Posted by: Kate | October 28, 2008

It Would Be Funnier if it Wasn’t True

In one of my earliest grad school classes, the professor (Diana Sholtz, if you’re out there somewhere, your class stuck with me in more ways than just this, honest!) told a joke.  It has become part of our household vocabulary when trying to sum up certain situations now.

It goes a little something like this…

It is a dark and stormy night, and a man is out driving on a remote, country road.  The rain was heavy and cold, the road narrow and unlit.  Suddenly, a tire bursts and he is forced to pull over.

He climbs out, checks the tire, mutters to himself, and opens the trunk.  There he finds a perfectly good spare tire, but no jack.  Searches the car, still no jack. 

He gazes, frustrated and a little bereft, down the road, and sees a single light at the door of a distant farmhouse.  There’s nothing to do but to start walking, in hopes of borrowing a jack and continuing his journey.

As he walks, his muttering increases.  “That farmer is going to be so scared when I ring the doorbell.  It’s so dark and it’s the middle of the night and I bet no one has appeared unexpectedly on the doorstep for years.  He’s going to be scared, and probably mad.  He’s going to be mad at me, and I’m going to have to put him to so much inconvenience.  He won’t get a good night’s sleep, so his whole week will be screwed up.  He’ll always remember me as this putz who rang the bell in the middle of the night, the guy who was too stupid to just keep a jack in the car in the first place.  He’ll probably open the door with shotgun in hand, ready to blast me away for ruining his night.”  And so on, and so forth, until he reaches the farmhouse.

He waits for a moment, in the silence, listening to the rain and fuming at the unfairness of it all.  Then he presses the doorbell, and not long after, the farmer comes to the door.  “Can I help you?” he asks.

The driver, overwrought and infuriated, shouts, “I don’t want your damn jack, anyway!” and stalks away.

I have the experience, occasionally, both in and out of work, of feeling like that farmer.  Walking into a wall of anger and frustration and hostility, with no idea where it all comes from; as though I’m entering a 10-step process at Step #10, without having the benefit of following Steps #1-9 to understand quite how we got here.

It happened last night at work.  I caught an unreasonable amount of flak from Curmudgeonly J, with whom I have been working on Mondays for the past several weeks.  He wanted me to leave Hospital A to do a newly-arrived assessment at Hospital B alongside his first assessment; I wanted him to deal with both situations at Hospital B and remain with the three people waiting to be seen at Hospital A.  His petulance morphed into snideness and then hostility within the span of mere seconds.

I don’t have to work Mondays; it’s voluntary overtime.  The money is nice, but we’re finally starting to catch up with the finances after a summer of travel and entertainment and Willem not working, so the money isn’t strictly necessary right now.  I was trying to be a good little citizen, helping out because somehow Mondays have just seemed insane, just lately. 

But as nice as the money may be, it is not nice enough for me to take that level of garbage from a coworker.  My job is hard enough all by itself, without adding a serving of vitriol and snarkiness on top of it all.  So poor Curmudgeonly J is about to experience consequences to his own actions: act nastily and people will stop being willing to help you out. 

And, because pre-emptive ass-covering seems to be the theme of the month here at my workplace, I told my supervisor precisely why I was dropping Mondays.  Not because I want her to attack J, really – though I did admit to being mystified at how it takes him as long to do one assessment as it takes me to do three – but because I know J will have a tantrum once he realizes I’m not providing backup anymore.  He’ll want to bully or guilt me into it, and I want it known in advance precisely why I won’t do it anymore. 

Natural consequences to his actions and personal accountability?  Poor, poor J.  My heart just weeps for him.

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Responses

  1. I think it is great that you are taking on his bad behaviour head on. ALL people need accountability for their actions and especially him. He has been taking advantage of you helping out by going slow on assessments and just not being nice in general, since you are doing him a favor (more or less.) YEAH!!!

  2. Yay you!!!

    And thanks for sharing that story — you’re right, if it weren’t so damn true…

  3. It’s hard to learn accountability if you’re really unaware of your own behavior. Too bad you’re coming along when you are.

    But you’re right. You don’t have to take that.

  4. I *love* it that you are being so proactive in this manner. I hope he feels shame at his actions, but somehow, given what we’ve heard so far, it’s doubtful. But, I know he’ll be hurtin’ at losing the help – and that gives me warm-fuzzies all over!!

  5. Good for you! Let him clean up his own messes.

  6. Head him off at the pass! Good work, kemosabe!


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