Episode 37: How many times can YOU clear your throat?

A cough echoes in the hallway by the bathroom. A coworker on the phone is talking about “turn on and off our agent.” Freddy just sat down with a sigh and started clicking away with his mouse. More mouse clicking in the other surrounding cubes. My own typing is the loudest as my fingers race across the keys topping speeds of 90 words a minute. One of our PC support guys walks by and his key chain, which he keeps clipped to his hip, shakes, rattles, but doesn’t roll. The bathroom door opens and I can hear a toilet flush. Freddy yells “skinny!” and I get up to go talk to him. Back at my desk now, I hear the automatic door open as an employee enters the IT department. He clears his throat as he walks up the aisle next to me, then sits down in a nearby cubicle, clears his throat again and again and again.

I’ve resorted to listening to music ALL THE TIME lately, not just when somebody is having a loud conversation on the phone or people are “meeting” in the corner by the bathroom*. Otherwise, I spend all my time listening to Throat Clearer. He coughs, clears his throat. I hear a ding, that he just received an email and he clears his throat. His phone rings, he picks it up and clears his throat. He gets up to walk over to another’s cube, clearing his throat the whole way. He sits in the back and to the left of me in a meeting, clearing his throat.

This makes me think about all of the possible annoyances of having a husband. I would much rather put up with dirty socks on the floor than excessive throat clearing.

It’s a good thing there are ample amounts of music and audiobooks on our network here as well as on my own PC. It helps me keep my sanity. But could somebody please tell me why I am so sensitive now to the sounds of the Throat Clearer? I could pick him out of a crowd of hundreds, blindfolded.

And on a totally unrelated note: there’s an application up for a position in my Cabinet o’ Smart People—thanks to Clancy’s suggestion in this past blog. The link is in the right column and it’s your chance to have a coveted position that works with me! Wow, I am so nice to offer that. (If you’re “too cool” to actually visit my blog and click on the link—meaning, you never venture outside of your RSS reader—then fine, be that way, and click on this here link to access the application.)

*There are amazing echo abilities in this corner, which is only 10 yards away from my desk.


  1. *Sigh* I was hoping that the app. would be missed by everyone, thereby increasing my chances of getting a position. Did I just say that out loud? Oh, no… you’re right. I typed it in silence.

    So so SOOO sorry about the throat clearer. My husband, bless his heart, has occasions of throat clearing that get on my nerves, but only when I’m in a certain kind of mood. If I didn’t love him and sleep next to him every night and bear his children, (unlike your relationship to your fellow IT worker) I might just send nasty hate mail or sneak cough syrup into his coffee (or herbal tea)…


  2. While I’m generally the one who is considered the “distracting coworker” (noisy, wearing shirts “to get what I want” as Freddie put it, Diet Coke breaks), there is someone at my office who is more distracting than myself. It is also a coughing guy. I like to refer to him as “Black Lung”.


  3. @grandma – you clear your throat? I hadn’t noticed… probably can’t hear it over the chaos of family dinners

    @clancy – hmm, sneak cough syrup… good idear o’ clancy (so far, only had 3 applications… still great odds

    @janet – I MISS DIET COKE BREAKS. That is all.


  4. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. The problem lies with the Throat Clearer. The constant throat clearing is both rude and avoidable. Constant throat clearing at work (or anywhere in public) is just as rude as burping, farting or picking your nose. Too bad so many people just don’t get it. Productivity losses from the distractions caused by constant throat clearing are documented to be well into the billions of dollars per year. Companies ought to wake up and start laying off the throat clearers first. I bet they wouldn’t hesitate to fire somebody who farted out loud every 20 seconds.


    1. @LC – wait, we have a guy that farts out loud every 20 seconds and he’s been here for a decade… guess it’s tough to get fired for making noises around here


  5. I’m sorry, but you can’t be sitting next to the most annoying throat clearer…BECAUSE THE DAMN FOOL IS SITTING IN THE CUBICLE NEXT TO ME!!!

