#148 In which our hero talks about a coworker.
I work with this one guy who is… um, jeez, how to explain? He’s not retarded, not in a clinical sense. It would be easy to say “Boy, he’s crazy!” And this is said around the office, and often, but it’s not really accurate. Again, in a clinical sense. And not even in a “you so cra-zee!” sense.
When explaining him to The Scientist, I think I called him “socially retarded,” which is closer to the fact, but still not really hitting the target. I think the bottom line is that the guy just lacks the ability to communicate with other humans.
This is made all the worse in that we work at an advertising agency, which is all about communication. Which means that, by and large, the people who choose to work in advertising can communicate thoughts and ideas in a clear, succinct fashion.
Not this guy.
He tends to ramble a bit, and goes off on tangents that not only don’t make sense, but seem completely out of left field. Sometimes, if you listen closely enough, you can discern what he’s getting at. For example, for the recent bean count, the jar containing the beans had two strips of masking tape covering the threads that read “DO NOT OPEN JAR.” I happened to be there when this guy walked up, looked at the jars and said, “It’s just like Watergate!”
He said it with a smile, and it was clear he was trying to make a joke… but everyone, in unison, looked at him with a clear WTF? look on their faces. Thing is, I sorta got what he was saying… the jar were sealed with tape, like evidence in a police investigation. And I guess Watergate = Famous Police Investigation, even though I don’t think most people make that jump in logic. He could have said, “it’s like evidence in a murder investigation!” which might have made more sense… even though it’s still not funny.
But even though my industry is about communication, it’s not uncommon to come across someone who just doesn’t do it very well. In my experience, that’s been mostly graphic designers, like this guy. This makes a kind of sense, in that these guys can express themselves visually, and don’t necessarily need to use words. Usually, when you have a designer like this they get it that they’re not the strongest public speakers. These are the guys who come into my office 10 minutes before the client presentation and say, “Um, do I need to say anything in this meeting? Or are you going to handle it?” And when I say I can do all the talking, the look of gratitude in their eyes is moving.
But again, not this guy.
I was in a client presentation with him once and he barreled straight ahead, oblivious to the fact that the client was clueless about what he was trying to say. Thank God it was a conference call and they weren’t sitting right there across the table. At one point the account executive literally tried to wave him off, gesturing with her hands like a road worker trying to steer a sleepy driver away from construction.
In all fairness, he’s a nice guy. And if he was brilliant at his job, I’d give him a complete pass. That’s my workplace policy: you can be a complete pain in the ass, but if you do good work, all is forgiven. But from what I can tell, he’s okay at his job. I have yet to see anything from him that really blows me away.
As there’s about a dozen other designers and I don’t really work with him too often, it wouldn’t be an issue except for one thing: he likes my sofa.
He’ll occasionally wonder in and plop down. What follows is a halting conversation about… Jesus, I don’t even know what. He generally says something nonlinear and I smile and agree, hoping he’ll get up and leave. He’ll usually add, “I just want to sit on the couch for a minute,” which is vaguely creepy, but that’s the price you pay when you bring furniture in to your office. Finally, he’ll get up and wonder off, presumably to bother other people with odd ramblings and nonsensical comparisons.
Or, as he might say, “It’s like building an airplane out of cheese!”