an office setting, should be referred to as a “Poop BBQ”. Can I get someone to second this?

      1. Jadelyn*

        Motion passes! Henceforth, “poop bbq” will be the official term for “thing that any sane person should know better than to do in a professional workplace, and yet here we are.”

  16. Can't Sit Still*

    OMG, I get to share my fire in the hole story! I worked for a heavy industrial manufacturing plant. The “bathrooms” to use the term loosely were, in descending order: an actual bathroom with running water with a sink & a toilet, permanent outhouses built out of steel and concrete, and a ditch out behind the shop. (The ditch was used for “male bonding” time. There were differing opinions among the guys about the appropriateness of this, but I think they finally put a stop to it by insisting that people remain clothed in the great outdoors while at work.)

    A cleaning service took care of the actual bathrooms, but there was an employee rotation to clean the outhouses. Typically, the responsible employee would use a pressure hose to clean them. Except one day, one of the outhouses was exceptionally disgusting. So the employee poured diesel all over the interior and set it on fire. It was definitely clean after that, possibly even sterile. (It was perfectly fine. A bit scorched, but fine.)

    His excuse was that nobody told him he couldn’t set the outhouse on fire to clean it, so we had to add a new rule to the employee handbook. Although we did think that maybe lighting those outhouses on fire periodically wasn’t the worst idea anyone had ever had.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      Oh my gosh I hope you’ve been hanging onto that story for YEARS hoping for an appropriate time to bring it up…. anywhere.

      I too have worked at places with outhouses and “male bonding” and I love your story!!

        1. valentine*

          Can’t Sit Still: “This is my time to shine”.
          A-plus username.

          I’m sure I’ll regret this: Why was there a need for extra cleaning of the outhouses? Are we not talking your standard bench with holes? And was the bench also steel or concrete?

          1. Can't Sit Still*

            The whole building, bench included, was steel and concrete. The culprit was either food poisoning or a virus affecting multiple employees.

    2. The Original K.*

      “His excuse was that nobody told him he couldn’t set the outhouse on fire to clean it, so we had to add a new rule to the employee handbook.”

      Nobody told him he couldn’t set the outhouse on fire to clean it.
      Nobody … told him.

      I am dead. Deceased!

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      Dead. Of. Laughter.
      Because there was no rule not to light an outhouse on fire, he lit it ON FIRE??? Wow.

      1. Can't Sit Still*

        IIRC, he also protested that at least he hadn’t used gasoline, because that would have been dangerous.

          1. Anonybus*

            He was flame-sterilizing it. Appropriate protocol for small metal and glass items, not recommended for most stuctures.

        1. Classic Rando*

          As someone who was once instructed to use a diesel fire to clean some paving equipment… this is my favorite part of the story. After all, a diesel fire IS less dangerous than gasoline, so his plan wasn’t completely devoid of merit :D

          And as someone who spent several summers cleaning spider-infested (wooden) outhouses, I completely understand the desire to cleanse it with fire.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wish I lived in a world where this was shocking to me. Alas, it’s just another funny day in manufacturing.

      “Nobody told me not to” thankfully isn’t acceptable here at least. Other places…probably.

      Nobody told an old co-worker not to stash after work beers in the toilet tanks either. So I just shrugged.

    5. Sharrbe*

      Solution: When he goes in the bathroom, everyone grabs either a fire extinguisher or bucket of water and stands at the door waiting for him to come out.

    6. Gazebo Slayer*

      Wait… what is “male bonding” in this context? I am imagining several different things, all of them extremely NSFW!

  17. No Mercy Percy*

    I’m speechless.

    If it was me in your situation, I would seriously consider just calling the fire department the next time it happens. May be a bit drastic, but it would probably be effective.

    1. GRA*

      As someone who is friends with several firefighters … I guarantee they would love this call and would be talking about it for YEARS to come. #poopBBQ

    2. It’s a Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon!*

      My spouse is a firefighter. I can’t decide whether they would fall to the ground laughing, or scream at your coworker a la Gordon Ramsey’s idiot sandwich.

      1. Antilles*

        Pretty sure the answer is both.
        They’d be loud and clear on the “what in the bleep were you thinking?” life lesson when talking with the guy…but they’d have tons of laughs at his expense the instant they were out of earshot.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You can def call the local firehouse and see if they have time to stop by for a lesson in fire safety. They’re usually pretty chill with it and it’s something to do.

      1. it's me*

        OP please do this. It’s so passive-aggressive and I love the idea of the firefighters patiently explaining the bathroom-specific guidelines.

      2. Nana*

        Absolutely…in various offices, I’ve asked the Fire Department to do this. They have thanked us for the call, have come out and pointed out some things we didn’t know (hallway to any exit door can’t have boxes stored if the boxes reduce the hallway to less than however-many-inches).
        I suspect they’d love a call like this.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Pull the fire alarm box lever.

      To my way of thinking if the boss does not care if I end up dead, then I am not going to worry about little things like calling the fire company.

      1. zaracat*

        I’m hoping you’re just saying that as a joke, because that it’s a disruptive and expensive option (the sort of places I work, a false alarm that resulted in the fire department being called out would cost the company $5000+) and one that could get the person who did it into trouble. Whole different ballgame than making an admin call to the local fire department and getting them to give a helpful +/- stern talk to OP’s workplace.

  18. Drew*

    Dear Alison,

    Can you give me a script I can use the next time my busybody coworker tells me not to set TP on fire in the bathroom? It’s none of their business and anyway I like the pretty flames. Plus, that “poop BBQ” smell reminds me of Grandma’s nursing home. Thanks!

