Beware strange co-workers
by Michael Howlett
I was recently reading an article entitled “seven habits that are secretly driving your co-workers crazy.” Now, there were certainly some annoying habits on the list, most of which I have encountered in my over 30 years in the field of journalism. But … isn’t there always a but … there was one bizarre habit exhibited by a former co-worker that beat them all. A number of years ago we had a young man working at The Mount Airy News who one might describe as “troubled,” “strange,” or “special.” In truth, he was crazier than a werewolf with psoriasis.
One day, the paper’s circulation manager came over to a group of us, who were, of course, discussing important journalism issues, such as Final Four brackets or the most recent movies we had seen, and, with a sense of urgency, says “You won’t believe what just happened to me.” Since I had been in the newspaper business for quite a while at that point, I didn’t really think what he had to say would surprise me, but I was wrong.
The circulation manager said when he opened the door to the men’s restroom; he found the aforementioned young man standing in an open stall completely naked; his neatly-folded clothes laying on the floor. The circulation manager, as one might expect, got the heck out of there. Now, if this had been a one-time occurrence, then we might have written it off as say, the young man was just checking for ticks. However, it happened a second time, again to the circulation manager, who then began driving to the nearest public restroom rather than risk another strange encounter.
The young man’s quirks didn’t stop there. We had a TV in the newsroom so as to help us keep abreast of breaking news and, of course, to watch basketball and football games. Now, the young man, as it turned out, had a Brady Bunch fetish. Each evening at 7 p.m. while we were working, he would ask if he could turn the TV to the channel that broadcast that miserable show. If we refused, we were afraid he might just strip down there in the newsroom, so we would usually let him watch the Brady Bunch, unless, of course, there was a basketball or football game on. Then, well, we just took our chances.
As far as the list goes, I think this young man falls under the category of “doing things that gross people out.” Luckily, he wasn’t with us long; just long enough to become a legend in the annals of strange co-workers.
Another young man who worked at the paper did a very good job, but had a habit of blurting out such important questions such as “If King Kong and Godzilla got in a fight. Who would win?” Well, of course, Godzilla, but that’s beside the point. Most of the time, this was not a problem, since we were all journalists, we naturally had inquiring minds, so the question of who would win this epic bout was certainly of interest to us.
At other times, he would burst out in song, with The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” being one of his favorites. Now, anyone who knows me knows I love The Stones, so most of the time this too was okay. The only problem was it didn’t matter if it was 5 p.m. or 30 minutes before our midnight deadline, when he got the urge to sing or pose an interesting question, he did. Now, what’s fun and entertaining at 5 p.m. is often a major pain in the butt 30 minutes before a midnight deadline.
Yes, working in an office with a whole bunch of people leads to some interesting encounters. Some may be too touchy-feely, some may smell bad and some may borrow items without asking. However, you can count yourself lucky if these are the worst things you have to deal with. Remember, you could one day walk into the restroom only to find a co-worker stripped down to nothing. Worst yet, he could also be singing the Brady Bunch theme song.
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