    Drink some water for F***’s sake!

    I feel your pain and I am going a little nutty myself with this guy next to me.

    Like Les Nesman from the show WKRP in Cincinnati…”I need walls!!!”


  6. Actually, having lived with someone who was the ultimate in non-stop malicious, passive aggressive behavior, I can tell you, there are signs you can look for to help tell the difference between someone who is genuinely suffering from a medical condition, and someone who is doing these things to be passive aggressively rude, in an attempt to bother and annoy others. Both exist, but can be quite anxiety inducing, and sometimes, even the ones with a medical condition might be a little over zealous concerning their throat clearing and various other simple noise, and even smell generating behavior.

    The most important features to observe are quite easy, but can be difficult to clearly identify on the spot, since we tend to get in the habit of becoming instantly annoyed by the person and their chronic noise making, and this does interfere with being able to observe and isolate some facts, as well as come up with more direct coping strategies. Some of the first features to observe, especially with a chronic throat clearer, is quite simply, does it actually sound like there is material being moved out of the sinuses or throat in the first place? Sometimes it does, and can vary from case to case, also, another fact I almost forgot, having constant phlegm in the throat and sinuses can also drive a person to be irritated enough by the condition to end up constantly clear their throat, as loud, forcefully, and frequently as possible.

    Another sign to help identify and gauge the level of actual intended rudeness, is another simple behavior, or should I say, frequency and characteristic of the behavior in question. How often to they do it, and at what times. This is usually the corner stone of your investigation, and will generally provide you with a clear cut answer, is the person in question passive aggressive, or simply ill and/or annoyed. Do not settle for only “does it seem” or “seems like”, try to observe and collect this data as empirically as possible.

    When looking for your answer, try to keep track of each instance of the behavior, and then make note of some relevant details as each instance occurs. Also, do not settle for a few minutes or even a day, try at least several days (2 works fine) of observing and collecting data. Compare the data from day to day, instance to instance, and see if a pattern emerges. Are they mostly random and sporadic, as in, not occurring during any specific situation, gesture, activity, especially of others, which is the most important one to try to identify. If they really are guilty of disrupting the office with their very own orifices, you’ll notice they tend to enact these behaviors on ques. Other people talking to each other, as they or someone else passes them by, someone arriving, when they arrive, while you or another is concentrated on a project, then suddenly, seemingly from behind your ears, they will clear their throat, or simply, make a sudden, disrupting sound.

    It may seem this is just absurd to go through all this, but if it bothers you that much, it’s always better to be sure and to confirm your suspicions, rather then stew in them. Sometimes it can be difficult to observe and parse the facts while sitting at your desk, just holding in all your contempt for Mr/Ms/Mrs throat clearer, while coupled with trying to get your own work done, can actually make being able to clearly tell the difference between someone who is simply just an asshole, or someone who needs to simply manage their condition better, surprisingly difficult.

    Even when you do find the throat clearer to clearly be of simple, if horrendously annoying, passive aggressive twat, all you really can do is either whine and complain about him to whichever peers your are closest with, or be passive aggressive right back. Not the best, let alone healthy solutions for the problem, but is always tends to naturally swing this way, with little opportunity to change anything about it. At least you now know. If you have found throat clearer to simply be suffering from some kind of bad medical ju-ju, even the over-OVER zealous ones, don’t be afraid to drop hints and try to give em a nudge see a doctor or help them manage their condition better, not just for you or everyone else in the work place, but for themselves as well.

    Excessively clearing your throat has been proven to do it harm, and will actually damage it over time, therefor making the whole issue worse, and some people do pick it up as a habit, either for nerves, or the slightest little tickle in their throat or sinuses. Hence why I mentioned how some will sound perfectly clear or fine, then all of a sudden, let out this hideous sounding wail of death they claim is them clearing their throat. This tends to be just a god awful habit they have picked up or developed over time.

    Now just because it’s a god awful habit, doesn’t mean you still can’t bust their chops over it 😉


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