My morning started with a coworker getting a package in the mail. She excited opened it and revealed a new office accessory: an oil diffuser. I was hesitantly excited about the possibility of having a diffuser at her desk to help cancel out the scents from the deli and tanning salon downstairs. We have poor ventilation in our building so things can sometimes get distracting.

Things started off pleasant. The little wooden pot steamed away happily at her desk and filled the room with a mild calming scent, but as the afternoon rolled on things started to change. The air was turning toxic. I could taste it. My tongue was getting oily. My brain was beginning to spin. I felt like I was going to pass out. I took a walk and considered my options for bringing up the issue with my coworker. Surely she would listen to reason. Surely she was feeling the effects of the steaming oil pot more than I was even. But I knew this conversation would be difficult for me. I shake at the thought of confrontation.

As I returned from my walk, I came in through a side door and started up the stairs. Halfway up I was confronted with an abrupt wall of the smell. The smell! It was in the hallway. It was oozing down the stairs like an invisible syrup of toxic death.

I rounded the corner approaching my office, steeling myself for the inevitable conversation with my friend. And with each step, the scent grew stronger and stronger. It was at my throat! I passed the office next door to ours. I debated rushing in and warning them about their eventual fate. We should evacuate the building! Their office door was open. Loud music was playing inside. As I walked by, a man stepped out in splotched clothing, hands covered in paint. He nodded at me politely and walked toward the bathroom.

Suddenly my head started spinning in the opposite direction. Of course! It wasn’t the diffuser at all. The neighbors had been painting all day, directly on the other side of my office wall! I was overjoyed. Thank God that I didn’t have to talk to my coworker about her diffuser; it turns out I was actually literally being poisoned by noxious paint fumes all day. The hot sun and our firmly sealed windows just magnifying the power of the chemical sludge. I sat down at my desk and started to laugh with relief. I laughed and laughed and stomped my feet and laughed and I spun in my chair laughing as my coworkers rushed across the room to see what was the matter. I foamed at the mouth and laughed falling over the arm of my chair, convulsing in laughter on the office carpet. I woke on the floor with them standing over me, slapping me to get me conscious.

“We don’t have to talk about the oils!” I just kept yelling in my frantic delirium. “We don’t have to have tension in our office because of the oils! God take me now; it was the PAINT! Thank you, Jesus, we are all dying instead!”