Thursday, November 14, 2013


My Valiant Battle Against a Loud Co-Co-Worker, Part I

I work in a co-working space in a small town with this guy that I will call Tom. Actually, I can’t call him Tom because Tom is the name of someone affable and easy-going, and this guy is neither. I suppose I can call him Norman. That is not quite right for what his name actually is, but it is close enough.

Norman is somewhere between 50 and 70. He dresses like a prep-school headmaster—khakis, cotton shirts, shoes halfway between outdoorsy and office-appropriate—who either knows he is about to get fired or whose school has a sagging endowment. There is perpetually a look of mild surprise on his not un-handsome face; I’m guessing it is a result of his discovering and forgetting, and then forgetting and discovering, that he is not the only person on Planet Earth. I don’t know exactly what Norman does. I have heard the word “webinar” thrown around, and when this happens I do what any self-respecting person does when the word webinar is thrown around: I duck.

Norman talks in a very loud voice. When I imagine him speaking, behind the thin door that separates him from me and the quiet, considerate people who share my office across the hall from his, I see his voice coming out of his mouth, being pumped full of air, and then projected through a cheerleader’s megaphone. His voice is loud the way Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were violet, the way that Ian Curtis was depressed.

In his defense, nature happens. That said, have a loud voice, and I have come to realize that the volume of that voice can be turned down.

Some people refer to this as Basic Human Awareness.

Another thing I have come to learn: When you work with other people, headsets are good, and speakerphone is bad. Norman is allergic to the former and besotted with the latter. There are five rooms in this co-working space, each of them occupied by at least two other people, some by three or four. Norman has a room to himself. People try to sit in there sometimes, but they always flee, understanding, as I do, that a not-terribly-expensive co-working space is not the proper home for an attitude of “Hey, this is my office and I’m going to just do whatever I want!”

Oh, excuse me. I had to go away for a few minutes to go off on Norman.

I have never gone off on Norman before. What I have done is knocked on his door and said politely, “Can you please put on a headset?” or, “Can you please take your phone off speakerphone?” and I have done this enough times (maybe 15 times over the course of two months) that I felt like I was well within my rights to escalate, especially since the last time (two days ago) I spoke to him he said, “Just give me a break for 10 minutes.”

But here's how things got started today: My co-co-worker and I were sitting here working, and Norman arrived and proceeded to indulge in the use of his absolute favorite technology ever, the speakerphone. My co-co-worker went in and asked him to please take the phone off speaker and to put on a headset. In an affronted tone he explained to her why that was impossible, and, as I was fairly sure it was indeed not impossible but merely something that would cause him vague discomfort, something most people have a habit of enduring on a daily basis, I leapt up from my chair and barreled into his office. I planted my feet and stared at him. I can look really mean. I probably sacrifice some beauty for that privilege, but I can live with that. I began to speak, loudly, for sure, but it was appropriate, given the circumstances. I can’t remember exactly what I said but it was along the lines of, “I am not quite sure why you feel like you’re allowed to have your phone on speakerphone when none of the other 15 people who work here ever use it. I am not quite sure why everyone else who works here is always amenable to changing their behavior whenever another member mentions anything to them while you just look at me, every time I come in here to talk to you, like I am a piece of wood. I am not sure why it has never ever occurred to you that the reason people are angry at your behavior is that it is bad.”

Norman said we were welcome to continue to vent all we wanted, but that he had work to do. I thought about how Norman had at some point learned that the word vent might trick people into thinking there was something wrong with them, and not with him. I explained there was a vast difference between venting and speaking to someone harshly, after a long period of unheeded, polite requests, about their egregious behavior. He said he was going to get a headset tomorrow, and I suggested in the meantime he hold the phone up to his ear. He then tried to pull the negativity card: “I don’t want to deal with your negativity,” he said, which, as far as I’m concerned, is Californian for “I’d like to act like a complete asshole and not suffer any of the consequences.”

Inexplicably, Norman then began to jump up and down. One of the guys who works in my office was downstairs and said he thought that the enormous desk in the conference room next door had collapsed. As Norman jumped up and down I thought about how some people suggest that when you’re being mugged, you can try acting like a lunatic in the hopes this scares off the mugger. As I am not a mugger but a writer who merely likes quiet and, in its absence, basic courtesy, I was not scared. I asked Norman why he was jumping up and down. He said that he was doing it as a way to articulate his enthusiasm for all of us getting back to work, and then made mimed the action of pushing us out the door.

