Very rarely do I come in contact with someone who: 1) doesn’t seem to like me; and 2) tries to cause me some manner of actual harm. The good news is, it doesn’t happen very often. But here’s the kicker. It does happen. And this time? It was a guy at work. Great (sic), ‘just’ what I need”. For the sake of this exercise, let’s call him George.
Tuesday had already called on everything I had, just to stay barely ahead of the torrent of work that just seemed to keep coming through my desk like an screaming freight train. Nothing…was as it should be. Paperwork wasn’t matching. And the wonkier affairs became? Mission-critical deadlines began morphing into race horses coming out of the third corner on a good day. Track was shrinking; time was running and the compass readings were upside down, as in the wrong direction.
Thankfully, the end of my shift was finally 10-minutes away. The cavalry was coming and I’d be handing-off to George. I can honestly say, and without any malice of any sort, George is a very complex guy…lots going on. He hadn’t been with us long, but everyone’s got their quirks so I made the decision to overlook his idiosyncrasies. In fact, I was asked to be the one to train/show-the-ropes to George for his first week. I’m proud of having been able to do that. I’d introduce him around and generally looked out for him; feeling a self-imposed urge to help him steer through the interpersonal forest that can be my workplace. He didn’t need me to do that. George is not without skills and there is an intensity that lives in him. Granted, it was only my opinion, but I felt cause to think I might understand some of what seemed to coursing through a guy like George. I still needed some kind of inside insight I could trust. That being said, I’ve wondered if we could be friends outside work?
Either way, I remember having also noted a peculiar spidey-sense kind of thing early on with George. And in response, I tried to calm my whirrings of whether or not it might be as simple as there being something about George I simply didn’t like. Jeesh…that’s harsh. But that was the path I was on.
That, in and of itself was, was at the least, out-of-the-ordinary which in turn, made it of note. It’s not that I like everyone, but people who set off early warning signals like the ones whispering in the back of my head are rare.
But I knew better. I overrode the alarm bells. I told myself, ‘You can’t judge a book by its’ cover‘. I then, proceeded directly to the podium where I congratulated myself for being so evolved (cue: Applause).
“Hi George”. ‘Hi? Your shift looks like crap.’ “Excuse me?” ‘You heard me. What? You deaf too?’ “George…” ‘I don’t know what you did yesterday, but it took me two-hours to square away what you took all day to screw-up.’ And the more he raged on, it was as if he was finding new venom along the way to spew with every new breath he took. With it only beginning to dawn on me that I was feeling ambushed, I repeatedly tried to interrupt his tirade. I can still hear my voice raising with a surprising intensity as I continued to try and get a word in. And here’s where it gets complicated: I fed the troll. Sourcing out of that web-born metaphor, I was responding, which in turn, seemed to validate some kind of perception in him that it would be OK act this way. What was it that made him think he’d be safe crossing into my borders in a fashion that struck me as being way out of proportion to the function any of this had to do with anything? And what, of any of this, held any benefit for the company?
I mean really, who does that? “GEORGE, what IS the problem?”
‘You don’t know? Deaf AND stupid? Do you think I have time to waste spelling this out for you?’
I sat there in there in mortified shock. And in the short eternal seconds it had taken him to unload on me, he’d been getting louder as he did, his angry voice carrying all over the shop,
‘What? Mr. Positive’s got nuthin to say? And then, words to the effect of ‘What ARE you doing here anyway?’.
By this time, I’m furious. Generally slow to anger, my temper can be volcanic and I could already feel myself boarding the next fast-track to Mount St. Helens, paid for with the Irish DNA running through me.
Part of my brain was telling me to calm down…that this was really dangerous – I mean, really, being from a professional background, the whole exchange seemed like it was right out of 3-D X-Box rocket sled. And recent surveys confirm it’s important to be employed. I need my job and I enjoy it. I play a role there AND I literally get to learn new things, about all kinds of things…on a daily basis.
That being said, it is equally fair to ask: how do you argue with someone who was clearly (from my vantage point) heading in a direction that’s not good for anyone? I mean, after all, isn’t doing my job and tending to the care and feeding of the business unit I occupy the whole point? It’s why I’m there. It feels good to be excited at wanting to know more of what a future with them could be. And yet here I was.
Was I about to witness someone going off a cliff? How do you not want to help someone you think might be in that position? I don’t know.
