Grappling With Co-Workers

[This is the second installment in the You Show Me Yours series I'm running on YesButNoButYes -- I toss out an anecdote, then you tell yours. Today's topic is inappropriate co-workers. Already we've gotten some very funny contributions.]

One summer in college, for $7 an hour, I worked as an assistant shipping and receiving clerk at my old high school. I had three responsibilities:

1) Show up at 7am.
2) Man the warehouse when my boss went to lunch.
3) Not piss off my irritable co-workers.

I could do that. And I did. After a few days, I was bringing a pillow and sleeping until 10. Face down, at my desk. I found other nap rooms throughout the school and used them frequently and no one cared. But a few weeks in, I had a problem. This problem was verbalized by a frequent warehouse visitor — a custodian named Gus.

“We have a little tradition around here, Junior. At the end of the summer, I wrestle the summer help.”

And with that, the mindless summer warehouse job lost its cachet.

Let there be no suspense. I knew this match would never happen. While the looming clash of the titans did not keep me up at night, it sure did end my nap routine. The awkwardness was frequent. One day Gus asked if I wanted to know his hobby. “You’re going to make fun of me,” he warned. “It’s not something many grown men do.”

I could imagine.

His hobby, he claimed, was playing with model trains, and taking pictures of real ones. He invited me to come with him to our local train station and “take a few shots.” Whether he meant photos or liquor or first-degree murder, I’ll never be sure. Lucky for me, I’d seen the (very special) episode of Diff’rent Strokes where Arnold and Dudley were lured into dangerous territory by Horton, the creepy bike shop owner played brilliantly by Gordon Jump. It was with him — the custodian, not Gordon Jump — that I perfected my non-verbal, non-committal fake laugh/head bob. The most effective gesture in my arsenal.

Another time, Gus walked into my office area with his pants unzipped. He laughed and zipped up. He was not coming from the bathroom.

“This will all be worthwhile when I tell this story nine years from now,” I told myself.

“Let me go get the mats,” he said on my last day. I was impressed that mats would be involved. But not impressed enough to see this through. Gus left to get the mats and I went home. We never saw each other again. One day, I fully expect to be on the business end of a double-leg takedown. He’s lurking, I’m sure.

After all, it’s tradition.

Leave a Comment