It is clear to me that Norman has attempted, over the course of his blustering, boat-shoe wearing life, to develop some tactics to insure that he can continue to conduct himself not as the rules of society dictate but as he sees fit. This does not sit well with me. Also, for a while after this encounter, he was quiet, which just goes to show that people can indeed be shamed into behaving.

This has all been taken up with the powers that be at our tiny institution. Stay tuned.


Previously: 5 Conversations Resulting From the Scene In The Counselor Involving Cameron Diaz's Vagina

Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She lives in Nevada City, CA.

70 Comments / Post A Comment

elizeh doolittle

Sounds like Norman might need to get his hearing checked. Or he's an asshole. Or he's an asshole who also needs to get his hearing checked.


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@discombobulated I'd stand up on my desk to cheer and clap, except that would annoy the crap out of my coworkers.


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Oh my god! I work/study in a university library, and where I sit there is a big open shared space with tables, and also small enclosed rooms for group work. Of course people are expected to make some noise with group work, but keep it at a reasonable level because the doors are not soundproof and we are in a library. There is a man here who uses this library as his office, and uses the group study rooms as his private teleconference room. He goes in there and has a Skype conversation at full volume, and because the sound is always bad, the crackling voice coming through the other end sounds like the voice of the parent in Charlie Brown, loud and unintelligible. One time though, he was having an argument with some woman over Skype and I could actually hear everything she was saying, and he was raising his voice at her as well. When he finished and came out, I said, you need to keep the noise level down. He replied, "but she was just making me so angry!". I have complained to the authorities but they can't do much. Basically they tell me I have to deal with it if it bothers me (i.e. tell him to be quiet). But I would rather not get into an adversarial relationship with this angry man. And we have no boss to go to about this and he is technically not violating any rules, so I just have to deal.

Redheads have even more fun

I had a total asshole of a boss that not only loved the speakerphone, would scream into it. You could hear him down the hall. Same with cell phones. Fairly certain the technology is good enough that you don't have to scream into the device two inches from your mouth.

But Norman is indeed an asshole. Who jumps up and down like a child in the middle of an adult conversation? And at work? Is there an HR person to talk (nicely and quietly :) ) to?


Wow, that sounds infuriating. Good for you for finally letting him have it. I fear this is a losing battle, but I'm rooting for you.


@supernintendochalmers Man, one must be unrelenting! If he's not an actual coworker (this is sounding like one of those shared workspaces?) then one has more leverage, despite the lack of an HR department. Think about dog training, and extinction behavior. It'll get worse before it gets better, probably, but never give in! Just like my border collie eventually learned, you can't get everything you want by jumping around and nipping at people's butts.


DEAR LORD. I have relatives who are super into that "don't want to deal with your negativity" thing, so I fear it may have spread up the entire West Coast at this point in time. My burgeoning love for the Midwest really bloomed the day I realized that 1) no one has ever, ever asked to adjust my chi (OR WORSE TRIED WITHOUT ASKING), and 2) no one has ever talked about their own or anyone else's energy or levels of spiritual evolution. Sometimes I'm sad b/c I cannot find anyone to teach me to make my own tempeh, and also mountains are great and the snow sucks, but we all have to make trade offs.

Aside from my simmering and growing hatred for Californese, this story was extremely invigorating. Shaming people into decent citizenship! That is my favorite thing! As you can see, with this & the repeated failed tempeh attempts, I'm a real party.

Redheads have even more fun

@aphrabean We're not all like that, I promise! Get out of the cities and go inland a bit. I grew up in more rural, cowboy part of the state and tell you that if anyone ever even thought of saying something like that, they'd have their ass handed to them. Then of course, my hometown is like Oklahoma but with California weather.


@Redheads have even more fun I actually grew up at the top of the Central Valley! So my town mostly swapped the self actualizing hippie speak for prosperity gospel stuff & the energy healings for the faith healings. I cannot say it is preferable! They are kind of the two sides of the same coin, though, aren't they? There are a lots of things I miss about California, though, like warmth & mountains and fresh accessible produce & hot springs.

It's interesting that you'd say that about OK, b/c I recently learned that my area had a bunch of people migrate there during the Depression - enough so that some d the dialect was preserved.


