I watched a man unravel

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.

19 thoughts on “I watched a man unravel

  1. I recall the days when you were an office newbie and how tightly you were wound during the trial period. Some people are naturally emotionally strong, others sadly, cannae control their anxieties and fears.You my friend are lucky enough to be one of the strong. When you wake tomorrow thank your God for his design or your faither for his genes.

  2. SB: He was called into the Managing Director’s office on two occasions. Although I was not privy to their conversations, I can imagine he was told to pull himself together. CF: I don’t want to give myself too much credit as a survivor. This is a very human, casual place to work. It’s not the same as some of the other savage pits of hell I’ve experienced. I think he might have missed his medication. I’ll never know for sure.

  3. I wonder what, if anything, triggered this episode. He sounded like he was reasonably normal before.I’ve had co-workers melt down before and it’s not a pretty sight. The worst was when a fellow Army officer went a bit mad, especially as he was holding a loaded 9mm submachine gun (Sterling L2A3) at the time.Don’t worry about your wife finding you caught up in the gigantic spider’s web. Once the spider’s finished wrapping you up in it’s silk and sucking out your juices, you’ll be unrecognisable, so she won’t get an immediate shock.

  4. yikes, sugar! i can’t even imagine what the atmosphere in your office is right now after the shooting at the other day. we can only try and guess at what happened, but every time i hear about things like this or the self styled militia here in georgia (and their compatriots around the country) i wonder what the hell is happening! have we really gone past sanity as the norm? has the polarization of our society spawned a new breed of psychos? *sigh* i don’t know anymore. i think of krewe and the new babies and i.just.don’t.know.xoxoxox(i agree with TSB, the spider will suck the life out of you before mrs wife even comes outside.)

  5. Yes, sad and scary.But mostly sad. Perhaps he was on meds.I hope you hugged your wife and girls(and pooch!) when you got home.Nice video of the orb weaver.Probably a female.(Should I email Daisyfae and warn her?)

  6. TSB: You should TOTALLY do a post about that! It’s something I’d like to read. In the office, we all became armchair psychologists. The theory is that the sweating precluded a psychotic episode and it likely drug-related. We’ll never know. I don’t want to know. Sav: Welcome home. Lovely, lovely new baby you’ve got on your hands. We are all just grateful he didn’t physically lash out. He seemed on the very brink a few times. Thanks for your kind words about the spider. What a pal. dinah: I have to admit that the pooch is growing on me. But she’s getting older and easier to maintain. Just like kids! I wish it was a better video but I got as close to that spider as I dared.

  7. Poor guy needed a rest. This is why every office needs someone like Spock who can put people to sleep with a neck pinch. As for other thing, be gentle with the spider, have no mercy on the web. These critters have to learn about planning restrictions the hard way.

  8. falling down. we’re all a few neurons away from it, dear. and i’ve spent most of my adult life sorting out what keeps some of us on this side of the line, watching (and hunkering in the bathroom stalls) while it happens to others.could have used a warning, dinah, but i’m a big girl and can take my Shelob-nightmares like a champ these days. doesn’t hurt that i’m 3 glasses into a bottle of a rather nice pinot grigot.

  9. GB: Well, he’s getting plenty of rest. I work through the same agency that he does. The CEO called me and asked what happened. I told him. They agency dumped him. So he’s getting a good, long rest. I didn’t see the bug this morning and now I kind of miss him.daisy: Falling down = excellent reference. I’m actually shocked that I don’t see it happen more frequently on my commute. It’s enough of a grind to drive a man crazy.

  10. To go from one extreme of normal behaviour to the kind of behaviour you mention IMO he is having a break-down and needs help.Is there no facility in the organisation to monitor staff welfare? Probably not.If management had had an ounce of compassion the very least they could have done was to try to inform his family.Surely they owe their employees that – at least?

  11. “Some people never go crazy… What truly horrible lives they must lead.” Charles Bukowski.I could say alot about this. What i will say is fuck those people in your office, the only one i’d want to talk to walked out the front door, those left are exactly what you said, boring and uninteresting lives slowly melting away… a few of us will never have that problem, oh we may have problems but being boring and uninteresting won’t be one of them.

  12. i love the juxtaposition of the two topics in this one post. if that guy had an a outlet as you do, such as this blog, he might survive. because clearly, you are just as nuts as he is. you just voice it in a more creative way.and a tad bit of arachnophobia also keeps you on your toes.

  13. Pat: Here’s the sad, sad part: Like me, he’s a consultant. “Consultant” is a fancy word for temp. And for temps, there is no help. Management keeps temps so they don’t have to deal with stuff like this. Cut ’em loose and they’re someone else’s problem. Temps are owed nothing and they get nothing.kono: The temptation is to poetically romanticize madness. But when it’s starring you right in the face, with all it’s inherent potential for harm, there’s noting appealing about it. Michele: It was a complete accident. The two topics were not meant to compliment/contrast one another. Yet another in a seemingly unending series of happy accidents.

  14. Ohhhh! Odd. I just escalated what I thought to be a potential suicide unraveling. Turns out my instincts were right … my colleague was on the verge of cutting his wrists. Suppose it wasn’t rocket science to figure it out … he trusts me, so it was an obvious cry for help he gave. He didn’t threaten anyone but himself; it is still unnerving.

  15. There’s nothing romantic about it, yet what’s worse is those who are so utterly bland as to have nothing better than to dissect it, i used to hang in a place and drink with the mental patient/ halfway house gang, someday it’ll get a post on the lounge… and of course there is that post about my friend the night he was taken to the pscyh ward and the fact he thought i was the only one who would understand him, oh mental illness and me are quite intimate with each other in many ways… problem in H’america is that in a 24 hour news cycle every time some nutjob shoots up a theater/office/school we dissect it and analyze it ad infinitum, many times we blame mental illness but one could “shoot” many holes in that when it comes to this country cuz it happnes here alot more than anywhere else which of course could lead us to the issue of gun control but then this could run on all day…

  16. My immediate guess was: drug use in order to compensate for the terrible stresses that modern corporate, individualised life puts on us.I really feel for him–it’s not happened to me anywhere near as badly, but the modern office place, even one as relatively humane as yours sounds like, doesn’t suit everyone, even when they appear to have the skills to “succeed” in it.

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