    Ashes, Ashes, We All Flush Down

    1. BRR*

      Now I wish that Alison, maybe for like April’s fools day, would write letters from the perspective of the wrong person in letters (when wrong is clearly defined and not too egregious).

    2. INeedANap*

      “Coworker, my understanding at the interview was that ash and flames billowing from the restroom is a central part of my position here and it’s something I was really excited about when I accepted the position. I completely understand that when we’re short-staffed, everyone needs to pitch in and that leaves less time for setting things on fire. But going forward, I’d like to start re-prioritizing the work that I came here to do. Aside from toilet paper, there are paper towels, old newspapers, and soiled underwear that need to get lit on fire. Can we talk about a schedule for re-integrating that into my workday?”

    3. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

      I imagine Alison rubbing her hands together and cackling loud enough to scare her poor felines waiting for her commentariat to see THIS letter! A good day to be her. :) Enjoy your moment of glory in the digital sun, Alison.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I almost didn’t use it! But then I’d promised to send Jolie bathroom letters (explained on the podcast) and so I sent her this one, and her delight over it made me realize it could be its own post.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I remember reading the Buzzfeed interview where you said that you hit a point where you couldn’t run any more Bathroom Letters, and Jolie almost leaped out of her chair begging you to send them her way. I’m thrilled that you shared it with us both as its own letter and as a part of the podcast.

  19. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    There is no way I am going to let this moment pass. When I search “Surprise Me” in two or three years and this letter pops up, I must see my name in the comments.
    Ladies and Gentlemen, from the mixed up files of Alison the Manager, I give you: The Poop BBQ. Forget charcoal. It runs on gas.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I have to wonder if it literally runs on gas – if maybe he’s got a Fart Flamethrower in there?,

  20. lyonite*

    My mom is from a small town, and one time when we were back visiting I went into the public bathroom in the park and noticed burn marks on the walls behind the toilet paper dispensers. At the time, I thought it was a sign of how incredibly boring it must be to be a teenager there, but now I’m wondering if they were just preparing for their future professional careers.

    1. Drew*

      Probably kids stubbing out their cigarettes. I never did it, being utterly terrified of the consequences of smoking (starting with Very Disappointed Parents), but I certainly saw it done.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As a former small town kid, they’re probably smoking in there or worse because it’s a park and park bathrooms are also used for other drugs frequently.

      1. lyonite*

        Could be, but the burn marks really looked like the entire roll of tp, in every stall, had been burned at some point, I assumed just for the fun of it.

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          I don’t know why it was your comment exactly, but this: You know what, it does. This is where I lost it. And now I have mascara streaming down my tomato-red face from trying to not let out my obnoxious laugh. (Really, it’s obnoxious. I own it.)

          1. Jadelyn*

            Same, and I think it’s because it’s such a sane, matter-of-fact response to utter absurdity that it magnifies the absurdity tenfold.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Hahahaha. Oh geez. I’m dying. I have nothing legitimate to contribute, but I do think Alison’s advice is great and PLEASE send us an update when you can!

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      My brain went there too! Not to mention I just don’t trust most humans to be clean and hygienic when in a bathroom anyways. Cuz really, we don’t know…

      Which is all the more reason to shut this sh*t down.
      (There’s probably a better pun but I can’t think of any that haven’t been used already!)

  21. KR*

    “Hey Tom! Not sure if you’re congested or what but whatever you are doing is making the bathroom smell WORSE, not BETTER like the matches are intended to do. Can you please not start fires INDOORS?” “Hey Tom, not sure if you have ever experienced a house fire but playing with fire indoors is exactly how it happens. I would prefer not to have a fire emergency as I have a lot of work to do and value my life so stop!”

    Next time you smell smoke can you immediately go to the closest and preferrably highest ranking manager and say “Fergus, THERE IS A FIRE DO YOU SMELL IT WE HAVE TO EVACUATE RIGHT NOW.” “Oh that’s just Tom.” “WELL WHY IS HE LIGHTING FIRES INDOORS?!”

    Honestly whatever tactic you can do to highlight the absurdity of this matter and the obvious need of what you’re asking for is a win in my book. Otherwise I think it’s time to remove the matches from the bathroom.

    Finally do you have some sort of safety hotline, EHS person, or any sort of safety reporting? I would report this to them/report it as a near miss every time. “On 2/20/19 I smelled smoke indoors. Discovered Tom had lit paper on fire indoors and dropped it in the toilet before it caught anything else on fire. Alerted management and advised Tom to stop lighting fires indoors to reduce risk of fire.” This is a safety issue on top of Tom being an asshat and in my experience depending on your company culture safety issues tend to get a lot of attention from upper management.

      1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

        Is there a way to have someone outside the bathroom door in that hallway with an extinguisher , making a loud ruckus “I smell smoke! Anyone smell smoke? Somethings burning! There might be a fire! Do we need to hit the alarm? WHERE’S THE FIRE” etc etc that you know he can hear in there and keep escalating and then be freaking out when he exits the bathroom? “ARE YOU OKAY? WE THINK THERE’S A FIRE! OMG THERE’S ASHES ON THE FLOOR IS THE BATHROOM ON FIRE IS THE CEILING CAVING IN OMGOMGOMG”

        (I would make popcorn and pay money to watch this. )

        This is of course contingent on office people being in on this so no one freaks out when person with the extinguisher gets more and more unhinged until it escalates…

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            Don’t *actually* do this. Fire extinguishers usually have fire extinguishing chemicals, not water.
            Believe me. I’ve seen college pranks go wrong….

