3/2/06

Fly by night away from here

By request, here's the story about the weirdest boss I ever had. I would say "the weirdest boss I ever had in my professional career," but I don't really have much of a "career" per se, and I'm nothing if not unprofessional.

Once upon a time, I got a new boss. I knew something was up the first day we were introduced. He seemed like an OK guy. He had a good work history and a pretty impressive resume, so everyone figured he'd be good. But he introduced himself using his first name, middle name, Last name and then added a "Junior" for good measure. OK, I thought. That was a little weird.

I introduced myself as Johnny, and we were off. Little did I know how weird things would ultimately get.

It didn’t take me long to realize that every time he answered the phone, he gave the full boat - "FirstnameMiddlenameLastnameJunior - how can I help you?"

He even requested his e-mail address be changed the same way. It had to be the longest e-mail address in the history of the company. In addition to the annoying name fetish, he would end every e-mail and every phone conversation with the phrase "Keep Smilin'!" and we didn't know what to make of that either. We weren't sure if it was a command, a request, or simply a reminder to himself. Maybe it was all three.

At any rate, the whole name thing was the first indication of the serious amount of crazy that lay just below his thin veneer of normalcy. I asked him about it, and he told me that your full, proper name was your legacy and it was the most important part of your identity. You had to let people know your exact, full name, so that no identity theft could occur. I was pretty sure this theory had some crazylegs, but I never got a chance to discuss its finer points with him.

The more you got to know him, the more freak flag you saw flying. As he started to feel more comfortable around you, he loosened up a bit, and let more things slip than he probably should have. You began to see an alarming amount of nutbeam shining through the slats of the closed blinds.

Let me give you some examples of the awesome crazy:

Early on during his tenure, I walked into his office, and he was sitting at his desk with expensive looking headphones on. "OK," I think to myself, "The man is serious about his music."

But that was not the case.

As it turns out, the man was serious about his silence.

He saw me eyeing the headphones.

"Noise cancellation," he said. He gestured toward the drop ceiling. "You hear that white noise generator up there?" he asked, referring to the sound I always thought was just the heating/cooling system. "Drives me insane," he said. "I can't stand it -- it's all I can hear. They put those up there to block voices, but it makes it hard for me to think. With these on, I just hear the voices."

I hoped he was referring to the voices of the other employees, but I wasn't completely sure.

He looked thoughtful for a second, then said, “I wonder how these things would work with louder noises, like gunshots.”

I told him I thought they only worked on constant noise, since it was just reversing the waveform and playing it into your ear and he agreed that was probably the case. I excused myself and went back to my desk and planned multiple escape routes, just for fun.

The other odd thing that came to light during his first week or so was this: When you were talking to him, he would periodically just stop talking, get up and stand by the window, then about 30 seconds later, he would come back and sit down, continuing the conversation like nothing at all freaky had just happened. I had no idea what was up with that, until about a month or so in.

One day I was talking to him and he just stopped in the middle of a sentence and his eyes did this weird "snapping window shade" thing in their sockets and then started oscillating from left to right like he was trying to watch the world's fastest ping pong tournament on the inside of his own forehead. Then he reached up and pinched his thumb and forefinger together like he was holding a fly by its wing and started humming.

A second later, he was fine.

In this case, by "fine" I don't mean "fine" in the conventional sense of the word. In this case, I mean "fine" as in "no longer acting like he just got cut off from the Borg collective," which is not really the same thing.

I think he must have noticed the odd look on my face because he said, "I have small seizures some times. They're nothing to worry about. I know they’re coming about 15 seconds before I have one, and pressing my fingers together and humming helps me recover from them quicker."

I wasn't sure what to say to that, so I said, "Um, Do you know what’s causing them?" which was a pretty stupid question, really. If the guy was short circuiting 10 times a day, you have to figure he'd make some time to go get his melon looked at. But maybe not. Maybe he just grabbed imaginary flies and hummed.

He said, "Yeah, I have a benign brain tumor."

"You getting it taken out?" I asked. I'm not very tactful in awkward situations.

He replied, "No way. I don't want them messing around in there. Messing around with my brain. It changes your personality, like flouride toothpaste."

I nodded knowingly, as if in full understanding. He continued.

"You know that flouride is rat poison, don't you? They add it to your toothpaste and your water to make you dumb, and make it harder for you to think. A dumbed-down populace is easier to control. That's why I only use natural toothpaste, and bottled water. No flouride."

"Interesting," I said, nodding some more. "What about all that preventing cavities stuff?"

"It's all bullshit. You don't need flouride. I've never had a single cavity," he replied.

