It began as a mistake.
Everyone around me all migrated at once out of the office and being the new guy, I followed the herd. God forbid I miss an important off-site meeting my first week on the job. What else could be so important that the room cleared out? Some took the elevator down and others took the stairs. Once the elevator crew made its way to the bottom, the others arrived shortly after, out of breath like ran they just ran the Boston marathon. We made our way through a series of dingy hallways eventually ending up in a back alley, almost like a reverse shot of that restaurant scene in Goodfellas. It was cold and rainy outside, but no one seemed to mind as they all huddled around each other and proceeded to spark up, a wave of lighters igniting in disjointed concert. It hit me; I was part of the proverbial smoke break. While it was informal, there seemed to be a ring leader posted against the wall running the show, capturing everyone’s attention with his boisterous stories of backroom deals made on the golf course. A mountain of a man who’s scratchy voice reverberated through the alleyway. He spotted me and sensing I was the newbie, introduced himself: Johnny Mangoes.
Okay, let me back track a bit because it’s been so long since I’ve logged-in to this site, let alone posted.
It’s been four and a half years; that’s akin to an entire awkward high school phase, if you think about it. So much has changed, yet my haircut remains the same. I could spend this post updating everyone on all the events of the past half decade, but I’m not sure anyone cares besides the one girl reading this who I have a restraining order against. (Tiffany, its time to let go. It was one date and we went to Panera.) No, I feel this post would be best served talking about what’s taking up most of my time nowadays: work.
Specifically, working an IT support position. If you ever get a chance to help others learn exciting new technology: don’t. While there are plenty of [horror] stories I could relate (including a HILARIOUSLY ORIGINAL Any Key story!), I will stick to doing what I do best . . . talking about others.
Growing up I was a big fan of the Goosebumps book series and the subsequent television series. RL Stein had a common theme where there would a some kids introduced to a new city or house and immediately they would start noticing little things here and there that just didn’t seem kosher until finally, the creepy lid blew off the whole thing and zombie vampires with laser eyes started chasing them. (I really need to re-read that one.) Anyways, on my first day of work, naturally, the first person I was introduced to was the co-worker who I would be working directly alongside of, John. He seemed a bit aloof but I brushed it off to him being busy or perhaps just shy. In other words, the typical IT nerd. I know it takes me a few days to warm up to someone I don’t know. Whatever it was, he was pretty wrapped up with what was on his screen. As I passed by his desk over the course of the day, I caught glimpses of his screen. The first time, it was a Dilbert comic and I could her him chuckling fiendishly to himself. Hey, we all have our kicks. I’m more of a Marmaduke kinda guy, but I digress. I came by at the end of the day to say goodbye like a professional bullshitter should. My co-worker didn’t even turn to ask how my first day went or whether I met the girl in Accounting with the huge tits. He just lifted his arm in a dismissive fashion and never once took his eyes off yet another Dilbert comic on his screen. The next day, and every day thereafter really, whenever I glanced at his workstation, nine times out of ten, John would be reading a Dilbert strip on the internet. Even when I couldn’t see what he was doing, I could hear him giggling. At times, it was almost a high-pitched pig squeal. I’ve yet to revisit the comic myself, but the critics are obviously raving.
Now, let me take a moment to point out that this didn’t seem the least bit odd to me in the grand scheme of things. When you work next to a group of programmers who spend the entire day wondering who would win in a fight between a wild pack of family Ewoks or Yoda, the idea of a guy fully engrossed with one comic doesn’t seem strange. This Star Wars themed debate raged on for weeks, almost coming to physical blows one day, before a supervisor had to step in and ban any and all sci-fi talk for the rest of the week. All this warning caused was for the arguments to become loud, angry whispering instead, with mumbles of “Jedi” and “power in numbers” still making its way to my ears. Eventually, they agreed the Ewoks persistence would win in the end, but it took a lot of convincing. One guy even brought in one of those cardboard displays you see in middle school science fairs with all sorts of charts and graphs. Hats off, Pradeep. Who knew Star Wars was big in India?