      2. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

        Ok in seriousness, which is really hard on this post!

        What about a smoke detector in the bathroom or int he hallway outside of it? A sensitive one used in dorms or whatever that can smell cigarettes so that after he sets it off once he’ll learn his lesson?

        1. Miss Mouse*

          YES! This was my thought as well. Perhaps tuck a smoke detector on the wall behind and below the toilet bowl so that he won’t spot it and remove the battery, and then when it goes off have people prepped and ready to rush in with fire extinguishers while others shout in confused voices about calling the fire department and evacuating the building.

    1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

      If the LW sees smoke she could just pull the fire alarm. After all, that is what the fire alarm is for

  22. Dust Bunny*

    We keep a spray can of Lysol in the bathrooms for odor emergencies. Now I feel like we’re underachieving.

  23. Cake Wad*

    Simple sign: “If needed for strong odors, please light a match and then extinguish it carefully. Do not use matches to light toilet paper or other materials.”

  24. MuseumChick*

    My immature response: Start talking loudly in the office about “Who would be that stupid to light toilet paper on fire? Do you want to burn this building down with all of us in it? The whole place smells like poop bbq now.”

    1. Anti Poo BBQ*


      TO NO AVAIL!

      1. MuseumChick*

        Jeez, based on some of your other comments along with this, this guy sounds like a Odd Ball (nicest way I can put that).

        I cannot believe your higher ups are not worried about the building burning down.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ya know, OP, I’d really have to quit this job. Not because of BBQ Boy but because management is so. damn. dense.

        Why are they so willing to jeopardize everyone’s safety and perhaps their lives. These are scary people. Real scary. Just fire the guy for endangering everyone. Period. Done.

  25. Lisa Babs*

    If he is using the matches. (Now you mentioned he is the only one with a lighter so maybe he is bringing his own fire to the situation. But for this comment I’m going to assume he’s using the matches.) Just remove them. Matches doesn’t remove the odor, it only masks it temporarily (Mythbusters did this on one of their episodes). PLUS it’s the old classroom philosophy that one person just ruined it for the whole class. No more match privileges. You have other options at your disposal just use them.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          He’s dimwitted and believes it’s the fire not the match, that’s why he’s lighting tp on fire!

          1. valentine*

            Is it possible he thinks other people do this and he hasn’t learned the secret of containing the ash? Is there no damaged carpet, no beleaguered custodian?

          2. katherine*

            I don’t think it makes someone dimwitted to not know that lighting a match is supposed to get rid of bad smells. It’s not an intuitive assumption to make, and this post is literally the first time I have heard of such a thing.

            (note: I do not and would not set things on fire, at work or otherwise)

        2. Blue*

          I wonder if, assuming the flame was the key thing, he attempted to use his lighter instead of a match, found it didn’t work, and figured it was because he needed a bigger flame…hence the actual starting of fire?

  26. Anti Poo BBQ*

    THANK YOU, EVERYONE. I adore you!

    I will say that the person doing this is a strange type who I don’t talk to often, and I often feel vaguely nervous around. If it was almost any other coworker, I would probably be like “oh hey could you not do that” but for some reason I can’t quite be casual with this guy. (IS IT THIS? PERHAPS?)

    That said next time I walk by him and the ashes are skittering, I resolve to say something, even if only a faux-innocent question about what’s going on. Because THIS MUST STOP.

      1. valentine*

        I’m not sure how severely you mean this, Anti Poo BBQ. If you feel sick/uneasy or you think this is an escalation on the way to violence, I hope there’s someone you can address that with.

        1. Anti Poo BBQ*

          I definitely don’t think it’s an escalation. I just think he’s a weirdo who doesn’t understand how smells work. But we’re suffering for it!

          1. WellRed*

            An adult shouldn’t have to understand how smells work to know that lighting things on fire in an office is a hard no. Always.

    1. The Francher Kid*

      That’s concerning to me. Maybe I’ve read too much crime fiction, but the fact that you feel nervous around him is not good. Too many of us ignore our gut instincts because it goes against what we’re taught about being “nice.” Do you have a coworker that you could enlist to walk with you and have some backup?

    2. TootsNYC*

      send him an email with a link to some scientific explanations.

      Make the subject line: “Why striking a match can eliminate odors”
      And then put in the links, maybe copy-and-paste a relevant paragraph.

      And then say, “It’s the sulfur in the matches, not the fire itself, so burning toilet paper doesn’t affect the poor odor, and only adds a smoke odor.”

      Don’t actually say “please don’t do X”–just send the info. Let him draw the conclusions.

    3. Jennifer*

      If you feel nervous around him, I vote for the passive-aggressive sign and throwing away the matches.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know the type of person you’re talking about and why he makes you nervous.

      Which TBH is another reason to be angry with your poor management. He could easily escalate and it’s not your job to deal with these zany kind of unhinged types.

    5. Elizabeth*

      I vote for pulling the fire alarm, if there is one. If there isn’t, have the fire extinguisher right outside the door so that when he opens it, be ready to spray him with a “Is there a fire in there? We Saw SMOKE!”

      Barring that, a call to the non-emergency line at the fire department wouldn’t be out of line….