What I do know, is if I were to see someone in an accident or having just gotten beaten up, I’d do my part to make sure the paramedics got there…like, yesterday. I’m going to make sure I do something that might help. That’s how I roll. And with all that being said, there are things about George I liked and/or thought were funny. George? I liked him. And here I am! Did anyone get that license plate?
“George. I’m trying to get this stuff wrapped up so I can hand-off clean. Would you just wait a second. I’ll be right with you.” Now his veins were popping off his forehead he continued ramping up the volume. He’s almost yelling and in response, so do I. I called him on his carping. So me, of all people, is the one loudly asking: “GEORGE, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM. WOULD YOU JUST CALM DOWN. STOP THIS.” Nothing doing. There seemed to be nothing he wanted more than a fight and even in my rage, I knew we were about to pass a point of no-return.
Time to go. And it was. So as I stood up to make an exit from this thermonuclear Ground Zero, I hear him hollering, ‘Oh and now what? Big man stands up…what are you going to do? Hit me?’
(big sigh) “No George. I just wish I had thought to ask you to wait a few minutes so I could brief you on what’s going on instead of letting you harp on this that or the other before I was ready to have the hand-off conversation. I’m going home, but you need to know this stuff before I do. Do you want to know it or not?”
And even though I suspected he carried a secret place of pout, he stopped yelling.
Me? Looking back, I wonder if I barely noticed. I was so enraged at being so easily shaken to the core. It had been a long time since I’d been on the wrong end of that kind of knock-down-drag out ambush.
And I trained him.
I had introduced him around.
I’d been the one (sometimes the only one) who had looked out for him.
And I’m the one getting yelled at like a three-year old with an abusive parent?
Are you kidding me?
With that, I made a speed-speech about what was going on at the desk, hit all the bases and made my exit. But as I left, I turned around and looked him square in the eye. “George, you do know that I like you, right?” ‘Yeah. I like you too.’ Not knowing what to say after that, I turned and made for the parking lot and the safety of the Buick.
I pulled out (no squealing rubber) being very careful to give no sign to any enemy of just how rattled I really was. Next, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot a short distance away until the shaking stopped. My hard-head survival/secret service wannabe mind-set kicks in. I was thankful to know what probably ought to be done to end the fight and then, been able to do it.
But I was shook.
This could be very bad.
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me. I was gut-checking everything I could recall to account for something, anything, that would warrant such verbal abuse. But in the next breath, I was furious again – “No one doubts my work ethic!”
I had to pull over a second time to let the resurgent rage subside. “Who does he think he is. I go over and above for my Customers and my co-workers – every day.” But hey, nothing special about that. It’s what you do in service of others. It’s one of the gyroscopes in my inner circle of them. Think about it. If each of us went through our day with that in mind, we might just be witnessing another form of a Great Awakening – for the better. And here I am, trying to be Steady-Eddy in the face of racing brush fires and this guy has me reeling.
That night, as tired as I felt, sleep didn’t play nice.
All night, I tossed and turned. There, another something out of the ordinary.
I remember being disappointed as I woke the next morning to realize I wasn’t dreaming. George? Job. Me? Me, being really mad…the kind of mad I’m afraid of. No wonder my jaw was sore from grinding my teeth all night. I was asking myself questions like: I wonder what damage George had done since our blow-out. Was he trying to set the stage against me? What if HR is waiting for me when I get to work? Should I tell someone and mount my own damage control? Noise, noise, noise and I’m still early in my waking up process. What if? How will? When?
As a personal aside, I think it’s weird how, for growing up praying, I feel funny about publicly calling my quiet time early each morning, meditation. Since none of that affects the time the sun comes up, I simply call it “focus”. Whatever the verbal hang-ups, I’ve come to depend on my focus time. It is an essential element in my ability to just let my mind roll wherever it went. I won’t diagram focus except to say there’s more to it than sitting on your couch and looking out your window. Focus time is my one and non-negotiable opportunity to recharge, clarify and otherwise calibrate before the day starts.
You can see why I was glad it was still early, because I had work to do. This morning’s focus was going to be undertaken with a full and critical sense of purpose. I was going to whip this thing and come back with a magnificently detailed schematic of how to do it. And then I was going to leap a tall building in a single bound. Let me focus. Ummmmmm.
And for all that effort and initiative, you know what I got?
A simple image of an autumn leaf being carried along by a stream.
“A leaf in water? That’s it? Aw come on…that’s the best you got? I’m in real trouble here.”
OK, let’s try this again. I’m clearly in need of focus. Now focus. Go.
Cue: Image of leaf in water.
And one more time after that, but all I kept getting was this same simple singular image floating in front of my Soul…it was sorta weird; but not.