@aphrabean @redheads Sorry to disappoint you but as someone intimately familiar with this particular situation, I can assure you that this took place deep inland. And that this annoying mode of communication is prevalent here.

california honey

@aphrabean Okay, but in my Californian-to-the-bone self, may I make a case for all the good that has come from west coast/cali too? Like... yoga is good stuff! And health food is good stuff! And massage is really very wonderful. And, I like how true-blue your aura is looking, there are lots of beautiful colors there, and you are really shining.

You've got a very nice, honest, no-bs vibe. I bet your chakras are already pretty aligned, so that's probably why you don't want anyone (with lord knows what kind of energy!) messing with your chi!

And, I kind of like being able to talk about people's "energy" it gets a little more evocative than the word "personality". So I like that we think that way now, in those terms, in terms of "energy" and vibe.

I'm kinda tongue-in-cheek, but also really standing up for the soooooooooo much that's great about my home country. (I really do, from the deep bottom of my heart love california passionately and appreciate it so much for all of the progressive and humanist aspects of it's culture, which is far from monolithic - hello conservative-as-fuck orange county and racist san diego! )

I mean, yes, no question the new-agey california stuff gets co-opted and misused. People in nyc do yoga "competitively" sometimes (I'm more type-A at yoga than you! I win!) but... don't throw the baby out with the (very large quantity of dirty) bathwater! California has offered a lot of good stuff (culture) to the world!

And, I love Midwestern down-to-earthness. Plus, swimming in waterholes. That's like my fantasy world, right there. That's a thing that people do, right?

california honey

@california honey

I def don't like when people harsh my mellow, but when someone's chakras are totally out of alignment, they don't create harmony... Like this Norman fellow. He is clearly not sensitive to his environment and is oblivious to the hate he's bringing upon himself.

He's trying to deflect it because he's not being honest. And that is not a good look.

For someone's aura.

But, if anyone tells you they can see your aura, like literally see colors, they are probably bs-ing, or possibly on some psychotropic chemicals, or should perhaps get their eyes checked. Than again, synesthetics see numbers as colors, so there is a lot more to the brain than we totally know about. I've had a lot of weird synchronicity and serendipity happen in my life, and I tend to be pretty logical, analytical and left-brained. Still though, some coincidences are just like.... whoah (maybe not a coincidence?).

Eyre Apparent

@aphrabean I had an ex who thought himself zen (despite being a complete asshat) who would say things like "You have too much negative energy and it is affecting me." He was Midwestern. I have to agree with Sarah Miller's translation of that sentiment.

P.J. Morse

@california honey Oh, I've heard the "negativity" line aplenty in Orange County. They know how to do passive-aggressive.

In those moments, I get in touch with the "Masshole" side of my personality, and then things get really interesting.

Redheads have even more fun

@aphrabean Riverside County here! We had meth before meth was cool!


@aphrabean I definitely feel that I can safely discount the opinions of anyone who talks about my "energy" when they're not looking at an EEG that's hooked up to my brain.

Better to Eat You With

@california honey More quarries than waterholes, but sure, why not.

Better to Eat You With

@aphrabean I am in the Midwest, and though he's never made his own, my husband likes to cook with tempeh. C'mon over. I'm sure he'd be happy to try making it with you, too.


@Redheads have even more fun I feel like Shasta could give you a run for your money, meth-wise!


@Better to Eat You With Hahaha ok, it's SO TRICKY. And we are still airing out the house after my last attempt. I'm about ready to give it all up, but my boyfriend was like, "Well, we've suffered so much with nothing to show for it - we can't give up now." Just so you know what you're getting into.


@aphrabean I saw this comment in my email and somehow thought you were talking about meth and not tempeh.


@stuffisthings I mean it's almost the same thing.


@california honey Yoga came from West Coast/Cali?


Oh my, I feel for you and the other co-co-workers. Can't wait to see the Part II!

I have had to wear ear plugs because of things like this at times.

I assume you all pay to work in this space? Can you complain to the office owner/landlord person?


“I don’t want to deal with your negativity,” he said, which, as far as I’m concerned, is Californian for “I’d like to act like a complete asshole and not suffer any of the consequences.”
Pretty much

Elitist and Dull

@Blushingflwr In Utah it still comes in the form of "I'm JUST being HON-esttttttt, you ex-PECT me to de-NY who I ammmmmmm for yeeeeew?"

Springtime for Voldemort

@Blushingflwr See also: "I don't want any drama."


@Springtime for Voldemort Or "I'm keeping it real" and/or "I'm just saying what everyone else is thinking."


