You might remember me talking before about a colleague of mine who once insisted on making conversation with me whilst butt naked in the changing rooms at work. You know that scene from "Run Fat Boy Run" where Hank Azaria's character is busy towelling and talcing his bits as he holds a conversation with a clearly horrified Simon Pegg? Well, it was something like that and it was awful.
At that time, this guy had only been with the company for a little while, and he was clearly going through a period of adjustment: basically he was trying too hard. He's settled down a lot since then, helped -- from my point of view -- by a move to a role where I didn't have to work with him on a daily basis (I haven't seen him in the changing room much recently either, which hasn't hurt).
He's a strange fish though, and he never quite seems comfortable in his own skin or in the company of other people. He's capable of holding a conversation with someone, but at the same time he feels oddly inauthentic and unnatural. It's as though he's read a book on how people ought to behave and is trying to act accordingly, rather than having any kind of an instinctive understanding of how to behave. He's clearly heard that us men like a bit of manly ribald banter to help pass the time in the office, but he seems to lack the basic social context filters that tell him when this kind of behaviour is appropriate, and will choose a strange moment to make an extremely explicit sexual comment. It might be the kind of thing that some of my friends who have known each other for years would say after a few beers, but in a business meeting with some very sober colleagues, it's just weird, especially when the comment is about a mutual colleague. I was also told a story by a female colleague of how he had tickled her as she sat at her desk, and then refused to believe that she wasn't ticklish and tried to tickle her again. It's not that there were necessarily any sexual overtones in this move, it's just that it clearly didn't occur to him that it was inappropriate and overly familiar.
I learned this week that this guy has spent the last few weeks living in a caravan near the Water Sports Centre after his wife chucked him out. The immediate reaction of some of my other colleagues was to speculate wildly about what might have happened, and in one case someone expressed a sentiment of some relief that he would no longer be around his young kids, followed by concern that, in his new location, he was now quite close to her kids (although two corner-shops apart, so unlikely to bump into each other. She'd checked.....). Now, I've taken part in conversations about how strange this guy is with the best of them, and the shower story is fabled within the department, but I thought this was a bit much. I have no idea what has prompted this change in his domestic circumstances, but I do know that it's been wet, windy and cold recently and it t can't be very nice living in a caravan, on your own, on a campsite on the edges of Nottingham as we go into December. He seems a bit weird, sure, but we don't really know anything else about him and perhaps it's appropriate to cut the poor guy a little slack and stop talking about how he might be some kind of sociopath who likely has bodies hidden underneath his new patio.... I'm not thinking of inviting the guy around for Christmas dinner or anything, but is a little compassion too much to ask for, do you think? He might have learned his behaviour out of a book, but I've seen him go out of his way to make new people feel welcome in the department when I haven't bothered to do the same. Maybe he is just trying to extend his network and build his brand, but if the result is that he helps someone feel more comfortable, then does it really matter?
Mind you, I heard the Fairytale of New York on the radio the other day, so perhaps I'm just overcome with a premature outbreak of the christmas spirit. Normal misanthropic service presumably to be resumed in January. Or can you get a vaccine for seasonal goodwill as you can for seasonal flu? Unless this is a particularly virulent strain, that should sort me out.....
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