This was not the only time I would witness a fight nearly break out in the office. Mary and Ruth are two of the sweetest elderly ladies you’ll ever meet. Most people I work with are older than me, but these two are ancient. They’ve been working in Accounts Receivable their whole lives and are both set to retire fairly soon from the limited conversation we’ve had. However, when a discussion began concerning who was bringing what to the annual potluck, the topic of who’s recipe was the green bean casserole arose. All bedlam broke loose. Their voices elevated about as much as you’d expect from two sixty year olds watching the Price is Right before a yell of “LADIES, PLEASE” stopped the chatter. Ruth had the final word when she muttered under her breath, “bitch”, but Mary got up so fast off her ergonomic chair you’d think she was going to break the hip she just had replaced. I’ve never seen anyone want to take sole proprietorship of a green bean casserole recipe so bad before. I can’t wait to try it and I’m not even that big of a fan of green beans.
All this arguing really had me questioning if I’d joined an IT company or a Fight Club. Its been well documented in this blog that I’m a lover, not a fighter. So in an attempt to bridge the age gap and make good with my new office pals, I’ve attempted to join in on their social activities, which brings us back to the smoke breaks. Now, I don’t smoke tobacco but you know what they say: when in Rome. And besides, I’m not looking for someone’s grandmother to try to beat my ass over a casserole recipe.
While the aforementioned first time wasn’t planned, the subsequent visits outside were part stretching my legs out of the office and part getting to know people “outside of work”. This meant, of course, getting to know Johnny Mangoes. Johnny Mangoes, if that was his real name, was the top salesman in the company. I know this because he told me several times, “Kid, I’m the top salesman in this fecking company.” He had hairy gorilla arms the size of tree trunks and his Hawaiian shirt that screamed Florida snowbird barely covered his beer belly,which was equally as hairy. I’m not sure this get up was dress code appropriate but when you pull in millions for the company, I suppose they let a few things slide. He greeted me the first time in a thick New York accent, “Howya doin’, kid, Johnny Mangoes” as he outstretched his hand and his gold bracelets rattled. “Forget your smokes at home?” Yeah, I replied, deciding it was worse to admit I came out here just for the company. He reached into his pocket but instead of taking out a pack of cigarettes he hands me a cigar. I put it to my lips as Mister Mangoes graciously lit the stogie. I awkwardly coughed after the first few puffs and he answers, “What are you, gay?” and bellows out a cackle that proves his smoking habit has been going on for decades on end. “I’m just bustin’ ya feckin’ balls. Let me learn ya somethin June-ya, sales is a tough racket, don’t ever get into it. Now, I got two ex-wives to feed so that don’t leave me with much of a feckin’ choice!” He cackles again but this time gets cut short but that phlemgy type of cough that ends up in a wad of mucus being spit out. I’ve never seen Johnny Mangoes in the office, only out in the alley. Who knows if he even works there now that I think about it. But he’s out there every time smoke breaks come around.
As eccentric and condescending as Johnny Mangoes is at times, I take it in stride. In fact, I try to make good with everyone I work with. My comic reading co-worker is an exception. Its not for lack of trying, however. John’s just not very talkative. He gets so wrapped up in his Dilbert reading binges that he can be downright dismissive. So you can imagine that its quite hard to work in a team with someone like that, especially when approaching them with any questions. Often times, John would just ignore me. This would prove to be frustrating, until the day I broke through a wall with him and began making progress.
“Hey, John, what are the status of those Microsoft licenses?”
Silence. I can clearly see his screen and its the usual. This one seems to be holiday-themed strip. How festive. I could hear him mumbling as he read his favorite comic.
“John. Question. Microsoft licenses.”
I’m standing a mere two feet away. Nothing. I can only be ignored for so long.
He swivels around in his desk, pushes his thick-rimmed glasses back with a single finger and calmly replies, “Call me Dilbert.”
The laser-shooting zombie vampires are out in full force.