I absorbed this little tidbit, then explored a theory and asked him if he had ever been to the dentist. He said yes, of course, but he never let them take x-rays because he didn't want to “aggravate the tumor.” (Until that precise moment, I had no idea that x-rays could piss off tumors.)

Then he said, “Besides, the dentist just fills your mouth with toxic heavy metals that slowly leach into your body and poison your internal organs over time.”

I had heard there might actually be something to that whole mercury thing, but before I could say anything the second half of the ping pong tournament started and I got the hell out of dodge.

One day soon after that, we got into a discussion about how he didn't want to register a car in New York because it cost too much, and they made you pay taxes on the car when you registered. This evolved into a discussion about how registration is nothing more than the first step on the road to governmental control and the loss of personal freedom, which evolved into a discussion about income taxes, and how they were unconstitutional, and how -- yep, you guessed it -- he had never paid them. Ever. He had gotten all sorts of warnings and fines and summons to appear in court, and he had ignored them all.

He had no credit cards, and at the time we could still get our paychecks as something other than direct deposit, so he had no bank accounts either.

He was basically a fugitive from justice.

After this little conversation, I had no doubt whatsoever that he had an up-to-date manifesto tucked away in a desk drawer somewhere, and it was probably even more detailed than mine.

Also in the course of this same discussion, the following Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not facts came to light:

(a) He was currently driving an unregistered car, with out-of-state plates that he had "found."

(b) He did not have a valid driver's license.

(c) He had absolutely zero insurance coverage.

Remember to add to this list the fact that he had multiple small seizures every day, each of which gave him about a 15 second warning that he had to pull over before his eyes rolled up in his head and he started humming like a studded snow tire. How this man never ended up on the six o’clock news mystifies me to this day. He was truly a traffic fatality statistic waiting to happen.

All this is nothing...NOTHING...compared to what happened next. Everything you've read so far is just filler to set the groundwork so you know that what follows is not something I am making up.

One day I was sitting at my desk and I heard this weird ACHCHACHACHACH noise.

I didn’t think too much about it, because people are always playing little media files on their computers, and sometime they have their speakers up too loud by mistake. A few minutes later, I heard it again.

It was coming from his cube.

I walked over to say good morning -- and more to the point, to see what the hell was up with that weird-ass noise.

I saw nothing out of the ordinary, really. Well, there was one thing. He had something that looked like a sock tacked to his bulletin board, and there was something in it. The something in it was thrashing around madly like a miniature tasmanian devil trapped in a burlap bag. As I watched, that horrendous noise happened again, and this time there was no questioning the source. It was the thing in the bag.

"What the hell is that?" I asked, pointing to the thrashing sock.

"It's my new joey," he replied. "He hasn't bonded with me yet, and they're nocturnal. When you bother them during the day, they get mad. He's just crabbing."

"Yeah, it sounds really crabby," I said.

"No, no," he said. "Crabbing. A verb. As in 'to crab.' It's the name for that sound they make when they're mad."

"Uh huh." I replied, staring at the bag tacked to the board. The thing inside had settled down.

"You want to meet him?" he asked.

"Who, Joey?" I asked.

He laughed. "No, his name isn't joey. A Joey is what he is. It's what they call baby male marsupials."

I knew what a marsupial was, cuz I ain't completely stoopid, but that little bag of his didn't look big enough to hold a kangaroo or koala bear. Not even a baby one. I was intrigued.

He reached up to the bag and grabbed it, and the thing inside let loose with the chattering again. He shushed the bag, then opened it up and this fucking thing crawled out:



It blinked its eyes in the light, made a hissing noise and then skittered up his arm and disappeared into his front shirt pocket, where it promptly took a big piss.

As the stain on his shirt grew, he fished the thing out and sat it in his hand.

“What IS it?” I asked, leaning closer.

“It’s a sugar glider,” he replied. “They’re small marsupials, very similar to a flying squirrel. This one is still a baby. They’re very social animals and I didn’t want to leave him home. I have a female already, and I just got this one to keep her company, but he’s still a little wild.” He dabbed at the pee with a paper towel.

I couldn’t believe it. He actually brought this thing to work. In a professional office. With hundreds of other employees. He put it up on top of his file cabinet and then walked a few feet away. The thing took one look at him, gauged the distance and then did this:



I yelled “HOLY SHIT!" and took a quick step back. This thing was not “very similar to a flying squirrel” – it WAS a flying squirrel.

It landed neatly on his arm and then crawled around behind his collar and hid. I could tell it wanted to get back to the pee-hole, but it was too scared to make a run for it.

He asked me not to say anything about it, and I didn’t. Even so, it didn’t take long for other people to hear the noise and stick their heads in his cube to see what the deal was. Over the course of a few days, almost everyone had seen it, petted it and had either been pissed upon or shat upon by it.