    6. Snark*

      I for one am completely shocked that you’re not completely at ease with the guy who goes all Doolittle’s Raid on the toilet after he takes a work dump. I would be COMPLETELY casual with that dude. Invite him over for a cookout, maybe.

    7. Batty ArtMonster*

      I sympathize, but this was a great read, so thanks for that!

      Take up a collection with similar-minded co-workers, buy a bottle of Poo-Pourri, wrap it, and leave it on his desk with a note “Burning toilet paper = poop BBQ. Try this instead.”

      I’ve worked with very weird co-workers myself, and sometimes they just genuinely don’t know any better. Hopefully this is the case, and he just needs to be shown the way.

  27. LGC*

    Life is a rich crapestry.

    (Also, this letter astounds ME and I’ve experienced some crap at work. Literally.)

  28. Peter k*

    OP, does your company own the building where the office is located? Because if not, I expect that the ACTUAL BUILDING MANAGEMENT would have serious problems with a tenant whose employees regularly set fires on the premises.

    1. motherofdragons*

      Yes I was definitely coming here to say, is there an office manager you could speak to about putting out a company-wide email? Or if your building is owned by a property management company, any option to put in a word with them? Our office manager is the go-between, so if this was happening in my office she’d who I would alert.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Or ask them to install a smoke detector in the bathroom, because there’s clearly some to detect! Setting off the alarm on the regular would curtail this behavior pretty quickly, I’d think.

      1. Admin of Sys*

        This! I’m actually kind of concerned that there’s anywhere in the building you can light a small fire and not have a smoke detector go off? From a purely safety issue, I’d say the bathroom needs a smoke detector and that should solve the problem. And if the smoke detector gets disabled, that brings around another issue to bring up with him.

  29. Dame Judi Brunch*

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with a poop bbq but thank you for this letter.
    We would love an update if possible! Good luck!

  30. Schnapps*

    “Holy crap, did you light something on fire in there?”

    I see what you did there, Alison, and I totally appreciate it :)

  31. irene adler*

    Well, I had to ask the on-site consultant to stop taking our daily newspaper into the men’s bathroom when he needed reading material. The problem was, after he finished, he’d return the newspaper to the lunchroom and put the sections on our dining table.


    Management didn’t want to confront the guy.

    Reason: it might make him not want to consult for us, any more. Oh please!

    So I did -politely.

    I asked him not to do this-we’re a bunch of microbiologists and we know what creatures lurk in bathrooms. And the harm said creatures can cause.
    (okay, okay, I’m just a lowly biochemist, so while I can grow it, I can’t easily identify it)

    He was receptive. However, he told me he’d never been asked to refrain from such activity at other companies.

      1. irene adler*

        Kinda wish he would have stayed in the bathroom and simply lit the newspaper sections on fire as he finished reading them.

        1. Jennifer*

          I would have preferred that too if lunch with a side of poo was my only other option. This is like a bad game of Would You Rather.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      We had a paper bathroom reader in our office too. Same thing, would bring it back out to the breakroom and set it on the table.

      I guess I’m not shy, because yeah, I asked him one day “Umm… did you just bring that from the bathroom? That’s disgusting, you know people read that paper while they eat their lunch, right? Yuk throw it away, nobody wants to touch that now.”

      Later that day someone asked where the paper was, guy was in the breakroom at the time so I said “Umm yeah, I tossed it since it took a trip to the bathroom this morning with someone” Predictably everyone was very verbal in their disgust. It got the point across pretty well since I didn’t ever notice it going on a field trip again.

      1. irene adler*

        Nicely done!

        I’m sure this consultant thought I was a self-righteous “w”itch.

        Didn’t even think to subject him to the dreaded “cleanliness lecture” from one of the micro folks.

    2. Close Bracket*

      > we’re a bunch of microbiologists and we know what creatures lurk in bathrooms

      Lot’s of creatures live in lunchrooms, too. Have you ever cultured the surfaces in there? If there is a lunchroom sponge, have you cultured that? I’d love to see some comparison of the bacterial load between bathroom surfaces, kitchen surfaces, and reading material brought between the two.

      1. irene adler*

        Well, we don’t have any sponges in the kitchen. Gotta use paper towels.
        But yeah, kitchen has it’s own “creatures”. We just didn’t want this guy adding to them.

      2. OyHiOh*

        Generally speaking, kitchens are more dirty than bathrooms. Reason being, normal people think about bathrooms being dirty and do a bit of due diligence to keep them clean. However, because kitchens are “clean places where we prepare food,” most people don’t think about the dozens of sources of contamination in a kitchen apart from obvious ones like raw chicken. And that’s just in a home kitchen.

        At work, where bathrooms are generally cleaned regularly by someone with a proper cleaning arsenal and kitchens often rely on rotation among the office staff with varying levels of standards and perception, I would imagine the difference to be far more horrifying.

    1. the_scientist*

      Right? I guess I have a particularly high-functioning bunch of co-workers because I’m continually surprised by the extent to which people behave like feral animals in the office.

    2. irene adler*

      Wonder if this is just one guy’s way of perking up a dull day for himself.
      (which does not excuse anything)

  32. Allison*

    This is amazing.

    I always thought that matches and/or candles were to eliminate any lingering gases in the air, not just to cover a smell. Now I’m curious but can’t google it at work…

  33. Soveryanon*

    You know, common sense isn’t all that common. It’s frightening that someone actually thinks SETTING A FIRE INDOORS is a good idea under any circumstances. I’m reminded of the scene from “The Office” where Michael is planning to propose to Holly by spelling out “Will You Marry Me?” in gasoline in the parking lot and then setting it on fire. But that was just a TV show. This is REAL LIFE. Holy. Moly.

