The Way Things Are






I would love to get into
2005-12-06, 2:25 p.m.

I would love to get into the really gruesome details here, but this is work-related, and no, none of my co-workers or board of directors or ANYBODY in my real life knows about this, and if you do, you sons of bitches, freaking leave a comment and let me know, mkay? So without going into work details, here goes.


I learned on my trip to DC with Mike, my non-stop yattering co-worker, that while he gives a very convincing illusion of being right all the time, and thereby might be excused for the non-stop yatter, he is in fact frequently wrong. When somebody talks constantly, and you start to listen to the crap they are spouting (at first, I said ďcarp they are sproutingĒ, which would be very cool), you start to pick up on mistakes. This guy is a walking reference book in our area of expertiseÖOR IS HE? Heís frequently wrong, I am starting to notice.

What is really wrong with this picture, at least the way I look at it (with one eyebrow cocked and a cagey look on my face), is that if I catch you being wrong on a governmental regulation or procedure, or mathematical equation, you, my friend, are really, really WRONG. Especially math. And if you are wrong on the stuff that I am able to catch, might you be wrong on every freaking thing? You might.

Itís starting to make me nervous.


He has a smug, know-it-all, been-there, done-that, did-it-with-flair and let-me-tell-you-that-fascinating-story personality, and personally, if I were his wife, who is a truly lovely, beautiful, gregarious, seemingly-normal woman, I would have killed him in his sleep years ago.

I think it is a case in which he is so used to thinking heís right all the time, that heís getting sloppy and (1) assuming heís right, and (2) assuming nobodyís going to double-check to see if heís right because they never have before. BECAUSE THEIR EARS WERE BLEEDING. After spending two days with him, and at one point losing the will to live because he just WOULD NOT SHUT UP, I am taking great pleasure this week in questioning everything he says to me, and all the information he provides for me, and calling him on the goddamn carpet over his mistakes and assumptions.


Whenever I go to DC, I fly into Baltimore and I take the $30 roundtrip SuperShuttle to whatever hotel Iím staying in. This is usually seamless and enjoyable and economical. However, our shuttle driver taking us back to Baltimore on Friday afternoon was the biggest freaking moron ever in the history of the earth. Ever. I could have made all the downtown hotel stops and gotten us to the airport in better fashion than he did Ė it took him 2 Ĺ hours, which is not acceptable.

So thereís your background. I was irritated. I was a little carsick. I was despairing at the circuitous route old Einstein was taking us on. The whole long, meandering, backtracking trip, Mike yammered nonstop about things like (1) the Naval Academy back in the 60s (2) politics (3) parties he attended while stationed in Virginia (4) DCís street numbering system (5) living in Paris (6) deck design (7) various of his pet conspiracy theories (8) winter coats (9) people he knows (10) people he used to know (11) former co-workersí financial situations (12) lawyers (13) food (14) drink (15) the moon, the stars and all the planets (16) prostate cancer (17) his grown children (18) his grandchildren (whom he calls his wifeís grandchildren Ė he thinks itís cute to not acknowledge that heís 63-years-old and thus old enough to have grandchildren) (19) swanky hotels (20) Arkansas. When he ran out of things to say and stories to tell, he READ THE ROAD SIGNS AND BILLBOARDS TO ME.

My ears hurt, my head hurt, my brain hurt. I closed my eyes, and realized that I no longer wanted to live, if living meant sitting held captive in that motherfucking van with Mike droning nonstop in my right ear. I lost my will, yíall.

Does anybody else out there get a kind of panicky, claustrophobic reaction to being cornered and talked AT with no end in sight? I get very anxious Ė slightly panicky, and somewhat nauseous. I feel trapped, and in this case, I actually was trapped.

I started checking my window to see if it might open, so that I might escape. We were in stop-and-go traffic without end amen, and I imagined myself jumping out the van window and jogging alongside until we got to the highway, whereupon I would jump back in. I just needed some respite.

I did manage to get him to shut up for a while by staring into space, clenching my jaw, and offering no response whatsoever to the amusing anecdotes and witty observations he offered me. Not a nod, not an mmmm-hmm, no eye contact. Nothiní. It was short-lived, but probably saved my life.

Flying back to San Antonio, it was a full flight. He sat at the window, I sat in the middle, and the most blessedly quiet man sat on my right. God bless you, quiet man! Anyway, once it got dark, Mike sat there and described the city lights he saw below us: ďI think thatís San Marcos. That must be New Braunfels. Thatís 1604.Ē on and on and on on and on. Itís not as if I were a participant in this conversation; I couldnít see out the window. Itís not like I was navigating the plane going on his description; I was trying to read. And itís not as if I cared; I didnít.

I finally leaned over him and said ďThatís New Braunfels, thatís the cement plant, thatís I-35, thatís Randolph, thereís the Forum, thatís 1604, thereís 281, and thereís the airport,Ē and went back to my book. He started to argue, and I said ďYou can argue all you want, but Iím right.Ē He was stunned into silence. Again, lives were saved.

When our flight landed in San Antonio, I picked up my backpack, and race-walked down the aisle, off the airplane, through the terminal, and out of the airport to the parking garage, not even looking back. I lost him, while he looked for his oversized bag that the flight attendants had had to juggle and move around. The silence was beautiful. I didnít even listen to the radio on my way home.

And he and I are going to Tulsa and Muskogee together next week. This harkens back to my discovery: that I might be smarter than he is, and that I tend to catch his mistakes if I bother to listen to him. I discovered that I really probably do need to listen to him; I feel like I canít set him loose for inspections and meetings and property file audits by himself. So now I guess I am his wrangler.

But heís not all bad. His heart is in the right place, he really is smart when he bothers to check himself, and when he stops trying to fill silent space with words, and participates in an actual real-live back-and-forth conversation, heís good company.

See what a bitch I am? Tearing apart a man I work with, somebodyís grandfather, no less!

TOMORROW: Iíll balance it out with some kind words.

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