Even though it was weird beyond belief for him to actually pack this thing up and bring it to the office everyday, it was still kinda cool, because none of us had ever seen anything like it before.

Eventually though, word got around to upper management and there was a little sit-down and joey didn’t come to work anymore. It was fun while it lasted.

A short time after that, it was mutually decided that he didn’t quite fit in at the old home office, and he was either asked to leave or resigned depending on who you talk to. After he left, he continued to send me e-mail once in a while whenever he posted something worth reading on a privacy-rights discussion board or saw a good article on fluoride mind control, but after a while the e-mail correspondence slowed down and finally stopped. I found out later that he had moved back West and was supposedly doing some consulting work.

A few years later, his name cropped up again. I heard through the grapevine that he had passed away -- from his "benign" brain tumor.

Go figure.

He was as crazy as a shithouse rat and a really strange guy, there’s no denying that. He wasn’t a bad guy though, and I have to say I actually liked him. I wasn’t thrilled about working for him, but I liked him.

FMLJ, you crazy bastard...you were more honestly alive than most people I know, and you certainly made it hard to forget you. Rest in peace, man.

And wherever you are, don’t drink the water -- I hear it’s got a shit load of fluoride in it.

20 comments:

  1. No words for how much I love this post...I'm wiping tears from laughing.

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  2. I've heard this story now like 27 times, and I STILL can't make sense of it. He brought a goddamn marsupial to work. A marsupial!!!! What!? I'll never accept this ever. Thank you so much for posting this for me. I hope that crazy bastard is resting in peace, too.

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  3. That. Was. Awe-some! Loved it, it made my morning, thank you.

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  4. Oh my....and I thought I worked with some interesting people.

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  5. of course I meant you.

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  6. this was an awesome post btw. classic Virgil.

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  7. What do Scott and a Sugar Glider have in common? We are both sitting in our own pee. Seriously, I just wet myself!!

    This guy was classic. Rest in peace FMLJ!

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  8. I had no doubt whatsoever that he had an up-to-date manifesto tucked away in a desk drawer somewhere, and it was probably even more detailed than mine.

    I was keeping it together, but this made me lose it. Pure gold.

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  9. That was one of the best things you ever wrote. At least as far as I know.

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  10. Jennifer1:32 PM

    If it weren't for the tumor, I'd ask if his name was Dale Gribble. And his "benign" tumor was probably responsible for the way he acted.

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  11. Anonymous1:53 AM

    At least he wasn't to the point of rambling about Our Precious Bodily Fluids yet...

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  12. I had to go back and reread this because yesterday, my husband had a student bring a sugar glider to school. She told him so he wouldn't think it was a cell phone ringing when it made that crazy-ass noise. She used the bonding excuse too. too weird...

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  13. can't. breathe. no. words. funny. so. very. funny. oy. i think i just popped a gasket...or a benign brain tumor. Sheesh. I just cant believe you kept your cool when dealing with him. I would have been in a "sit down" with upper management after the first weird eye thing.

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  14. And I thought having to explain the "Save As..." concept at least once a week or having to teach my boss (with the PhD) that 0.5 is half of one was bad.

    Or my favorite, if you multiply things by zero, then you can only expect to get zero as the product.

    But no marsupials. Or tiny benign brain tumor seizures. Yet.

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  15. Sweet Holy Moses... I want one of those things so bad. And after reading this... Maybe not...

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  16. Anonymous1:46 AM

    You actually can feel a seizure coming on, and can sometimes prevent it, otherwise that guy was...a bit odd.

    BTW I love your blog. You really know how to tell a story...keep 'em coming...too funny...

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  17. My cat brought in a baby ground squirrel and it was very new. I showed up at work wiht it wrapped up in a wash cloth and stuck between my boobs in a fluffy shirt. It was obvious when I got in front of my students (adults, not kids) but it provided me enough camo to get by the front desk and the owner. I would teach for a while then pull it out and feed the little undernourished bugger then stick it back in. It wasn't content anywhere else. Pretty sure it could have had rabies if it wanted to. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

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  18. I find that last comment disturbing...

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  19. haha I love this! I think I would actually quite enjoy working for a guy like this.. or at the very least I would find him amusing.

    So yeah, I had a pet sugar glider and it was the DEVIL~! It never proved to be a social creature, and it never crawled into my pocket though that's what I had hoped for in purchasing it. It made the most awful hissing noise in the world.

    I loved this post so much and just about peed my panties so thanks for that this morning~!

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  20. Uh, yeah, Johnny, that mp3 link you have in this post? NO - and you should probably remove it! It did give me a laugh, though, that sugar gliders sound like SEX. Hilarious post even without the redirected link!

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