  34. ItsAllFunAndGames...*

    “We didn’t start the fire, it’s been always burning since the world’s been turning…..”

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Surely you meant “We didn’t start the fire, it’s been always burning since the turd’s been turning…..”

  35. Bulbasaur*

    Actually, if you could set up the strobe lights and Metallica and time them to play right as he comes out, it might cure him of the habit. (Or egg him on, depending on his personality).

  36. Caryn Z*

    I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays. THIS IS AWESOME. LOL What a strange thing for someone to do though!

  37. Cafe au Lait*

    Here’s a solution: can your office purchase two air purifiers to be kept in the bathroom? That would eliminate the need for air freshners, poo-purri and matches.

  38. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    If you are 100% certain you know what is happening AND who is doing this, you can say something to that person yourself. If you’re not sure, do you have an HR department? I’d go there since your boss is being ridiculous. Setting fire to ANYTHING in an office building (or frankly anywhere indoors) is really dangerous and I’d go at it from that angle. Sure the poop BBQ smell isn’t fun, but what he’s doing is very much not safe.

  39. Tin Cormorant*

    Many years ago, I worked for an office that depended on a ton of 6-month temporary employees, and nobody ever got fired. If they didn’t like you, they just waited for your contract to run out and then didn’t hire you back on next year.

    A few years after I stopped working there, I was chatting with some former coworkers, and they told me about a guy who actually did manage to get fired. The offense? He was caught lighting his own shoelaces on fire. At his desk.

    It amazes me how casual some people can be about indoor fires.

    1. irene adler*

      And the point of lighting one’s shoelaces on fire is what?

      No need to fire him; I’d a slapped the crap outta him. He would not have returned after that.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        If they are nylon and the aiglet comes off, you can fuse the ends so they don’t keep unraveling by holding a it match close to the frayed ends. But, I wouldn’t want to actually light them on fire. :-/

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            That’s a cartoon show on Nickolodeon, right? No. I learned it because I have made various styles of european mediaeval clothes. I am also far too old to have been potentially watching Nickolodeon.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Possibly the best part about getting dragged rollerskating last week was telling the guy at the rental that I had no aglet. I blurted out “I think that’s the first time in my life I’ve used that word not on an English test!”…and could see the kid trying to hide his own laugh.
          (He gave me some tape to use on the end. No matches needed.)

  40. Red5*

    “I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays.”

    In slow motion, a la the astronauts in Armageddon walking to board the space shuttle, or Tom Cruise in MI2 where the dove flies in front of him while he walks by in slo-mo.

    With Samuel L. Jackson narrating.

      1. Red5*

        Actually, now I’m picturing Keanu Reeves as Constantine walking out with the fires of hell billowing from the bathroom behind him.

        In slo-mo, with Sam Jackson narrating…

  41. mark132*

    A cynical part of me makes me wonder what smell he’s trying to hide. Is it the poop or something more like pot? (My brother picked up smoking to hide the smell of pot).

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      That was my first thought. He’s smoking marijuana or something else illegal (so it can’t be smoked outside) and is trying to cover up the smell. But OP’s comment about him seeming odd and making them nervous makes it more open-ended for me. Who knows what’s going on!

  42. uranus wars*

    So before I even got to Alison’s answer I thought “That sounds like a Def Leopard video”. And then I feel into fits of laughter.

  43. Shannon*

    That’s just. Wow. I never cease to be amazed by people. Between this type of post and Reddit, I have no idea how humanity progressed as far as we have.

    When I read some of these questions, I often wonder what questions Alison gets that are like “Nah, THAT can’t be real.” Because I wouldn’t have thought poop flames would be a real thing. And yet, it is.

  44. Jay*

    So, you manager has, in effect, set the precedent that acceptable office conduct now consists of “It’s not specifically mentioned in the handbook and it hasn’t killed anybody yet”?
    I would have so much fun with this.
    First on my to do list?
    The Demon Pooper Of Cubicle 13:
    Wait for the smell of brimstone to begin wafting from the scene of the crime. Then kick the door open, spraying the biggest fire extinguisher I could get my hands on at full blast, directly at the toilet. All while screaming “Stop, Drop, And Roll, Stop, Drop, And Roll, For The Love Of Smokey The Bear, Stop, Drop, And Roll!!!”
    I would be willing to bet that this is NOT in the handbook ;)

    1. AKchic*

      aaaaaaaaand I’m done. Outright snorted and a booger went flying onto my desk. Dead. Deceased. Cease to exist. Shuffled off this mortal coil. Kicked the proverbial bucket.

  45. Kevin*

    I have some co-workers with weird bathroom habits (one programmer on the spectrum who has looked in the stalls for specific people, one guy who teased people about how long they were in the bathroom, someone clogging up the toilet repeatedly by flushing paper towel not toilet paper) and our HR and management is basically hesitant to police any bathroom stuff.

    1. Not an architect*

      one programmer … who has looked in the stalls for specific people

      Added to the list of things I am grateful for today: bathrooms with stalls that are basically small rooms unto themselves, with doors that do not have gaps above or below. They are louvered, for airflow, but the louvers point down from the stall so no one can peer in.

