Posted by: Jeremiah Graves | October 1, 2011

Great Moments in Detective Work: The Case of the Stinky-Ass Office

When I left work on Thursday night, I thought it smelled a tad funky in the office. I assumed maybe somebody had left something in the fridge too long or something like that, nothing major, and I left without giving it a second thought.

When I walked in the next morning the smell I’d previously described as “a tad funky” had escalated to, well, this:

I peeked around the office and the fridge and whatnot and couldn’t find anything responsible for the putrid odor.

There was a brief and fleeting hope that it was zombies—especially given the likelihood of a zombie outbreak here in Boston—but alas, no undead were found lingering about the library.

I searched around, but couldn’t find any air fresheners or anything of the sort, so I just turned on a gigantic fan thinking that I could maybe get the smell to dissipate and then I went up to the circulation desk for most of the morning.

Unfortunately, when I came back downstairs yesterday afternoon, the smell had gone nowhere, but the fan had served to blow the scent all around the room, so…uh…there’s that?!

We left the fan on overnight hoping that it might actually serve its intended purpose and make the smell disappear. Once again, it was all for naught. When I opened the door to the office this morning it was like getting smacked in the face by a tube sock full of c-batteries. Only in this instance, both the sock and the batteries were replaced with the smell of rotting death, but the whole smacked in the face thing was pretty much the same.

Not knowing what else to do, I took a bottle of whiteboard cleaner—something I’ve expounded about my appreciation for in the past—and went to town dousing the entire office in that goo.

It may not smell like any sort of air freshener, but it certainly smells better than it did prior to my rather rash action. I sprayed half a bottle directly into the fan so that the smell would circulate throughout the room and it seemed to work. My olfactory sense adjusted to the white board cleaner/rotting flesh combo and all seemed right with the world when I left the office and headed up to the circulation desk to open the library.

Roughly an hour ago, I finally got off the circulation desk and came downstairs, all excited to drop some stuff in the office and go snag some food.

Then I opened the door and had an almost instantaneous gagging reaction to the scent which had seemingly mutated in my time away. Apparently, white board cleaner only serves to make pungent odors really pissed off.

I realized that it was put up or shut up time, there was no way I could eat for at least an hour or so without hurling anyway, so it was time to tear this office apart and find the source of this aromatic demonry.

It took about thirty minutes of crawling around the floors of the office, digging around everyone’s cubicles and poking at all questionable masses with a ruler before I started to think maybe I was going crazy.

I’d gone through everyone’s cube. I’d gone through all of the random crap piled up in the back of the office. I’d gone through the fridge multiple times over. I’d gone through the garbage and recycling cans.

Just as I was about to give up and burn the place to the ground to rid the earth of this stench, I realized that I hadn’t paid any attention to the empty cube in the corner. No one has “lived” in that cube with any regularity in years. It gets used—at best—once a week when someone needs a place to log on and check their email while they kill time before a meeting in the conference room across the hall.

There certainly wasn’t any food in that cube. The trash cans were barren. The drawers were all empty. There wasn’t anything about the cube to indicate that it might be the culprit…and then I remembered the mouse traps.

There was a time, about four years ago, that we had a serious problem with mice and rats in the building and the facilities peeps launched a counter-offensive by placing something like 35,000 mouse traps throughout the library.

The mouse/rat problem eventually went away and, in time, so did pretty much all of the mouse traps. On occasion we’d find a trap that they had hidden in some obscure location that had been tripped, but given the re-arranging of offices that has happened in recent years, almost all of them have been removed.

The corner cube, however, hasn’t undergone any sort of renovations because it has been largely abandoned. As such, there was still one wayward mouse trap lurking pinned between the filing cabinet and the wall.

I’d briefly checked in that area once, but the mouse trap was hidden by a bunch of random crap that was tucked in behind the filing cabinet.

Remembering the mouse traps from days gone by, I went back to the cube and started removing all of the random crap tucked between the desk and the wall and the filing cabinet and the wall.

It took about three seconds and one big whiff of dead mouse to realize I’d found the source.

Sure enough, once I got all of the random stuff pulled out there was a mouse caught in the trap and there was ZERO doubt that he was the one who’d been stinking up our office.

A careful procedure involving lots of plastic bags, a broom handle and an industrial sized binder clip (for my nose) led to the removal of the mouse. I then promptly doused the entire office in white board cleaner for a second time hoping that with the demonic scent gone from the room, it would take over and leave the place smelling squeaky clean…in a weird, chemical sorta way.

Anyway, I don’t know why I thought this was worth 1,000+ words, but I figured it’s important that y’all be informed of all the minutiae that comprises up my life.

You’re welcome…or something.



  1. I wondered when I saw your original FB comment about the smell if it was a dead mouse. When I worked in the bookstore, I was in the basement doing some photocopying in my platform flip flops and couldn’t help but notice that it smelled like a dead animal down there. It’s an unmistakable odor. The bookstore cat would always find the source, so I was really confused as to why he kept sitting next to me until I realized…I was standing on the dead mouse. Most disgusting moment ever.

    I point out that my flip flops were platform so y’all know, dead mouse goo, luckily, did not touch my feet.


    • I think it’s important to establish, without a doubt, that there was no contact with dead mouse goo. If you don’t people are just going to assume you were ankle-deep in that stuff and they’ll look at you funny for the rest of your life. Nobody wants that…


  2. Gross! Barker needs to be reconstructed with less mousey-ness


    • The building is like 10,000 years old. Not much to be done to remedy the issue. The gigantic, mutant cock-roaches are the worst. They’re mostly in the tunnels and basements on campus, but damn…they’re the size of your head!


  3. There was a dead mouse stinking up Docs for awhile (under Prib’s desk!), and I think we had facilities dispose of the mouse for us because it was too gooey. Kudos for handling it yourself!


    • It was a case of call facilities and wait until Sunday night/Monday morning or man-up, and make it go away so I wouldn’t vomit every time I went in my office. The choice was really a no-brainer.


  4. Swiffer found a dead mouse stuck to a glue trap at BU once. Then, he sat in a glue trap later in the day. Oops.


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