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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

THEY WALK AMONG US

As you may know, I work in a pretty corporate environment which includes a tall building, a lot of cubicles, a lot of computers, usernames and passwords, endless gossip (which I'm about to share with you), filthy refrigerators, varying standards of personal hygiene, massive egos, narrow minds, shocking inefficiency, bald men, balding men, go-getters, clay-footers, beeps, bells, and buzzes of all kinds. But most of all, what we have where I work, is kooks. Here, I'll be focusing on one in particular. A young man who in the short span of just a few months has taken over the title of "Most Troubling Co-worker." I speak of Belatz.







First, let's be clear. After careful consideration by myself and several collegues, it has been determined that Belatz is a member of the undead. Zombie or vampire? We're not sure yet. But somehow he walks among us despite his obvious pulse-related challenges.

Belatz was hired as an Information Architect which basically means he tries to make web sites easy to use. At the time he was hired I was in the middle of changing positions so I've had just one work-related interaction with Belatz. That was the time he explained to me that all my work is wrong and referred to himself no less than three times as "expert." I find it's a good rule to no trust anyone who starts a sentence with "I'm an expert in..."

In any event, my co-worker Kevin was driving to work one day and as often happens here in Los Angeles, traffic came to a complete stop on the 101 freeway. Kevin looked over to his right just in time to see Belatz lighting up a bowl in the lane next to him. He exhibited the classic stoner hit-taking posture too, with the hunched shoulders and the neck retracted like a turtle and the Bic lighter cocked straight down into the pipe. Apparently, turning a traffic jam into an opportunity to smoke pot is something else he's an expert in.

Kevin is socially fearless. That's one of the things I like about him. Were it me, I probably would have pretended like I didn't see a thing. Not Kevin. Instead, he rolled down his window and yelled, "Belatz!" No response. No reaction. Belatz's windows were up and we suspect he was jamming to some sweet, vintage live Foghat at the time so he was utterly unaware that he was being watched.

"Belatz! Heeeeeeeeeey, Belatz!!!"

Nothing.

Later, at work Kevin stopped by Belatz's desk and cheerily said, "Hey, Beltaz. I saw you this morning on the freeway. Say, I didn't know you smoked a pipe."

Belatz stiffened, his mind retreating to the simplest if not most reliable defense – denial.

"That wasn't me," he uttered in a low register.

"Yeah. Yeah, I didn't know you smoked a pipe," Kevin reiterated with his patented folksiness.

The ire was rising within Belatz now. The thing about denial is once you use it, you're committed to it.

"You...did not...see me!" he repeated, emphasizing each word equally.

"Oh, OK. OK Belatz. I guess that wasn't you," Kevin feigned. "I guess that wasn't you smoking a pipe in the brown Nissan on the 101 this morning. My mistake."

Belatz behavior continues to baffle us. This episode is merely one of many that have led us to conclude that Belatz at best is confused about what is appropriate behavior in a workplace like ours and at worst is going to take some horrible revenge on us all someday. But to be honest, it's characters like Belatz and all the other kooks I work with that make getting through the day just a little easier. Maybe it's the zombies and vampires that we work with that make the rest of us think we're normal.

2 Comments:

At 8/23/2005 12:10 PM, Anonymous said...

Hey, that's an accurate description of that guy and that day. I was there. I was the one who saw all this. If I may, I'd like to add that he showed up after parking his car at our corporate offices in some really horribly wrong short SHORTS. For a shirt he was wearing a terry cloth polo. He looked like he just got out of his apartment's pool and as an after thought he'd show for work. He was told rather quickly to go home and change. He was totally confused because it was casual Friday.

 
At 8/23/2005 12:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Since he is the resident "expert" and the rest of you look to him for assistance, could that pipe he was smoking be part of his daily regiment to prepare for a day of complex problem solving? Perhaps he needs this to focus his mind like a lazer and doesn't have the capacity for worring about things that matter to the rest of us, like fashion? Perhaps he is indeed, on a different wave length that provides office entertainment for us, but ideally, goes unnoticed by him. Perhaps...

 

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