Walk Briskly, and Wear Rubber-Soled Shoes (Life Lesson #1)

In most things I’m all about practical application.  Having the dubious distinction of having lived and worked with hot-tempered people (and even having worked for a few people with white powder* problems) I have had to learn the art survival skill of subtlety.  This is not a skill that comes naturally.  By nature I am a very literal person, and unless I have a compelling reason to do otherwise, I say what I think.  Even so, I also have a very strong self-preservation instinct.  I learned this from my Dad, who didn’t have mental or chemical problems- but he did have a hot temper and a damned fine aim.  There are some people you just don’t piss off.  He falls into that category.  I got a refresher course on treading lightly when the psycho coke head from hell tried to throttle me in the service drive because our technician took it upon himself to complete some (free) warranty work on his car.

Of course self-preservation trumps most other instincts most of the time.  When I’m at work I do best if I am told what is expected of me and then I’m left alone to get it done.  I do not require micromanagement, and the more autonomy I have, the more I get done.  

I really don’t need any bullshit from the chemically impaired.  I learned very quickly how to spot when one of my former bosses had spent the night with a hooker, some cheap liquor and a LOT of toot-toot.  I learned to make myself very scarce and only respond when spoken to.  This was a guy who could go from being the greatest guy in the world one minute to the world’s biggest prick in 1.2 seconds.  This was the same guy who spent most days in the titty bar while I did his work and he conveniently took the credit (and the hefty bonus checks) for it.  I avoided him like the plague- but especially when he came in while riding the toot-toot train. 

If this dude confronted me when he was like that I would usually get stuck climbing around scrubbing down the tops of parts bins when I had more productive and profitable things that I should be doing, but this dude was anal like that.  I understand that you want your work area to be reasonably clean and organized, but the reality of any sort of automotive parts warehouse – especially a parts department in a dealership that’s right next to the mechanical shop- is that it is neither a surgical unit nor a kitchen and it isn’t going to be that clean.   I had a severe distaste for this kind of time-wasting for two reasons: one, you can scrub and Clorox it down one day and between the exhaust fumes and the techies (who aren’t exactly Mr. Clean) it’s going to be dirty again the next.  It’s an exercise in futility. 

The other reason I hated his little cleaning rants is his behavior reminded me of Mom when she used to go on the manic cleaning rampages.  Mom is bi-polar and when we were kids, unmedicated.  Although she exhibited a lot of the same bizarre behaviors as a coke head on a bender, Mom did not do coke, thank God.  Dad didn’t have that kind of cash, and Mom was far too näive to go trolling for drugs.  Hindsight being 20/20 I wish someone would have had some Valiums or Xanaxs handy when she got on a roll.   I shudder to imagine a bi-polar person in manic phase AND on coke.  Believe it or not the behavior of a bi-polar person in manic phase and of a coke head in full coke rage is remarkably similar.  I’ve had the bad fortune to be the target of both, and it’s taught me how to make myself scarce.

Blending into the wall can be a handy survival skill.  So can walking briskly and wearing rubber-soled shoes.  I find myself doing that a lot lately.  Do my job, flit about from here to there, as quickly and quietly as someone with dismal gross motor skills can, and go along my merry way.  I have to do a lot less explaining, a lot less chatting, and I get sidetracked a lot less if I can just plow right on through.

Thankfully I’ve not had to work for the cocaine addicted for many years.  It’s a bit stressful going to work not knowing if your boss is going to be:

1. At the titty bar/brothel.  This was the best place for him to be, because I didn’t have to deal with him, and since I had to do his job anyway, it was nice to be left alone to do it.  The only bad part was I felt guilty lying to his wife when she called.  I knew damned good and well he wasn’t “in a meeting,” but it was a lot less messy than telling her the truth.  She found out anyway where he’d been going- when she ended up with a rather nasty social disease. 

2. At work.  This was a crap shoot. When he wasn’t jacked up on coke, he was usually OK.  That was the time to corner him for the few things that he had to authorize, etc. although I pretty much could do everything he did- even though I didn’t get the recognition or the compensation for it.  Even if he was coked up he could be decent -unless he started getting paranoid or something (and that could be anything) pissed him off.  Then he could go from your best buddy to the guy who’s having a screaming tirade about dust bunnies behind the oil filters.

3. Sick.  It was really bad if this dude came to work “sick,” because here was a dude who could turn a hangnail into a Shakespearian tragedy.  And on top of being the world’s biggest coke head, this dude was the world’s biggest hypochondriac.  I swear he asked me to inspect bumps on his scalp and arms (ewwwwwwwww!!!) and creepiness like that.  Yeah, you hired me to inspect your zits and dandruff.  Acck.  I am NOT a doctor.  I am NOT any kind of health professional.  If you are in doubt, stay home, quarantine yourself, or just skip the middle man.  Call 911 and have them take your ass to the ER.  Ironically, he didn’t say anything to me about the symptoms of the social disease that he (and his now ex-wife) had to go get shots and such for.  Go figure.  I hope it fell off.

I have to say I was delighted when I was offered alternative employment far, far away from this dude.  However, the life lesson that the hot-heads, bi-polar, and chemically enhanced people in my life have taught me still stands.  It is better to lurk quietly in the shadows and avoid attention than to be singled out and browbeaten. 

*white powder=cocaine

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