January 4, 2012

Coworkers of record

My coworker has severe halitosis. I know this because he gets in my face multiple times a day and screams at me until I give him the attention he desires. He is self-centered and likes to distract me when I’m in the middle of deep concentration on a new project. And he just doesn’t really ever seem to consider my feelings. His attitude mostly stinks, and he looks like he is pissed off most of the time.
Since I entered the work force in 1971, dealing with co-workers has been a challenge for me as it is for most people. In more than four decades of work, I’ve encountered a cast of characters that would enhance any Frank Capra picture.
My first job in high school was with a weekly newspaper. Two elderly men set the type on ancient Linotype machines in the a.m., and headed for the local tavern in the p.m. I didn’t last more than one summer until I was lured away by the salary and glamour of working as a Dog N Suds carhop. There my co-workers were mostly high school cheerleaders who worked wrapped up in a boyfriend’s leather jacket and his oversized class ring anchored with wrapped yarn on her finger.
In college I worked in the dining service on an all men’s dorm, collecting dining cards before the dinner meal. My co-workers were primarily community women who donned silver hairnets with rhinestone accents while they scraped the mashed potatoes off the ceiling that the residents liked to toss upward.
When I finished graduate school I started in public relations with a university. On my first day my boss took me along to a luncheon meeting with the news director of a local television station. My boss and the news director managed to each down about five martinis and we returned to the office at 3 p.m. I was used to drinking Wisconsin Club beer at five dollars a case, and wasn’t sure the whole martini thing was a good idea.
Throughout the years, I’ve had co-workers who kept bottles in their lower desk drawers and opened the drawer frequently during the day. I also worked for a man who spent the entire day reading the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers in his office, never even disguising this fact. In a Florida hospital, I had a co-worker who kept a “teeny tiny handgun” in her purse (just like Nancy Reagan). Ironically, her boss was one of my co-workers who kept a bottle of bourbon in his lower desk drawer. Somehow the handgun and the bourbon never met, which is probably a good thing.
Guns also represented a “management problem” when I moved back to my home state and worked in a leadership position at a rural hospital. The night-shift surgical nurses didn’t like the 100-yard walk to their cars, and several kept handguns in their lockers near the surgery suite. This was several decades ago, before public places posted signs about such things. At the time, it was a controversy and employees felt that their “rights” were being trampled upon. The hospital got a night security guard and inspected the lockers.
Now I work at home, and my current co-worker doesn’t have a problem with guns or alcohol. The good news is that he shows up to work on time every day, scratches the back of my chair, and jumps onto the desk where he lies peacefully most of the day on my papers. Several times a day he’ll see a bird out the window and get in my face to tell me about it, but a few rubs under the chin and he settles down.

Despite his usual frown and negative attitude, at least he shows up and does what he is supposed to do.
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