I love a good calling out.

Also: "I can look really mean. I probably sacrifice some beauty for that privilege, but I can live with that."


california honey

@mymymyriah sometimes it's good to give good bitchface.


"I am not sure why it has never ever occurred to you that the reason people are angry at your behavior is that it is bad.”

I would really like to get this on little cards to hand out to people. Especially my former roommate...


@tulliola Word. People who do bad things are not called out for doing bad things NEARLY often enough.


oh man, good on you. this guy sounds insufferable. i look forward to part 45, in which norman finally shuts the fuck up.

how much do you bet that he's in the co-working space in the first place because he tried to work from home and some long-suffering person (wife, partner, child, room-mate, whatever) was like, LEAVE OR I AM CUTTING OFF MY EARS.

Elitist and Dull

I wish I could hire the author and a time machine, and sic her on 60 percent of the people at my old office. Dang ol', dang ol', speaker phone, loud voice, loud laugh, personal desk radio on modern country hits without headphones, Bath and Body Works as a form of self-expression, I tell you whut.


@Elitist and Dull you said it, Boomhauer.


I love conflict stories! Let me memorize al your great lines! I can't wait to hear more!


Oh my god, all the stars for redirecting Norman's attempts at patronizing you ("I have work! Venting !!" Ugh.


I saw Miss Manners address something similar. To paraphrase she'd suggested going to one's own boss and calmly stating that the behavior of one person is affecting the productivity of the whole dept. I remember her saying that even the most indulgent, you deal with it boss is going to tune in to money being wasted and work not getting done. You could explore the legal ramifications of a hostile work environment if you ever feel threatened by this guy. Do that while you're still employed. Document every occurrence what was said who was around. Also if you see a doctor for stress, it sounds like your blood pressure is getting jacked up. Stay on topic, don't be drawn into how he's making you feel when he talks to you (is my take) all that is likely doing is telling him his tactics are working. Is his manager happy with his work?


@Myrtle It sounds like it's a co-work space - where folks who work for themselves rent desks or offices in a communal office. Unless there's some sort of overarching committee/board or something I don't think there's anyone above Normal to complain to.


@Myrtle What if the annoying person IS your boss?

My boss is the only other person in my office and his habit that has driven me to look for a new job is his constant mumbling out loud as he types. If he's writing anything - an email, a letter, a grant proposal - he's saying everything he types out loud.

I asked him once in really polite way to stop, because I was having trouble concentrating on my own writing, but he just looked at me like he didn't know what I was talking about! I'm pretty sure he has a hearing problem like the guy in the post and doesn't know how loud he is. He also has an extremely loud voice and shouts when he's on the phone.

I've worked with him for one year and I'm working hard to get out of here!


PS http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/california_labor_law/california-labor-laws-state-law-21-12166.html#.UoWlU6WX1Fw

fouth way wall climber

Oh My God!!!!!!

This has been a week of dealing with difficult people!!!

Like, for reals, this week I have googled "dealing with manipulative people" "dealing with needy people" and several other "dealing with" how-to guides... None of which sufficed (although i think I did come across a couple of helpful/useful concepts and suggestions.

I loved this writing!!!!! So funny, descriptive, and spot-on.

And, I truly do think there are "methods" that can be used in situations dealing with people -- difficult people, I mean. Non-difficult people don't really need to be "dealt" with so much as "related to".

The Fourth Way (I once knew someone who was really smart and was really into it) had this whole idea of this being a really worthwhile endeavor. I remember some anecdote of some really expensive workshop where everyone was complaining about this one guy, and Gurdjieff's response was to pay the guy to stay.

Now, that sounds utterly sadistic, but it was not. It was the perfect opportunity for a "teaching moment" with the idea being it's really easy to learn when everything (and everyone) is hunky-dory.

But when crap gets difficult is when it really becomes a challenge. I try to keep that in mind at times (like now!!!) where a lot of bad stuff happens at once (seriously, I have like the perfect storm going on at the moment - argh!!!) And I'm just like, wtf? Seriously, life, now? You're going to throw all of this stuff at me at once? Now? And it all involves difficult people (in various permutations and combinations, and yes, in case you are wondering... parents are also involved in this heady mix of crap going down, guaranteed to totally fry my noodle).

