Keta's Storybook!

WORKPLACE MAYHEM

. . . CONTINUED FROM

Iíve changed my hours so I am an early starter (7:30am, eek!) because I can save 45 minutes on my daily commute. Getting out of Richmond in the afternoon is a serious pain in the ass (they donít call it The Ditch for nothing!). Iím not the only one; usually we hang around in the lunch room grunting at each other or just staring into space trying to become coherent. Itís very quiet with hardly anyone around, especially in the winter when itís still pitch black darkness outside.

Donna is also an early starter (itís part of her scam to pretend to come early so she can leave at 3:30, but really she gets here just before Jack). She has an awful way of crashing into the lunchroom noisily, booming out good morning greetings. Until she arrives the rest of us just nod hello and maybe share a small quiet joke, so her entrance is quite jarring.

Because sheís a heavy drinker (her husband is retired) sheís hung over every morning and needs to get some fluids into her body. It is her ritual to SLAM the ice cube tray into the sink repeatedly until all the cubes bounce out noisily so she can fill her monster-sized sport bottle with icy goodness. Itís probably the most annoying thing ever and serves to empty out the lunch room with amazing speed.

I just keep leaning on the counter watching with amusement; waiting for the day when she will get a clue, realize that there are other people in the world and stop being so obnoxious. One of the fellows in the shop sticks around too, which is kind of surprising considering he seems more bothered by Donnaís morning intrusions than anyone else.

Annoying Co-Workers Will Enjoy Bothering Everyone

Weíre sharing our usual eye-rolling behind her back when he says quietly, "You know, there is another way to do that."

"Well, I have to get the cubes out!"

Itís obvious by her response that this topic has come up before; she looks over at him and waves her hand towards the life-giving ice.

"If you run hot water over the back of the tray the cubes just slide out and you donít have to make all that noise." I offer helpfully.

Donna looks at me sharply. Clearly she does not appreciate our candor; itís like sheís hung over and pissed off that she has to come to work when her husband gets to lie around in their warm bed so sheís going to annoy us as much as humanly possible. We leave her to her morning ritual, itís time to get to work anyways. Maybe sheíll get the message.

Returning to my desk I make a comment to Petra.

"Just wait, sheís going to make her breakfast now." Petra laughs.

I shake my head and turn to my computer. Sure enough, not five minutes later a horrible stench permeates the layout room. There are no doors, just a big open space with wide doorways, so any strong odors fill the room pretty quickly. This comes in handy when someone decides to microwave popcorn, but is foul when Donna makes her stinky-feet-cheese toast. I swear, she uses harsh garlic bread and some of the strongest cheese I have ever smelled. Cheese which, Iím sure, was never meant to be melted in a toaster oven.

Petra and I giggle while trying to hold our breath until we see Donna pass by into her office; sports bottle overflowing with icy water in one hand and plate with scary toasted cheese substance in the other. The stink wafts away after several minutes, but in the meantime Petra, Steve and I gag quietly.

Itís no surprise that our little chat about extracting the ice cubes quietly makes no difference the next morning; I take to teasing Donna about her Stinky-Feet-Cheese breakfasts. She always laughs, not realizing that I donít quite mean it as a "ha ha" joke.

. . .

It's Christmas time and we're on a skeleton crew. As the newest hire I, of course, don't get to take any time off; which is fine because I'll get a chance to sit here in peace and quiet getting my brearings. There's always a mad rush, screaming emergency, something that needs to be fixed immediately, or some other such melodrama going on. Most of the main building is off this week as well; since we're not expecting any visitors I'm dressing super casual.

I'm just goofing around on the computer when in walks my nemesis, Adam. He's got this whole alpha-dog libido-driven mentality going on, which I find annoying but he's not entirely lacking in intelligence and has a sharp wit so I put up with the constant sparring. He considers himself quite the Casanova, having scored with most of the young eligible staff in the main building and the only single attractive woman on our site. I have to laugh though because he's really kind of a hick; born and raised in Richmond and got a job here really young because his dad works for the maintenance staff. He tells me stories about his bar experiences in town as if he's really cool but he just comes across as so . . . suburban.

I'm ignorning him as much as I can during the break. Without everyone else here to keep him busy and run interference for me - not to mention to keep his raunchy stories at least somewhat decent - there's no telling to what lengths he will go to get my attention. He's the kind of guy that will do anything just to get a reaction out of a female; he doesn't care if it's a good or bad reaction, as long as he can tell himself that he "affected her". So far he must be sensing my coolness and seems to have decided to try to "out cool" me. Which is fine, the less non-work related contact we have the better.

