I'm going to go back to a time where I was fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and scared to start my first real big time job out in the world. I had a lot to learn. For one, I had to learn how to be a contractor - essentially working and reporting to the company that hired me while stroking the ego of government employees by letting them think I report to them. Sounds ridiculous...and it kind of is but in time it became second nature. When I started though, I had no clue.
As chance would have it, I got the privilege of working with one of the most uptight and condescending government employees, EVER. Let's call him Marshall*. He would remind me at least once a day that his badge was a different color than mine and therefore (in his head anyway) more important. It did not escape even my fledging professional mind that something was off. No one should try and make someone feel inferior because they were hired as a contractor. It is an unavoidable industry trend.
My temporary workspace was not on the same floor as Marshall and as such, he required me to call him every morning at 0700. If it was 0701 and I hadn't called, he would then come find me in a tizzy about if I was at work. He expected me to work the same hours as him, but I actually started work at 0600. Eventually, my boss stepped in to tell Marshall that he wasn't my time monitor. However, he never quite shook the habit. Later, when I got to move to my permanent desk with the team, he would poke his head in our lab and check for me. He wouldn't say anything. Just a visual confirmation that my millennial lazy ass made it to work I guess. How sad for him that I started going in at 0500 and I got to leave two whole hours before him.
I waved to him in the parking lot outside our office building once. He reprimanded me later saying we can't acknowledge that we know each other in public in case the "enemy" sees. He reported me to my boss too. I was terrified and embarrassed after this incident. I mean, I didn't know! I was so new to this world and he took full advantage.
Marshall's desire for control continued to dictate my work day. He would tell me how to open folders with a right-click rather than a double click and he requested I change the size of the icons on my computer. If I changed it back, he would ask to "drive" the computer for a second and re-arrange everything to his liking before continuing with the task at hand. Zero regard for the fact that it wasn't his desk. Sure, why not change the screen brightness and move icons to the other side of the monitor? Sure! Just move that pencil cup to the other side. Oh, thank you for adjusting the angle of that USB hub, it was bothering me too. *face palm*
Inevitably, as soon as he would sit down, a grimace and dramatic jump up from my chair would occur. Apparently, my desk chair was too warm for him to sit in. Uhm, wouldn't anyone's chair be warm after sitting on it for hours? Why not make a huge scene and further embarrass me? Don't even know why I am questioning that.
When I would go to his work area to discuss a case, he wouldn't turn around and look at me. Rather, he would look at me in a mirror pinned above his desk. Super awkward. I considered it a personal triumph on the rare occasion he faced me to continue the conversation. What a waste of his time I must have been. *eye roll*
When Marshall was out on vacation, that meant I was the lead on our project and he hated that. In fact, the first time he took time off (only because he had to), he actually still came into the office to check the format of my emails and to see if I was there. I should mention that he already called me that morning to see if I needed him (I didn't). Apparently he was in such a state, there wasn't time to dress for work before he came in. I mean, of course he should attract as much attention as possible by coming in wearing a TRACKSUIT, claiming I was incompetent and was overwhelmed without him.
Reader, I'm not sure my sarcasm is obvious enough here so permit me to clarify. Nobody was less needed that day than he was.
His unbearableness wasn't always about the need to control me. For example, nothing cracked him up like a juvenile joke about an "upper decker". Marshall was also a superb storyteller. Here are some of his greatest hits:
“People don’t realize how refined I am. I collect turquoise for crying out loud!”
I had no idea that this was the measure of a refined individual. Makes sense…??
“One time I came back from skiing on a black diamond slope. I was in a huge argument with my girlfriend at the time. We were together for awhile and she was staying with me. She started to threaten to pack her things and leave. So here was my way out! I offered to help her pack so I grabbed her suitcase and threw it down the stairs. That sure showed her!”
Yeah, showed her you are a dick.
“The thing about women is that they are one of two things. Women are either ugly or stupid.”
I never asked which one he thought I was. Some things you are better off not knowing.
“My folks, they live out in Ohio, and they never visit. I’m like ‘Come on, at least come see your son!’. I really think it would be cool to show them around DC - where the nation was born!”
This time I could not help but respond. “Uhm, the nation was born in Philadelphia.” He didn’t appreciate my input.
Looking back, if it wasn’t for my very good friend, who allowed me to sit at his desk to hide from this nightmare human and simultaneously enjoy a glazed donut and coffee, I don’t know how I would have been able to keep my sanity.