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.
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!!!"
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.