Boom. It hit me. I got it. I tuned in. My imaginations’ screen was showing me a picture of what I was so aggressively seeking in my ‘quiet time’. It wasn’t words. It wasn’t a skyscraper. It was a simple leaf, floating down a stream in absolute harmony with its environment, the stream. There’s a picture for you. Being there to see both Leaf and Stream doing what was natural to them, both fulfilling their purpose without any cost to the other; both benefiting from the presence and function of the other. Nature gets it. It just took my educated brain a little longer to catch on…it happens that way…more often than I would like.
Boom 2. All of the sudden, I knew what my posture needed to be. I knew what to do.
Now I know that may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. Going into work that next day, I kept the image of my leaf at easy reach. I followed its example and floated with the current I found myself in. And you know what? It was peaceful, peaceful like it is when you stop paddling your canoe and glide silently by as the deer come down to drink. Do nothing? Float? This wasn’t easy. I had to force myself to not lift a finger towards activating my secret service-esque impulse to mount a damage control campaign.
I didn’t offer one word about the previous day’s event to a single one of my co-workers (and I know they were dying to talk…). I said not a word of it. All the while, on the inside, I was consciously repeating my mantra worked out before the sun had come up. ”Just be. Remember the Leaf. Visualize the Leaf. Be the Leaf”. And I did. I unclenched and went with the flow and remained my usual self. And guess what? Nothing happened. After only a few minutes of observation, my co-workers lost interest in the rumors about my audition for the Jerry Springer Show and returned to their normal paces. And by noon-time, I was not detecting even a whisper on the office grape-vine. Maybe me not seeming troubled (on the outside) helped my fellow worker bees figure out that they didn’t need to be either. Why?
- They knew me and they know shouting matches are not my style.
- They took their cue from my authentic leafy calm. If I wasn’t shook after what had happened, they didn’t need to be either.
- My supervisor did come to me about 10-minutes before I was to go. It was a good conversation. He handled himself well. Mutual understanding. I appreciated it.
Each day since then, George has seemed to be a little better than the day before. Or was that me?
Turns out, sometimes not doing anything at all is the best thing you could possibly do. Leaf. In her character, I saw strength in the way she kept learning to adapt to the world around her while simultaneously being able to objectively appreciate watching the theories of displacement and hydro-propulsion in action as the leaf and the water traveled together. It was music to witness.
And last night, George apologized.
I apologized back.
I’m glad it’s behind us both.
I guess sometimes, it’s just up to knowing when it might be time to simply leave things well enough alone for awhile. Simple isn’t it?
So what do you do with all the information? Nothing.
See you at the float trip. And not to worry, we’ll have food.
Not worrying is a powerful concept. It carries Force…just like the way the water carries the leaf. Equally powerful is my realization that not once have I ever heard a leaf ask if they could steer. No need. They know when to smile and enjoy the view.
So this week? Fear not. And besides, if you do get scared? No big deal.
You can always leaf.
You may appreciate another tribute to Mr. Williams on a WordPress site I’ve come to really enjoy. Click to jump:
Source photo and bio blurb by Biography.com –
PHOTO CREDITS, ILLUSTRATIONS and ATTRIBUTIONS: Mark Twain: The Mark Twain House & Museum/AP/File with Twain Quote background: Huckleberry Finn @ http://www.novelposter.com/; Angry Man Yelling and Angry Finger 2 and 3 (insets of the former):http://www.mrmediatraining.com/index.php/2011/05/03/answering-questions-from-an-angry-audience/; Smoking Volcano – OpenRoad.TV with Doug McConnell: http://www.openroad.tv/index.php?categoryid=16&p25_id=195; Red Maple Leaf by Tom Lusk: Location St. Lawrence River near the Thousand Islands International Bridge, Ontario. Canadian Wildlife Federation: http://www.cwf-fcf.org/en/action/contests/photo-contest/annual-contest/gallery-of-winners/habitat.html; Floatin Down The River by Carolyn Derstine: http://tamron.myphotoexhibits.com/exhibits/4681-more-local-macros; Floating Leaf Cherie Duran1: http://lizwelliver.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/swirling-leaves-of-autumn/; SHANNONA River of Shrewsbury Full by Andi Shannon. Visit her online gallery @ http://andishannon.com/; Moving Stream and Fall Colors by Bill Bachmann: http://bill-bachmann-moving-stream-and-fall-colors-groton-vermont-usai-G-28-2893-ODZPD00Z
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