I work in a cubicle farm. Several co-workers have candles on their desks. There is at least one open flame at all times. This practice of candle-hoarding strikes me as odd for a work environment, but no one else seems to find it strange. Scented candles in the office: Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
There are three things that have no place in a professional workplace: airbrushed t-shirts, Downton Abbey spoilers, and scented candles.
Put simply: An office where everyone has something on fire is insane. You must get a lot of drifters drawn to your floor by the warm glow of candlelight twinkling from your coworkers' desks like the flames of a dozen gypsy campfires; over there is the copier.
Problems like this arise when people become determined that their cubicles be absolutely representative of their personalities (you coworkers' shared personality: a spa). Customization is fine within reason. Hang a themed calendar of your choosing. Proudly display a tchotchke a friend brought back from a business trip, so that people will be able to tell on sight what a valued friend you are. Have a cool pen or pencil. The lush trappings of your home would look kind of cramped and sad all cluttered around your cubicle; that's why it's a good idea to leave most of them behind when you head out to work for the day.
I imagine your office smells a bit like a bathroom with all those discordant candle scents bumping and grinding against one another in midair (not the regular bathroom; the bathroom we save for guests, which has dwarfish soaps and small beautiful hand towels that are bad at drying hands). Who decided it preferable to work in an office that smelled like lavender pine sea breeze pumpkin, as opposed to one that smelled like "regular office smell"?
No one is allowed to claim dominion over the air. Scented candles in the office preserve all the annoying aspects of a person doused in CVS Impression of White Diamonds, with an added element of DANGER. When you introduce open flames as an A-OK example office decor—and, by the way, I get nervous writing the words "open flames"; I get nervous just thinking about open flames in an office environment—where will the game end? Is incense okay? Is a smudge stick okay? Is smoking a rack of ribs over a flaming wastepaper basket okay?
Unless you are a priest or medieval chandler—something where candles are part of the gig—the only thing that should be on fire where you work is you, a star employee. If you are well and truly addicted, you can leave an unlit one at your desk, and ram it into your nose any time you need that "Birthday Cake" high.
Now, if virtually everyone has turned their desk into a mystical temple, it would be hard for you to broach the issue—particularly if you are a new hire. There's no easy way to tell a group of otherwise reasonable strangers "All you guys, stop doing this thing you enjoy" or "Oh my gosh, I just realized the office is constantly on fire." (Also, what if the candles are a bizarre memorial for a departed colleague? "Jasmine might be alive today if only the carbon monoxide leaking into her home had had a scent as strong as 'Espresso Sunset.'")
Sometimes it's enough just to derive satisfaction from the fact that "they" are crazy and "you" are normal. Know this. Know that your response is the normal response.
That being said, you should attempt to identify and befriend the person who brought in the first candle. On the one hand, they are obviously wackadoo ("You know what I am going to do today? I am going to bring this candle from my home and place it next to my pencil jar at work and set it on fire."), but, more importantly, they are skilled at manipulating office politics and influencing the actions of others. They will likely prove a valuable ally to you during your time in the fire pit.
After traveling into the city for some appointments, I found myself with some time on my hands and decided an impromptu jog in central park would fit the bill. My outfit only lacked sweatpants so I went to H&M to complete my jogging attire and came back to find my car had been ticketed. I decided to run with the tag on in order to return the item after the run to cancel out the cost of the ticket. After a five mile run, I found the sweatpants to be moderately moist with sweat in addition to seasonal dry skin sprinkles. I'm starting to waver, but feel balancing my checkbook is a must this time of year. Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Yes, it is true that all the money in the universe is present at all times, and all we as humans ever do is move it around. However, H&M and New York City's municipal revenue office do not share one set of books.
Your confusion seems to derive from a misunderstanding of the concept of karma and its application to the world. Karma is not an oddball, Enron-esque accounting technique, designed to make sure you never spend more money than you take in. If universal justice is at all relevant to this situation, it is so in the sense that you are the kind of person who would return used running clothes to a mid-range casual clothing store, and therefore deserve to have your day ruined by a parking ticket. (If regular justice is at all relevant to this situation, it is so in the sense that you are the kind of person who parks illegally, and therefore deserve to have your day ruined by a parking ticket. There has been no miscarriage of justice thus far, though I suspect in you we may have found a character about to induce one.)
The solution to your problem is not to steal from H&M. It is not to park illegally.
If you get fined for speeding, you can't later pull a dine and dash to make up for it. If you text "GIVE" to donate $5 to UNICEF, that doesn't entitle you to remove $5 worth of items from Bed, Bath, and Beyond without paying for them. When you are (inevitably) sentenced to jail time for theft or fraud, you won't be permitted to claim the life of an innocent person, to make up for the one prison will claim from you.
Putting aside the fact that going for a jog in Central Park is a sort of bizarre way to kill time in the middle of the day if you are visiting New York for a couple hours and hadn't already planned on doing that, what kind of "appointments" did you have that your outfit consisted of jogging attire on top, tasteful slacks, and running shoes? A fitting with a shirts-only tailor? A job interview? (If so: good call not wearing workout pants, but maybe next time ditch the moisture wicking reflective top.)
I ask because it seems like you're going to awfully great lengths to save a relatively small sum of money. If you are so poor that you can't afford to pay both a parking ticket and $25 for H&M sweats, maybe you should be relying on public transportation instead of driving into the city.
Of course, the main reason you shouldn't return sweat-soaked clothes covered in "seasonal dry skin sprinkles" (the pumpkin spice lattes of winter!) to H&M and present them as new, unused articles of clothing is that it is an extremely gross thing to do to anyone who might buy those clothes after you. You wouldn't lend a friend your dirty gym clothes. Why would you trick a stranger into paying for them?
Having said all that, I must say I'm impressed that you stopped to ask whether or not this was okay. Most people would never come up with this plan, because it is so far outside the realm of normal behavior. I would expect that the very, very few who would would not pause to question the morality and legality of the idea, because the fact that it even occurred to them suggests that some crucial switch in the part of their brain that governs social interaction is firmly locked in the "off" position. You exist somewhere between these two groups.
It's hard to find a solution that appeals to both psychopaths and the pathologically miserly, but here's one:: See if the city will accept ticket payment in the form of gently-used H&M sweatpants.
If not: give them money.
(NOT MONEY YOU STOLE.)
Thatz Not Okay is a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to email@example.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay." Image by Jim Cooke.