There's a couple of people working in the shop, no one in the front room and almost no one upstairs. Even Jack has taken an unprecedented week off. I've having a blissful time closing off some minor boring projects that we've been ignoring for months and just tooling around with the computer. After lunch Adam enters the building very not quietly, as usual. I keep my back turned, counting his steps until he passes my desk into the shop. But this time he stops.

A Different Kind of Annoying Co-Worker, Will also Enjoy Bothering Everyone

Oh well, prepare for a another round. My bliss couldn't last forever, now could it?

"I went out with some friends last night to the *insert name of cool Kitsilano bar here*." He stops short. "You know where that is? Have you ever been there?"

"Yeah Adam I've been there." I probably used to hang out there years before you even knew it existed, but carry on with your story.

"So anyways we had a great time, there was a bunch of us. But just as we were leaving a fight broke out. It was started by one of the girls; it's always the girls that have to go and do something to get a fight started." He looks at me accusingly.

I stare back. What? I've never started a fight in my entire life. I'm trying to imagine how a fight could start in that establishment; it's a very mellow pub-style restaurant.

"So yeah she gets herself in trouble so of course I have to come rescue her. And look, look what happened!"

Adam takes a quick look around the room to make sure we're alone (oh joy is me), takes off his shirt and throws it on the table between Petra and my desks, then rips off his t-shirt and turns around.

Now, he is a fine looking specimen I'll give him that. He's about 6'1", lean with blue eyes and blondish hair. But he's so obnoxiously predatory in his manner and so clearly pleased with himself 100% of the time that I just can't take him seriously. Besides, I still remember his attitude on my first day, before he actually got a look at me and must have decided I could be a potential conquest.

He's got a large scrape running down one side of his back that looks like it must have hurt a good deal. I'm generally ignoring it while I get a good eyefull of his body; barely managing to utter some concerned comment about his injury.

"Well it barely hurts now and you can bet I got the better of the other guy." (or "you should see the other guy" or some other such predictable comment.) He puts his shirts back on and goes through the door to the shop, but not before I notice a certian swagger in his step that makes me wonder if he's still drunk.

That time he didn't irritate me all to hell and I got a nice view of some eye-candy so I'm not complaining.

Later on, in talking to the most junior staff member of the shop (we like to chat about music; we're the only ones here that listen to anything newer than 1970) who tends to follow Adam around like a lost puppy, I tell the story Adam told me about the fight in the bar. Ewen is very interested in this and asks for details so I explain the whole thing, right down the the disrobing.

"That wasn't a fight! He was so drunk he tripped on the stairs and scraped his back on the railing. I can't believe he told you it was a fight!"

I couldn't believe it either, and it didn't sit well with me. Not at all. Adam has too much of an unprofessional attitude as it is, particularly with women; and the thought that he was just looking for an opportunity to show me his body pisses me off. This isn't a fucking playground. I've only been here a short while but I can already see that - although we can't get fired unless we are caught stealing or something - I could easily get reamed up the ass by someone very powerful for no reason and have essentially no recourse. I take my profession very seriously and don't relish the thought of having my record tainted by some small misstep or personality conflict.

We have a staff meeting first thing Monday mornings (well, once all the 8:30 crowd is here); sometimes there's a moment to share a personal story or a joke. Several weeks later I take the floor and - with vivid arm-motions - tell everyone the whole incident. The men go "oooo!" and look towards Adam lewdly. The women twitter and pretend to be shocked. Jack tries to look stern but I can see he's also intrigued. Adam's not sure what to think. I can see he finds me frustrating; so close and yet so far, and never reacting to anything remotely as he would have expected.

Taking a Stand Does Not Always Bring the Desired Effect

"Yup, right there in front of me he takes off his shirt and throws it on the table. Then he rips off his tshirt to show me his back."

Silence. Everyone is waiting to see what happens next.

"It must have had an impact on you if you remember that so clearly." Adam tries to get the upper hand.

All eyes turn to me; it's like this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened in the print shop or something.

"You bet it had an impact. My co-worker takes his shirt off in front of me when he knows there's no one else around. You bet I'm not going to forget something like that."

I stare Adam straight in the face; he looks like he's had his legs knocked out from under him. Then I look at Jack raising my eyebrows meaningfully as if to say, 'this is the work environment you have consented to'. As my gaze drifts to all the blank, expectant faces in front of me I am disappointed to find that they are ever so much more interested in the racy story than the moral I am trying to teach them. Jack, at least, gets the hint and calls the meeting over. I know he won't do anything about Adam though.

For his part Adam goes away like a naughty puppy with his tail between his legs but I know it won't last long. I just had to say something though, because I've been in this kind of situation before. Females think if they do nothing the whole thing will just blow over, but males think if she doesn't say anything she must like it and the behaviour escalates. Which might be all well and good, harmlessly titillating in a social environment; but NOT acceptable at work.

CONTINUED . . .