Four months ago they hired a consultant to do the same type of work that I do. Consulting is the new normal in these parts. He was super-efficient and knew the software. His work was clean, fast and accurate. But because he was such a quiet guy, I didn’t get to know him very well. He disappeared into the background like wallpaper. Not rude or standoffish. He exchange pleasantries and made shallow conversation. The “how-was-your-weekend” type of banalities. But he never really engaged anyone.
At work yesterday he was agitated. Perhaps it seemed more pronounced because of the juxtaposition between his normal quiet self and this suddenly aggressive demeanor. Instead of crawling inside his work as usual, he walked up to people, stood in their personal space or stepped a little too far into their cube, and asked pointed, personal questions. He was sweating a lot. I wish I had a more elegant or medically accurate term for “crazy eyes” but that’s what he had. Anger radiated like laser beams.
The girl who sits next to him got up and moved to a desk on the other side of the floor because he was mumbling incoherently to himself. Eventually, he walked over to my desk, stood over me and said, “The disparity between rich and poor is getting worse. Am I wrong?! AM I WRONG?!” He told me his mother bought the shirt he was wearing for him and that she instructed him to try and interact with people more.
He was scaring the shit out of a lot of people so someone told management. The Managing Director of Marketing and Communications (my boss x 3) called him into his office and closed the door. He came back to his desk about a half hour later and seemed even more agitated than before. Now he was talking out loud to himself. We work in an open-architecture environment so we all just sat there and listened to him fall apart.
He cornered me in the break room. All I wanted was my goddamn afternoon tea. He was sweating profusely and directed his anger at our boss. He started shouting, “You know what? FUCK ADRIENNE and her fucking file-naming conventions. FUCK HER!” Adrienne is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever worked for.
Because I’m a hopeless coward, I thought of going into the men’s restroom, locking myself inside a stall and picking my feet up so he couldn’t see me. He was called into the Managing Director’s office a second time and this time when he came out he gathered his things and left. On his way out the door he came up to me and said, “I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off because (this part loudly) SOME PEOPLE are really trying to PISS ME OFF TODAY.”
After he left people were making jokes. But I think the jokes were born from nervous energy and were not an effort to make fun. Four days ago, a former disgruntled employee shot a co-worker to death just outside the Empire State Building. The story had been in a constant loop here. We were all waiting for the worst to happen. His ID was immediately deactivated and IT wasted no time in wiping his computer clean. It was scary.
I don’t know if this episode was narcotic or psychotic. I feel terrible for the guy. He woke up this morning with nowhere to go. I know what that’s like and it’s the worst feeling in the world. But when it happened to me, I had a story to tell. Morgan Stanley laid me off. What’s this guy’s story? What’s he going to tell a potential employer? At work, it is, of course, the main topic of conversation. People lead such dull lives and now they have something unusual to talk about. They’re a bunch of busybodies.