I peeked over one shoulder. Then the other. Slunk behind my desk. Slid open the drawer where I keep the bottle. I shot one more nervous glance around the office. Then whisked the bottle - can, really - right under my nose.
Nothing takes the edge off stress and drama like a big ol' snootful of ... Play-Doh.
It's the sniff of serenity.
I scooped out a handful of Doh and squeezed. A sense of sanity returned as the delightful goo squished between my fingers.
I glanced around to see if I had enough time to mold a yellow rabbit. Someone was coming. I splotted the stuff back into the can, capped it, and slammed the desk drawer.
If any of my co-workers found out I keep a can of Play-Doh in my desk, I'd be considered a weirdo. More so than I am already, I mean.
Turns out I was wrong.
Play-Doh, my secret stress buster for years, is one of the most highly recommended quick fixes by the gurus of calm.
''Think about it,'' nurse Ani Burr wrote in Scrubs online magazine. ''It's colorful and fun, squishy, but not messy, and it's got that oh-so-comforting smell that takes you back to the safe days of kindergarten and playtime.''
She's right. Plus, if you get really frustrated, you can roll it into a ball and zing it at somebody.
I mean, no, no, you can't. That would be wrong. Inappropriate. Too kindergarteny, even if your co-worker is whiny.
Plus, you'd lose your Play-Doh. Unless you kept a backup can in your desk, like I do.
We adults are way too high-strung, and way too self-conscious. We'd all live in more peace and smiles if we stopped trying to hide the Doh.
''Or Crayolas,'' one home-schooling friend with a passel of kids cluttered all about the house told me. ''When I have a stressful day, I color. My kids know they aren't allowed to touch my coloring books or my crayons.''
Wellness coach Elizabeth Scott advises, ''Kneading play dough or finger painting a masterpiece can be a great diversion from your stress. ... If you don't have kids, borrow a friend's.''
Say what? Kids have a tendency to mangle the colors of my Play-Doh. I have plenty of Play-Doh for my grandson, and then I have my own private stock. For therapy.
Scott also claims belting out songs at full-throated throttle - with or without CD backup - is excellent stress relief.
One rocky day at the newspaper about 10 of us engaged in an intense and hopeless battle to make deadline. One copy editor sang out, ''Green Acres is the place to be...''
Two others joined him on the next line: ''... Farm livin' is the life for me...''
By halfway through the theme song from the pastoral 1960s TV sitcom, all 10 of us belted it out all the way to the blissful end: ''... Green Acres, we are there!''
Not a single one of us looked up from our computer screens. We just worked and sang. And made deadline.
Crisis averted by silly song.
Years ago, author Robert Fulghum wrote the famous essay, ''All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.'' When it comes to dealing with stress, apparently it's true.
I learned to stop and smell the Play-Doh.
---- Write Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook. He will sign copies of his humor novels from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at The Village Bookstore in Garrettsville.