If Dante Were Alive Today: Office Purgatory

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Author’s Note: After an experience just a few minutes ago, I’ve decided to add a third level of Ante-Purgatory.

It had been a pleasant day. The rush of the semester was over and everyone seemed happy. As I worked my way through my email, a familiar scent drifted into my office. I sniffed the air again. My senses were suddenly assaulted by an obnoxious intruder. I looked at the time; 3 pm. Who the hell is microwaving goddamn fish at 3 pm?!! I’m not sure why I was surprised considering microwaved fish is a regular occurrence at my office. But I was still outraged. As I pulled my scarf, usually reserved for keeping my neck warm in the freezer that is my office, up to my nose, I began to think of Dante’s purgatory. There must be levels of purgatory specific to the office culture. I could think of several in the few minutes since the fish smell rudely interrupted an otherwise nice day. Dante’s purgatory consisted of two levels of “ante-purgatory,” then the seven levels of purgatory itself. Once one made it through the levels, they entered Paradise. Here are my nine levels of Office Purgatory.

Ante-Purgatory 1: Stinky Food Cookers

These people assault the senses of their entire office when they make their stinky food of choice. The two worst offenders are those who microwave fish and those who burn popcorn. There are few smells worse than these in an office. Also in this group are people who cook “lunch” items for breakfast: enchiladas, burritos, Chinese food. There are just some foods we shouldn’t have to smell at 8 am. These offenders spend ten years at this level for every cooking offense committed in their lifetime. The worst offenders may never leave. While they are here, they are perpetually subjected to whatever smell offends them most.

Ante-Purgatory 2: Food/Beverage Stealers

You’ve brought in your favorite lunch and placed it in the office refrigerator where it is presumably safe. As you slog through your day, you think about how much you’ll enjoy your meal today. Lunchtime arrives and you wearily make your way to the refrigerator. You open the door only to discover that your lunch is gone. As you pound your fists in anger and frustration, you vow to hunt down the culprit and make them pay. But alas, the office food stealer is not caught. Nobody knows who it is, but everyone wants a piece of him or her. The office food/beverage stealers seem to have no regard for their co-workers. If something looks good, they’ll take it and laugh as they polish off the boss’s roast beef sandwich. These people will spend 20 years for every offense watching others eat the most delicious foods imaginable. They can’t touch the food. They can’t taste it. They can only watch, smell, and drool as their stomachs gurgle in protest.

Ante-Purgatory 3: Toilet Drippers

The least sanitary of all the levels, the female Toilet Drippers leave me perplexed. How is it that a woman can get urine all over the toilet seat and the ground? Did you just decide to drop from the air? There’s a reason they put toilet seat covers in the stalls. Instead of hovering above the toilet, hoping everything makes it in, put a cover down and have a seat. Which leads me to the other offenders at this level: those who use a toilet seat cover but don’t flush it down when they are done. Instead, it sits on the seat waiting for the next unsuspecting user. Those of us who walk into such a stall are forced to either go to another stall or use our foot to push the cover into the toilet. These offenders spend purgatory cleaning toilets and the ground beneath them with a toothbrush.

Level 1: The Ass Kisser

You know who this is and where he can be found; usually with his nose up his boss’s ass. This co-worker always finds a way to stroke the boss’s ego, even for the smallest of things. The boss is alternately annoyed and pleased by the ass kisser’s behavior. The Ass Kisser doesn’t care what everyone else thinks of him. His sole purpose is to climb the ladder of success by kissing the ass of anyone above him. In purgatory, however, he is doomed to insult those who could free him from this level. Anytime he tries to compliment a superior, an insult comes out. Until he learns to advance on his own merits, he will remain at this level.

Level 2: The Know-it-all/One Ups-Man

Have you ever been talking to a co-worker about an issue, only to be suddenly interrupted with “Well, I could tell you how to…”? If you have, then you are the victim of the office Know-It-All. This person thinks he knows how to deal with anything and always has a “better” story to tell, and never refrains from sharing. The Know-It-All spends most of the day walking around the office trying to wedge himself into any and every conversation. Often, people stop talking when he comes into the room for fear that they will be stuck there listening to his stories. In purgatory, the Know-It-All must sit silently while listening to others talk about solving problems or sharing stories. When he tries to interject, his mouth snaps shut. Until he learns to listen and not interrupt, he is doomed to listening to others.

Level 3: The Blame Shifter

“I sent an email to Bob asking him to call that client. If you want to blame someone, blame him.” It’s a familiar story. The Blame Shifter never takes responsibility for any mistakes. Instead, he finds a way to throw it all at someone else. Nobody buys it, but nobody can quite disprove him either. Just about everyone avoids dealing with him because they know they’ll just end up doing the work themselves. The Blame-Shifter will spend his time in purgatory being blamed, and subsequently whipped, for every unfinished task until he learns to take responsibility for his actions.

Level 4: The Rumor Spreader

Perhaps the most notorious member of the office, the rumor spreader is both loved and hated. Loved because, let’s face it, we all like to hear a juicy bit of gossip. Hated because she is often malicious in her rumor spreading, often making it about settling personal vendettas. If there is whispering going on, you’ll find her nearby. She will spend her time in purgatory listening to others spread malicious rumors about her, without being able to disprove them. Once she learns that rumors are dangerous, she will move on.

Level 5: The Pointless Meeting Maker

How many meetings have you attended that could have been replaced by a phone call or email? Have you sat in an hour-long meeting that could have been over in 15 minutes if people had stuck to business? We all know the type. The Pointless Meeting Maker either wants to avoid doing real work, so sets up pointless meetings all the time, and/or sets up meetings to reinforce a (false) sense of self-importance. Co-workers groan in irritation whenever a meeting request comes through their email from this person. They think of ways to avoid the meeting; some may go so far as to call in sick. The Pointless Meeting Maker is a time and money waster. Until they learn that meetings aren’t necessary for everything, they will be forced to conduct all business via email or a 10 minute phone call. To them, this is true torture.

Level 6: The Loud Talker

“So I told the doctor that I’ve had this strange itch…” Whoa! Your co-workers really don’t need to hear about what part of your body itches, or anything else that personal for that matter. The Loud Talkers don’t seem to care who hears their personal business. They talk on their cell phone and office phone like they’re at home. Everyone with 50 yards of them can tell you what this person did over the weekend, what they’re having for dinner, and what the doctor said about the itch. The Loud Talkers have no idea that they are that loud or that they are irritating everyone around them. They will spend their time in purgatory whispering everything until they learn the value of silence.

Level 7: The Thermostat Bandit

It seems that no matter where I work, I’m forced to wear a coat indoors. At one office, I even had a blanket for my legs. Why? Because the office was always freezing! The Thermostat Bandits are most known for making it so cold that most of the office can see their breath when they talk. Often, these people either have offices with sunshine streaming through, or they are always having hot flashes. Either way, they seem to be the ones with control of the thermostat and everyone else suffers as a result. There are also those who are always cold and instead of dressing warmly, turn the heat up to a suffocating level, thus making the office a sweat box. Either way, the Thermostat Bandit doesn’t seem to care that the entire office suffers because of their own body temperature issues. In purgatory, they must sit in a room that is alternately freezing cold and steaming hot. They are unable to change their clothing or adjust the thermostat. They will be freed once they learn to not make others suffer so that they are comfortable.


Congratulations! You have made it through Office Purgatory and can spend eternity in retirement. Here, you will never have to suffer the offenses of the lower levels. Enjoy your own personal paradise.

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