  46. MissTery*

    I work in HR, and I had to send this to my coworkers and be like “This isn’t our office, right?” Once upon a time (before me — and they didn’t tell me any of these stories until AFTER I had started), my coworker had to send an email to all staff informing them that the toilets are the ONLY place to defecate in the office, please do not defecate anywhere else in the bathroom, including the floor, trashcan, sink, or counter top. All because someone ~relieved~ themselves on the bathroom counter.

    There are so many things that have happened here. So many things. This is not even the worst thing.

  47. Essess*

    I’d skip the boss at this point and go to HR and tell them that you have a dangerous fire safety issue going on in the office.

  48. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    Honestly, it’s writing like this that keeps me reading AAM:

    I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays.
    It is magnificent.
    But only because I do not smell the poop barbecue.

    Totally agree. Alison needs to do standup.

    As for your office mate – follow Alison’s advice but if you feel uncomfortable speaking to him about this, how about a little sign taped inside the stall door explaining sulfur thing and TO NOT LIGHT ANY PAPER OR FLAMABLE PRODUCTS

    Do bosses realize the fact that, if there was a fire, insurer could deny coverage of it if it could be shown that management knew this was going on and did nothing to stop it.

    Other than that, BWAHAHAHA!


  49. E*

    As hilarious as the situation sounds to one who isn’t having to deal with this person and their fire bug tendencies, would it help to note to management the implications to insurance if something accidental happened just one time when this guy lit paper inside the office bathroom? Because if management knew and didn’t try to stop the situation, they might have a hard time getting insurance to cover any potential damages. Extreme example, but if the burning is a daily issue the odds increase with every time it’s allowed to continue.

    1. Argh!*

      Not just damages, but personal injuries. Can you imagine being burned or having smoke inhalation injury from something the boss could have stopped? I’d go after the company & the boss alike!

  50. bookartist*

    Deliberately lighting fires indoors in a place that is not a fireplace… I’m at a complete loss for words. Actually, I’m not. Narc on this guy with your local FD. Part of me is of course laughing with everyone else here at the inherent absurdity of talking about shit, but fire will kill you, will kill your coworkers, and will destroy the building you work in. This is actually a near-emergency right now, today.

  51. Jennifer*

    Omg! On the podcast an email was sent out suggesting that employees only use four sheets of toilet paper per visit!!!

    1. SarahKay*

      Out of interest, was that email sent by a man?
      Because I’ve had men ask me why women use so much TP ‘even just for a pee’ and have had to point out the difference in plumbing which means that for a pee they’re basically wiping a single point, while we have to wipe a significantly larger area.

      1. Argh!*

        …and we’re more prone to infection. As modern as they think they are, they often don’t know these things.

  52. pleaset*

    “I’m seriously worried this person is going to accidentally set our building on fire from the bathroom out.”

    If I had this fear, I’d talk to the person directly. Just sayin’.

  53. Free Meerkats*

    A couple of things from me, an actual sewer professional.

    The Three Ps (I also add a V) is the best thing you can do for your plumbing and your sewer bill. About 20% of our latest sewer rate hike was specifically caused by flushing of wipes. We’ve had to replace most of the pumps in our ~20 lift stations with chopper pumps that chop the wipes and feminine hygiene products into smaller pieces instead of clogging and causing sewage overflows. In addition to the capital costs of the multiple pumps at each station (we’re talking 6 figures per pump for most of them) the motor controllers have to be modified/replaced (another 5 figures per pump station), the chopper pumps aren’t as efficient, so the energy costs go up – a recurring cost. At about half the stations, the backup generators had to be replaced with larger ones to handle the extra load.

    We are also looking at changes in the treatment plant we just spent $70M expanding to copw with the chopped up stuff and the whole ones that are from gravity flow areas of the service area.

    On with the non-sewer professional part.

    Older ships in the Navy (I only saw one when I was in in the 70s) instead of individual toilets had seats over a trough of constantly flowing seawater. It wasn’t all that unusual for the guy (no women on ships back then) at the upstream end to gather a large wad of paper, douse it with lighter fluid, set it afire and send it down the line. Maybe the Poo BBQ guy is really old and reliving his Navy days?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      What are the Three Ps and the one V? I’m always interested in healthy plumbing. I’m also enjoying the history and outhouse stories.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Pee, Poo, and Paper. Specifically toilet tissue; even facial tissues don’t break down as quickly.
        And I add vomit.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Ah, thank you. Although, to be inclusive to the women, you should add blood, but that messes up the nice alliteration.

          I worked for a city years back and the black and white video taken of a sewer pipe was fascinating to watch, although the plot was a bit thin. Ok, it was fascinating for about 30 seconds.

    2. virago*

      My father served in the USN 1959-1962 (and has the colorful vocabulary to prove it)*. Now I’ve GOT to ask him about the multi-seat trough toilets and the upstream TP-lighting practices.

      * Dad is well spoken and always wore a button-up shirt and tie during his working days — in a town where this is not common — so my high school friends were often intimidated by him. Until they hung out at the house and heard some of his jokes, heh.

  54. AKchic*

    For clarification – although I’m pretty sure that OP can’t be sure; is Turdison lighting the *used* toilet paper on fire, or is he pulling extra toilet paper out to light ablaze?
    I think his commitment to sparking a barbepoo party in the can would be 10x more solid if he were somehow lighting his used tp.

    Oh my… why? Why am I even contemplating any of this?

    This whole subject has me questioning a lot of things in life.

