In the movie “Ender’s Game” there’s a scene where Ender is provoked to fight, and then brutally trounces the other guy. When questioned on his rationale, he says he did this so as to “win all future fights.” I couldn’t help thinking of Mickey, a guy I used to work with at the glorious rathole of AT&T. Three years into the job I was transferred to another store with growing traffic– this meant I now had to share an office with Mickey.
Mickey was a brooding sort of leprechaun who wore long sleeved shirts to cover the tattoo sleeves on his arms. He was not thrilled about my arrival.
One tattooed sleeve was dedicated to his self-proclaimed identity as a rockstar. His skin was adorned with treble clefs, electric guitars, and Hendrix lyrics. The other arm was all about how “Irish” he was– it was covered in shamrocks and pots of gold and huge-ass depictions of his sort of Irish last name. The fact that he was not actually Irish didn’t seem to matter– he had red hair and a desperate need for an identity. So, he was Irish.
When I came over to tour my new shared office, Mickey established his ground rules. He’d set up a tiny desk in the corner and informed me that this is where I would sit and perform a limited X, Y, and Z of my job duties. He let me know that only HE would determine what music we listened to, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything “girly” to the office. Despite the fact that I hate bullies I accepted this with a nod and a smile, knowing he was taking the rest of the week off– presumably to binge drink over the catastrophe of me entering his life.
That night I did what any reasonable person who desires to make a positive impression would do– I went shopping at Walmart and steered my cart straight for the pre-teen aisle where glitter, shimmer, and Hannah Montana reigned.
The next day I got acclimated to my new office, established alliances with my coworkers, and began defiling Mickey’s office: I filled his pen-holder with sparkling gel pins and fake flowers. I stuck princess stickers on the light switch, desk, and computer monitor, then filled an entire drawer with tampons.
I then spent a solid 90 minutes bedazzling the desk phone with tiny pink crystals.
Lastly, I blew up a photo of my smiling face and pasted it on a Twilight poster so that I would appear to be swooning in the embrace of a sparkling vampire.
Everyone kept telling me how bad of an idea this was. He was a quiet one, that Mickey, but he clearly had an undercurrent of neglected-child rage boiling beneath those brooding rockstar eyes.
Monday was my day off so I wasn’t there to witness his reaction, but I’m told there was lots of banging and profanity. When I strutted in on Tuesday morning he’d pulled my desk from the corner and saddled it next to his– the phone was no longer bejeweled and most of the disney princess stickers were now decapitated, but the Twilight poster remained.
I had won all future fights.
But… Little did I know I’d just engaged in a whole new level of combat.
Mickey’s emotional pendulum swung sharply from loathing to adoration. He decided that “we redheads need to stick together” and put a sign on our office door to that effect. Shortly after that, his obsession with our shared hair color led to casual remarks about how cute of a baby we would make.
He began sending me photos of his rockstar friend’s random babies and telling me his preference on names.
“Izzy for a girl, and Hendrix for a boy.”
Then he’d ask if I liked that name, because… you know… we’d make such cute redheaded babies and all.
I managed to navigate this weird work situation for almost a year, despite the fact he developed a paranoia for my personal safety and believed that I was in need of constant protection. He insisted I tell him where I lived. This was a problem because I keep my address on lockdown from pretty much everyone.
But this didn’t stop Mickey from trying to follow me home. When I confronted him about this he shrugged it off as a natural reaction to his perceived sense of my impending doom.
It was about this time that Mickey let me in on a little secret. While he was no longer snorting lines of cocaine in the bathroom, he’d stepped himself down to good old fashioned bars of Xanex. He had three different doctors who prescribed him max dosages of the stuff because, as he said, he “had a really bad childhood.” All he had to do was tell his story and they would give him whatever he wanted. He’d also figured out that you could order pain pills on the internet, so AT&T received a Canadian shipment of little white pills every week.
“Try it,” he’d insist, holding out a hand of bars.
I had to decline. Even though my childhood wasn’t exactly perfect I’d made it this far without tattooing my arms with insignia from my fake heritage. Clearly he needed it more than I did.
Things continued in this way until I had the audacity to begin dating someone. When he found out, he pushed my desk back into the corner of our office. He’d still have brief moments of adoration but if I dared to come back from having lunch with another guy, he’d glare at me, hold out a handful of pills, then swallow them in front of me as if to say “look what you made me do.”
When he wasn’t shunning or punishing me he’d issue desperate pleas for help. My favorite was the night I was out with a coworker and he texted me that he was at the emergency room with a friend who had just attempted suicide. He described his anguish and pain and begged me to come over and comfort him so that he didn’t do the same.
Two minutes later my coworker got a text from him as well:
“Man, I’m sitting here jamming out with my boys and writing new songs, you should totally be here.”
Eventually he gave up trying to get me to come over and comfort him and moved on full time loathing. He’d come into work at 4AM so he could get everything done and leave me with nothing to do while he sat in our office completely stoned, wearing sunglasses and listening to Insane Clown Posse.
It became a humorous game of cat and mouse where I could literally propel him around the store by walking a few feet and forcing him to flee. The store manager intervened and sat us down for a corporate mediation. Mickey claimed I was trying to force him out of a job and that he didn’t want to go back to dealing crack because he was now in Recovery. Except for the Xanex, of course. And the mysterious Canadian pain pills.
After I quit, Mickey told everyone that I was pregnant and had gone to China to have the baby– despite the fact that this is easily the last place on the planet where I would ever want to give birth.
I didn’t hear from him after that. Unlike my other stalkers, he seemed to have moved on. I spent 9 months overseas, and then about a year in glorious poverty when I returned. When I finally secured a good job I moved out of my shanty on the bad side of town and into an apartment complex where my door was unlikely to get kicked in. Shortly after the moving boxes were unpacked, I recognized a car in the parking lot.
“No,” I told myself. “Surely not.”
Oh yes, responded the universe.
Have you ever found yourself at the receiving end of someone’s random obsession? What’s the worst office-sharing situation you’ve endured? When have you over done it so as to “win all future fights?”