I didn’t grow up poor. I mean, I wasn’t rich by any means. My family was just, normal. We always had food in the pantry; we took modest vacations during the summer, lived on a cul-de-sac. All that jazz.
So I don’t really know why I started stealing toilet paper from my job.
One day I was running late for work and when I went to pee before leaving, I noticed there wasn’t anything left on the roll. I checked under the sink for more. Nothing. I checked the cabinets, the linen closet, and for some reason, the kitchen. Still nothing. There wasn’t a square to be found in my apartment.
When I got to the office I headed straight to the bathroom and stuffed a roll into my purse without thinking. After that, it kind of just became this weekly thing I did. Monday morning would arrive and I’d show up to work with a gym bag.
Tracy, our receptionist, would be all, “Maggie how’s that new gym you signed up for? You look great! I can already see a difference.”
And I’d say, “Oh, it’s so great! They have an indoor track and a sauna. It’s really just about making healthy choices, you know?”
And then I’d go to the bathroom and fill my empty gym bag with stolen toilet paper.
This went on for a couple of months. I think I took the first roll out of desperation; the rest of them were just because I was lazy and realized how much money and effort I saved by swiping TP from work. Plus, they bought the good stuff. Charmin Ultra Soft. Double roll. I had been roughing it with off-brand shit from the grocery store by my apartment. But this, this was the height of luxury. I was living like a Queen.
But then one day I got fired.
It wasn’t totally unexpected actually. A few weeks earlier I randomly got hammered on a Thursday night and showed up to work the next day looking even worse than I felt, which was pretty fucking terrible. I spent the first two hours of the day sitting in my cubicle staring at my monitor trying not to move. Around 10 I managed to walk to the vending machine and get a ginger ale in a desperate attempt to ease the intense nausea. Unfortunately, all that did was make me feel worse and I immediately knew I had to throw up.
I knew I didn’t have much time, so I power-walked to the closest private space I could find, a supply closet by the back door, and grabbed the first thing I saw. Styrofoam cups.
Miraculously, I was able to puke in one, pause, and then switch to a different cup and finish puking in that one.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of myself.
But pride quickly turned to panic as I stood alone and hungover in the supply closet with two Styrofoam cups filled with my own vomit and no trash can or free hands to open the door. I needed to downsize. I put both cups on top of a ream of printer paper and scavenged for something bigger that could contain all of the puke in one place instead of two.
I didn’t get much work done that day.
Someone must have seen me and spilled the beans because after that my manager was all up in my shit. Usually he worked from home a couple days of the week, but suddenly it was like he was everywhere. He was there when I showed up late in the morning. He was there when I left early for lunch. He was there when I wanted to leave for the day at 3:30 but couldn’t. It was terrible. Eventually I started doing actual work because it was easier than trying to look busy.
Finally one day he called me into his office. We exchanged meaningless pleasantries for a couple of minutes before he broke the news; I suspected it was coming anyways.
“Maggie, I know you’ve been stealing toilet paper from the ladies’ room,” he said. He put his elbows on his desk and interlaced his fingers together. I expected there to be a follow up statement but there was none. He just looked at me expectantly. What was I supposed to say back to that? All I could focus on was this disgusting mustard stain on his shirt. I briefly thought about telling him and then thought better of it.
“Um, I...may have taken a few rolls. But just once,” I lied, “when I didn’t have any at home.”
He cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable.
“I also know that a few weeks ago you arrived appearing quite hungover and became ill in the supply closet by Christine’s cubicle. Is this true?”
So it was Christine that told him. That bitch. I knew she always hated me.
“Well,” I started, “I didn’t feel very well but I didn’t want to make a big stink about it and ask to go home.” I thought he might appreciate that, that I tried to tough it out and stay at work, but he just kept plowing through all of my past indiscretions and inadequacies.
“Look, Maggie. I know that you’re a...n intelligent girl,” he struggled. “You wouldn’t be part of this team if you weren’t. But unfortunately, your performance here has noticeably diminished, and paired with your recent behavior I’m afraid your time here with us has come to an end,” he finished. “I’m sorry.”
We sat in silence for a several awkward moments. I didn’t really know what to do. I had never been fired before.
“You have mustard on your shirt,” I said. And I got up and walked out of his office and onto the street without packing a single thing from my cubicle.
“You got fired for what?” Jamie asked.
I took another bite of French toast. “I said,” through a mouthful of bread and syrup, “I got fired for stealing toilet paper.”
We were sitting outside of Bluebird’s in East Village for our weekly breakfast hangout, and I was stuffing my face with as much French toast and Nutella as I could stomach since it was Jamie’s week to pay.
“No, I mean the other thing. What was the other thing you got fired for?” She implored.
“Oh, that. I barfed in a cup.”
She stared at me blankly. I couldn’t tell if she was puzzled, disgusted, intrigued, or all three. I definitely knew she wasn’t surprised. We had been friends for too long for her to be surprised by this.
“You barfed in a cup?” She repeated.
I took another bite. “Yep. Styrofoam cup. Well -- actually, two Styrofoam cups. I couldn’t fit it all in one.”
“Maggie…” she started, “you are by and large the grossest person I know. Why did you even go into work if you felt that sick? Did you have the flu or something?”
Now it was my turn to look puzzled. “What? No. It was that night you had a work event so I went out with Mike and the guys and we all got way too drunk. I totally overestimated my ability to make it through the work-day being that hungover.”
Jamie groaned. “Oh god, you’ve got to be kidding me. You got fired because of a hangover? How did that even happen?”
“Honestly, it was only because the --” I started to explain but she interrupted me.
“Dude how could you be so irresponsible? You know that you owe your parents like $600 already.”
“Well, what I was trying to say --”
“Have you told your roommate yet? How did you even get so drunk?”
“BECAUSE THE PATRON SHOTS WERE ONLY FOUR DOLLARS, JAMIE!” I yelled.
Apparently this statement was enough to diffuse the situation, because as soon as I shared this information Jamie didn’t miss a beat.
“Four dollars?! Where? Was it that place down the street that plays vintage 80s porn on the TVs?”
I sighed. “Jamie --”
“It is, isn’t it? Are they four dollars only on Thursdays? We should go this week.”
I didn’t even answer. I just looked across the table at her. “You need to get your bipolar emotions in check,” I said.
“Whatever. At least I didn’t get fired for puking into a cup.”
“Hey! Those are mighty words coming from the person who taught me how to funnel a beer. And ANYWAYS on my pink slip it said I was terminated for stealing, not vomiting.”
“Yes, that’s much better,” Jamie replied flatly as she reached for her wallet to pay for brunch.