  55. nym*

    The absolute best way to get over squeamishness about poo – and this is not for everyone, but it is an effective solution – Peace Corps. Trust me, all of this stuff is the subject of many a “my story is better than yours” competition, during and after service. Betting some regulars here can weigh in on that.

    As far as the story upthread re: lighting the outhouse on fire to clean it, that’s a completely legit solution if your outhouse is constructed of materials that won’t burn or explode, and you are outdoors (meaning, best case scenario: your outhouse doesn’t have a roof; also a good scenario: well away from other buildings) so all the smoke dissipates rapidly. HOWEVER. This solution does not apply to an indoor restroom.

  56. Afraid of fire*

    The next time you see smoke and ashes in the hallway, pull the fire alarm and call 911. I bet the bosses would put a stop to it then.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree. You can tell the boss that this is what you are going to do, too.

      Or you can call the fire inspector and tell him what is going on.

  57. Shawn*

    I think I’d be tempted to call the fire department when it happens. Go to a phone in a conference room and make the call. Hopefully it will cause enough embarrassment for everyone that he won’t do it again!

  58. stump*

    I can’t decide whether this is better or worse than the toilet situation at my old retail job where

    a) corporate was super cheap, so they cut back the floor cleaning and toilet cleaning service to once every two weeks,

    b) it was freaking retail, so you get the standard “I don’t think I should have to contain my poop to the inside of the toilet bowl.” customer tomfoolery, and

    c) it was a craft/fabric store, so the average age of the customer base was 80. ‘Nuff said.

    At least with a coworker you can shame them a bit. With retail customers, corporate demanded you basically let them run wild unless they were stealing from you because ~the customer is always right and we can’t upset them lest they stop spending $20 every four months~.

    1. Jay*

      I lost a couple of friendships over who’s turn it was face the abomination that was a K-Mart bathroom in the rural south, at closing time, during the holiday rush.
      I remember staring, in dumbfounded awe and horror, at what they had done to my previously immaculate rest room.
      I don’t know about the Pyramids, but I have no doubt that Aliens were involved in the construction of some of those….things….
      Because nothing completely human could have done that.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ugh. Don’t they realize there are plenty of ways other than plain stealing that bad customers can cost them money?

  59. All Outrage, All The Time*

    One of the few occasions when I would leave a note. I can’t believe anyone would have to write a note in the office restroom saying “Please refrain from lighting the toilet paper on fire.” but here we are.

  60. Dr. Doll*

    I am supposed to be working on Important Things. Instead I am sitting here shaking with laughter at the brilliance that is this letter, answer, and commentary. What should I tell my boss when the Important Thing I promised is not ready in the morning?

      1. AKchic*

        Is the boss a t-rex? If so, it would really work.

        If not, I suggest maybe a mea culpa and direct your boss to this article and say you became engrossed while in the bathroom, and you couldn’t resist following up and following along.

  61. MissDisplaced*

    OMG! I don’t know what it is with all these bathroom issues at work BUTT they’re funny as hell!

  62. Lady Jaina Menethil*

    I made the mistake of reading this letter and the beginning of the response to my driving spouse. I had to stop because he was laughing too hard.

    I hope we never encounter a poop barbecue, but what a powerful description!

  63. Grumpy*

    This is an actual thing some (ignorant) people do when they camp in the woods, crap then light the paper on fire. Apparently that what started the fire that burned down Patagonia a few years ago (very sad).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I’d take this situation pretty seriously myself and if management did not respond I would definitely keep going on the issue.

      Basically management is pretty pathetic here, OP. They can’t even keep their people safe during the workday.

      If you are determined to keep this job, OP, then don’t worry about fallout from whatever you do next. Management has already shown you they are spineless so they probably won’t say anything about your next step either.

    2. All Outrage, All The Time*

      You’re actually supposed to dig a hole about a foot deep, do your business, drop the TP in, light the tp to burn it and then fill the hole in. The fact that many camp grounds are decorated with used TP suggests that many people don’t know to do this.

  64. Melina's Mansion*

    After being in a sour mood for the past day and a half due to Internet negativity about the Oscars exploding on my Facebook News Feed that ended in me declaring an FB embargo because of debates that got a little too personal-attacky and/or just plain too ridiculous, I can now say I’m feeling much better about the Internet today thanks to this post. This post was exactly what I needed today and was THE SINGLE BEST THING I’ve read in a LONG time, and I will come back to this post and re-read it whenever I’m having a crappy day and need a hysterical cry-laugh. The other passengers on the train looked at me like, “WTF?” as I kept snorting and stifling my laughter on my commute home, and my neighbors were probably like, “What is so G.D. funny?!” when I let all the raucous laughter out at home. I cry-laughed so many times I had to stop for breaks to catch my breath. Thank you OP (aka Anti Poo BBQ–laughed hysterically at that name!) for writing this letter and submitting it, and thank you Alison for deciding to post it. This. This right here is why I keep reading this blog.

    Also, “poop barbecue” and “campground raccoon” are my new favorite linguistic delights. I cracked up at the former when it was mentioned early in the letter and knew I was in for a treat. I completely lost it at the latter. Thank you again Anti Poo BBQ and to Anonysand, respectively. I also need to thank Alison one more time for this delightful mental image: “I am picturing your coworker striding out of the bathroom with smoke and ashes billowing around him as strobe lights flash and Metallica plays. It is magnificent. But only because I do not smell the poop barbecue.”

    (In all seriousness, Anti Poo BBQ, I hope this situation gets resolved one way or another soon, because I echo the others when I say it’s dangerous and could end very badly for multiple people!)

