Q: Dear Five,
A new graduate student recently moved in to one of the desks in our office.  Our international friend brought with him a very pronounced perfume of body odor.  Our shared office of about 15 people has no windows (and no escape!) allowing the delightful fragrance to stew in the room until it has a knockout stench more effective than a tent full of sweaty soldiers in basic training.  Every culture has a different way of doing things and diversity makes the world exciting, but I think we got the whole regular showering and use of deodorant thing right.  We have thought about spraying him with air freshener consistently throughout the day, but decided that might not be the best course of action.  I would like to avoid donning a gas mask every time I step into the chamber...what do we do about the stinky kid?!

One (Hopeful Failure): I've tried to address a startlingly similar issue with literally no success whatsoever. This leads me to believe you have only one fail-safe option: Quit. Sorry, but that's the way it is. 

That said, if you want to explore less drastic approaches, you could write up a list of "Lab Rules and Protocol" on some official-looking paper. Include other over-reaching, personal but quasi-believable stuff like where people need to store their coats and bags, a definition of an appropriate haircut, and what type of footwear is appropriate in the lab. Make it long enough that it doesn't seem like the shower/deoderant clause is weird, but short enough that it gets noticed, and end it with something vaguely threatening like "failure to comply will result in disciplinary action." Post it on the bullentin board and enlist your fellow sufferers to a) very noticeably alter behavior to comply with at least one of the weird demands, and b) complain often and bitterly about how inappropriate it is that "they" are trying to control your lives. If your smelly colleague doesn't fall in line and suds up, start having hushed conversations about what happened to a "friend" in another lab who was caught unshowered and wearing flip-flops by The Man. Make it graphic.

P.S. Just a warning -- you may want to include a "no perfume or cologne" clause in your list of rules -- I'd hate to see you trade one horriffic, overpowering odor for another!

Two (Smells like Sunshine): I would invest in a number of sample size deodorants.  One day, come in and tell your colleagues a friend of yours is doing a survey about the effectiveness of the product (If you want to use this, as of now, I am testing the effectiveness of whatever deodorant you want to use for your experiment) and you brought some samples so they could all test it.  No hurt feeling and since as of now I am conducting this experiment, it's not a lie.  Good luck!

Three (try, try again!): Hello lovely reader. I'm not sure if you know this but as five sisters with five brothers, we fall into the unlikely category of highly experienced in dealing with this issue, yet our success in acheiving results is rather abismal. (Exhibit A, any of our brothers from ages 11-15).  So I'm going to go with a list of things I have never tried before, just so you're starting with fresh meat.

  • Candles--heavily scented, of course. Kill two birds with one stone, by taking care of your odiferous buddy, and turing the office into a romantic cave for entertaining the ladies.
  • Go on a febreze rampage a few times a day. Yeah you'll seem crazy, but everyone will be grateful.
  • Take him to play basketball, then encourage him to shower, and while you're in there give him instructions in proper hygiene. After you've bonded over ideal scrubbing techniques casually toss him the extra stick of new extra strength deodorant you've stowed in your bag and say "My girlfriend loves how that smells, it drives the ladies crazy!" (WARNING: This could be interpreted as sexual harassment. Just sayin...)
  • Also, just. keep. watching. these.

Four (Empathetic): Well, I don't think you can say anything. But do you, perchance, have an advisor who could help with this conundrum? Do you think you could get said advisor to mandate that all grad students shower and wear a particular clinical-strength deodorant before entering the office (for scientific reasons, of course). If it's too challenging to get your advisor involved, you could say you're doing an experiment for a certain deodorant company looking to expand its reach to include men. Buy a big pack of clinical strength deodorant, give everyone in your office some jingle bells and whenever anyone moves, force them to put on a new coat of deodorant. By including everyone, you diffuse the blame. MMmmm...Yeah. I that should work.

Five (Occasionally Smells Alright): I've found that discretion is the key in these types of situations. The following are all excellent ways to communicate what you're feeling to the fragrant fellow, without actually saying anything:
  • Make really, really unhappy faces whenever you're around him (like this)
  • Hook some of those dangly car air-fresheners from his ears or glasses
  • Speak loudly of how you shun people when they smell terrible
  • Shun him
  • Hold your breath for as long as you can, and then run to the nearest window or outside door before inhaling again
  • Burn incense at his desk
  • Make a Wall of Shame with only his picture on it
  • Tell him he stinks*
  • Give him this stuff for his birthday
. . . I have more. If you need them, I'll post them in the comments.

*This suggestion does involve actually saying what you feel

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