Another fabulous day at work

Normally, I like my job. Really, I do. But there are some days.

Take yesterday. Yesterday featured yet another installment of Fun Time with Walter (that’s QB to you) and Mitch.

Among many other annoying things, Mitch takes it upon himself to interrupt conversations between other people, conversations in which he’s not previously a part of. Usually, this takes the form of the interjection of lame jokes, florid exhibits of his own sterling intelligence (He spent 12 years in grad school without finishing his Ph.D., and, wow, does it show.), and comments that only pertain tangentially to anything anyone else around him has said. He does this even when—hell, especially when—he doesn’t know the full gist of the conversation he’s just rudely interrupted. He’s less interested in talking to you than talking at you. I guess we’re supposed to occasionally gasp in awe at his wit.

I’ve learned to tune out these obvious bids for attention, and treat him courteously if not gleefully. Yesterday was different. I was talking with Sylvia, a co-worker in my department, who had just endured a difficult week. Her mom had had emergency surgery, and Sylvia had driven down to the coast to tend to her. This was stressful, but her mom was recovering smoothly. While taking care of her mom, however, Sylvia had received word from her daughter’s school principal that said daughter was “exhibiting suicidal tendencies.” Sylvia fled back up to Jackson to talk with school teachers, counselors, and, of course, her daughter.

So, I was asking how Sylvia’s mom and daughter were coping when Mitch walked in. He didn’t knock on the door, nor did he ask permission to enter Sylvia’s office. “I have a question, Walter,” he said, standing way too close to me. I’m not anti-touch, but I do appreciate my personal space in the office. But whatever. I’m at work, and it’s my job to interact with him and answer his questions as best as I can.

But the question he asked is one I’ve already answered twice. Heaven forbid he take notes or remember anything that’s told to him. I said, politely, “just a sec,” as Sylvia had been in the middle of a sentence when he barged in. Again, all of this is fine. It bothered me, but just a little. Doors are rarely closed in our office. It’s not uncommon for anyone to just waltz in. But the conversation had been delicate, and I wanted to give it closure (for the moment) before addressing Mitch.

Mitch, however, started to poke me, repeatedly. I’m not speaking metaphorically. He poked me on the shoulder, several times, to get my attention, which was strange, as he had already made sure that he had it.

“Please don’t poke me,” I said, as politely as I could muster. “I really don’t like that.”

Mitch smiled, and continued to poke me, asking his insipid question all the time. “I have a question, I may have already mentioned it,” etc., he said.

“Don’t do that, please.” I doubt I was still smiling.

He poked me again.

So I punched him on the shoulder, hard. Probably not hard enough to bruise him, but enough so that he flinched and said, “Okay, okay, jeez.” He asked his question, I answered it (again), and he left Sylvia’s office. And that, I hope, is the end of it.

I haven’t punched anyone, anywhere, since 8th grade. I wish I could say it wasn’t satisfying, and that I immediately felt remorse for losing control. Instead, it took me until today to feel guilty. I haven’t apologized to Mitch. But it’s been eating me up, as if I’m the bad guy. Perhaps I am—there’s no excuse for slugging someone in the workplace, especially in front of a witness, especially since the Mississippi Attorney General’s office is four floors above my office.

Then again, Mitch seems unperturbed by this. Today, he’s treated me like nothing happened, and he’s managed to piss off two other people at work before lunch. So, I’ll suck it up, have my insides churn for a day, and (maybe) apologize to Mitch on Monday. As I sat at my computer this morning, stewing over my immaturity, I got an email from an old friend that puts it all in perspective…

So I can already tell just how badly this new job will suck. Aside from the lousy pay, one of my two supervisors is insane, and the atmosphere here even more ridiculous than the ultra-Machiavellian offices of my last job.

For example, I go into the insane woman’s office. I ask a simple question—for instance, “Would you like cream or sugar in your coffee?”

Her response is invariably to usher me quickly all the way inside and shut the door, and then say, in a whisper, “Have a seat, ______, and let’s talk about that. You see, the person whose responsibility it has been to make that call is someone with whom we’ve been having a lot of problems, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of cream or sugar lately. In fact, we’re letting that person go, although that’s just between you and me, because the party line is that we’re really happy with her coffee work. She’s a very nice person, but
she just didn’t follow instructions very well. So the coffee question is actually very complicated. Does that help?”

Pause.

“So, decaf no sugar?” I ask.

I’m ashamed to say that I was smiling. I couldn’t figure out why.

Furthermore, I’ve already learned to hide all of my personal belongings from her, because the insane woman not only assumes that she can have whatever is on my desk, but that she is free to advertise their presence to the rest of the office. So far, she has tried to appropriate my sunglasses, my pretzels, and my sugar cookies. She decided against the sunglasses because they’re very loose, the pretzels because they’re
stale, and she just didn’t like my sugar cookies, which she decided after eating one.

That didn’t stop her from telling everyone at the staff meeting yesterday that if they’re hungry, I have sugar cookies.

“Actually, those are leftover from a batch I made,” I explained. “They’re my dessert for the week.”

“Oh, well, they’re not very good,” she said. “We need to get you some better food!”

“For that I’d need more money,” I said.

She stopped talking.

I laughed out loud. It’s not exactly schadenfreude—I’m not pleased by my friend’s misfortune—but the letter was oddly cheering. And now I knew why. For all of Mitch’s idiocy, at least he’s not my boss.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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4 Responses to Another fabulous day at work

  1. Judy Coleman says:

    Have I ever mentioned how much I adore you?
    I would have punched him in the FACE. I only met that guy like twice, and I wanted to slug him. You have more self control than I ever shall, my dear.

  2. Susan says:

    Hey, Walter. That is a trying situation indeed. From your description, it sounds as if your colleague may have Aspberger’s syndrome. Many people who have troubles along the autism spectrum have geat difficulties with social interaction. (Have you ever read Temple Grandin? She is autistic, and pretty much had to teach herself emotions. Her books are very interesting.)
    I had a boss (not autistic, just odd) who insisted that she and I change desks. On the morning of “change day,” she dumped the entire contents of my desk drawers (personal items included) in a heap on the floor before I even got to work.

  3. brain says:

    One thing that really took me by suprise when I began working a ‘real’ job was just how immature adults can be, like being at high school again. I’ve been dying to tell some work stories on my blog, but unfortunately I made the mistake of telling a co-worker about my blog so now I can’t go into anything work related. But once I land a new position, oh then will they come rolling out…………..
    Regarding my pokey, I really dislike personal contact at work. I had one of my four bosses touch me on the back a couple of times and it really got to me because it wasn’t a sign of friendship, but of power, patronizing in that he could touch me, but there’s no way I could touch him. It felt like a violation of sorts and I began to understand why women sometimes have felt the way they do in work environments. Anyway, I was fed up with it and the next time he put his hand on my back, I reached around and put mine on his and didn’t move it until he moved his. He hasn’t touched me since. Getting back to your story, sounds like that guy deserved to have his finger broke.

  4. dad says:

    one thing i learned in the workplace over the years, when people start telling jokes, i leave because eventually one will be of my disliking. i never discuss politics because of the same reason above. you have to find bland discussions which is difficult most of the times. i never will punch/hit a person (self control). however i can be a sarcasted s.o.b. in a threatening way where the person knows to f-off. you and your readers are way too smart for this type of b.s.

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