      1. Melina's Mansion*

        Absolutely! I would pay a premium for those.

        Also, I will never hear “Enter Sandman” the same way ever again. Listened to it just now (I mean…you kind of have to after reading that opening paragraph) and burst into laughter all over again.

  65. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Allow me to point out to your boss that some day the smoke wafting the wrong way could set off your fire alarms.
    Evacuation is the least of your worries, if there is a sprinkler system in your building.
    Believe Me…I Write Smoke Detector Manuals

    1. Paperdill*

      And the fire service responding to false alarms is an expensive excercise, usually paid for by the person/company responsible for the alarm. You wanna pay for that, Bossman?

  66. Hankypanky*

    I just laughed so hard at this entire situation. Had to read it aloud as entertainment to my hubs. Amazing.

  67. ShwaMan*

    “Hey, Fred, a personal question – I hope you don’t mind – do you do that at home?? I just gotta know.”

  68. Database Developer Dude*

    Okay, this is a case where the way is clear. You know it’s him, and this is fscking bizarre. He’s *SETTING FIRES IN THE BATHROOM*. It’s confrontation time because it’s a safety threat. Your coworker is setting fires in the office, and the boss isn’t doing anything about it. Nothing more needs to be said, except to this degenerate froot loop….(and no, Alison, I’m not going to be kind in talking about someone who is SETTING FIRES IN THE WORKPLACE)

  69. ParksandRec4Life*

    Can we nominate the boss who is so non confrontational that he won’t confront the man who is literally setting poor barbeque fires in the office bathroom for worst manager of the year?

  70. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

    Please, OP, at least make yourself a “Poo-B-Q” playlist for earbuds or accidental near the bathroom speaker-ing. Smoke and Ashes by Tracy Chapman. Ring of Fire. Light My Fire. I’m on Fire. Great Balls of Fire, Smoke on the Water. And so forth. Enjoy the cacophony of THAT on your senses, rather than the odoriferous after-smell of “the TP lighter”.

    1. OyHiOh*

      We Didn’t Start the Fire

      And someone intoning the immortal words of Sir Terry Pratchett: Start a fire for a man and he’ll be warm for a day; set a man on fire and he’ll be warm the rest of his life.

  71. OyHiOh*

    This is one of the clearer examples of Missing Stair theory, applied to work.

    Somebody is lighting fires. At work. And nobody is doing anything about it.

    The original theory can be easily found on Google, however it is NSFW so search at your own risk.

  72. Anonandon*

    I’m military, and I’ve spent twenty years imagining that the civilian world is this hostile place where bosses fire people for any imaginable reason or no reason at all.

    After reading this blog, it appears the opposite is often the case. As long as I find an appropriately spineless boss, I can just do whatever I want.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      Yup. The boss before my current (absolutely amazing city government workplace) once responded to an accusation that one of the sites didn’t do any work with “oh, we’re aware of that”. Apparently it just wasn’t worth doing anything about. Just keep on paying those useless garbage people a paycheck and having them dump their work on the rest of us!

  73. Documentor*

    Put a smoke detector above the ceiling tiles, if it has those. Maybe get one of those First Alerts that’s a screamer. Think you will see an a$$ on fire, too, once that goes off.

  74. Grand Mouse*

    This is fun because I work at a fire station. I would totally call 911 and report a fire over this- they DID tell me to report any fire where it’s not supposed to be.

    (but seriously do this it could make your bosses do something AND eliminate the risk of a building fire- those spread quickly and the fire department takes them seriously!)

  75. Gazebo Slayer*

    Mr. Poop BBQ was directly confronted with ashes blowing around him and he said there was “no proof” he did it? Is this an actual working adult, or Bart Simpson?!

  76. His Grace*

    I have read some s–t on this site (please pardon the pun), but good lord, this is perhaps the best I’ve read to date. Sit this guy down and explain this is not making you comfortable at all.

  77. Matt*

    I don’t imagine Metallica as the perfect soundtrack, but the Bloodhound Gang: The poop, the poop, the poop is on fire …

  78. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Well heck… I read this string to my family and I wasn’t prepared to say “nope privacy!” when my daughter asked my username.
    So it’s now time for another episode in the ongoing internet privacy discussion with a middleschooler. Because I’m not ashamed of anything I say here, but it’s not always PG13. I do not want her with her friends searching out my comments–that would be an invasion of MY privacy.
    I’m putting it here too because this would be the first article she comes to.

  79. Syfygeek*

    Every single time I went to the bathroom last night and the morning, I laughed when I reached for the TP. At 2AM, I woke the dog up because I was laughing so hard.

  80. Mary Kay*

    Great balls of fire!!! Contact the property manager about this situation! The flame thrower is putting everyone at risk!!!!!

  81. diaphanous*

    I love it when my favorite internet advice givers cross streams. I would pay good Patreon money for a Jolie/Alison dating advice column/podcast/variety show!

  82. Creag an Tuire*

    I mean, you can’t prove he’s setting things on fire with a lighter. Your boss is rightly concerned that your co-worker is surrounded by smoke and ash because he is half-dragon and is literally sh***ing fire in there.

    Obviously, “confronting” your coworker about this issue would run afoul of the Mystical Creatures Division of the EEOC, and believe me you do not want to run afoul of their lawyers.

  83. Passive agressive*

    It’s passive aggressive but perhaps instructions on the proper use of matches could be posted on the inside of the bathroom doors.

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