But, the other side of that, is that it's really empowering when you can find a way to deal with difficult people. Like, kind of not take their shit and not let that shit fly. Side step it, or shut it down. That's powerful stuff. It's kind of like battle almost. The war of the wills. And I feel like the odds are weighted sometimes for people who are jerky in a lowest-common denominator sort of way. One bad apple spoiling the lot and all that. But having a creating a healthy culture, and a healthy environment, and a healthy dynamic are really so so imperative and key.

So I really with we had more how-to methods on how to do this. Because, basically there isn't a manual that comes with being a person and people have done a bad job of it, making it up as they go along... (um, did anyone catch that public school dating speaker in Texas on Gawker. Ex. of the talk he gave, "how-to" roadmap that he promotes: "Datable girls know boys are the leaders. Datable girls shut up. Datable girls don't ask guys out" -- not kidding and not making this up). I mean, I think of how my mom raised me, and it's like a textbook case in so many ways of "how NOT to do it" (here's how NOT to communicate) (here's how NOT to get what you want) (here's how NOT to have close relationships).

And, without getting cheesy, I know that there are things that we CAN learn (and develop, and teach/pass along to others) about "techniques" for keeping things on track, and not wilding out, and not letting others set the tone or the agenda when they are wilding out in various ways.

I absolutely love how the author did not let certain "tactics" or "techniques" fly when they were tried on her... he was very crafty! But she was craftier! He tried to get slippery. But she threw down the talcum powder of truth to slow that roll.

I would like to learn more of how to do these things like being authentic and not letting other people put one over.

And I know learning from other people's experience and knowledge can be really helpful, because I actually reached out to the Hairpin ladies for some advice that I desperately needed (usually, I don't actually have a ton of dramz I swear!) and I got back like the perfect advice, and I used it and it worked like a motherfuckin' charm. And like, without that advice I would have flailed and twisted and turned, and not made the right moves. And now......? I can totally move on. Mega full resolution. No problemos. Like, just complete and utter perfection. Someone brought their not-insignificant skillz to bear on my little problem and brought the solution to my attention. The fact that someone took the time to do so was just a little cherry on top that I will always remember when I look back on that situation.

And, often life does happen like that... there are moves you can make. These are like life skills that seriously I think should be taught. And so, I kind of understand why Gurdjieff paid that dude to stay there to teach those people how to do that. (Even though, yeah, totally sadistic.)

Sounds like this writer really went a long way in, at the very least, not letting someone just get away with dismissing her. And this was a really great story. I would definitely like to read more!


I think a lot of this self-entitled yelling from totally oblivious people is very, very gendered. I've waited tables in lots of business men in suits frequented places, and those men are always SCREAMING into their cellphone or yelling loudly at each other (but, jovially I guess, not necessarily aggressively) and generally disturbing everyone around them. These are the same men who push their chairs out as far as possible, sit with their legs fully spread and their elbows on tables, and then ignore me when I try to yell over them to alert them I have their food or am trying to take away dirty plates or ask if they want another drink or whatever. I've taken to actually screaming over them, which they of course dislike coming from a tiny lady. I've also noticed, lately, men in public spaces pushing past me, or walking almost straight into me without apologising. Also men sitting on the train taking up way too much space next to me and making me uncomfortable. I think men, generally, have a sense of physical entitlement to space (at some conscious or unconscious level) which makes us lady people feel smaller and angers them when we point it out or question it, like this Norman fellow. It really pisses me off, to the point that I'm now wilfully rude to men in the street who barrel past me. Today I even contemplated clapping one over the back with my wallet, but resisted in an act of sensibility.


@hollysh AGREED so hard. And yes, obviously, there are women who are loud, annoying, oblivious, take up too much space but I swear 95% of the people who do this shit are MEN and they do it, almost always, to women/children/the elderly. Most of them don't do it on purpose, as such, but they still do it and they are still shocked and often angered when someone dares to call them out on it.


@hollysh Late to this, but you are totally correct about men having a sense of physical entitlement to space. This tumblr is on point: http://mentakingup2muchspaceonthetrain.tumblr.com/

Sam Se@facebook

Excellent entry! I'm been looking for topics as interesting as this.


I had a loud guy working in the office next to mine. I couldn't understand his exact words due to the door that was between our offices, but I could hear him loudly enough to make up phrases based on what it sounded like he was saying. I made a series of cartoons about it. Recently we had to move offices to a different building so he is no longer the loud guy next door. He is now the loud guy IN my office. The good news is he hates not having his own office so much he is almost never there. The bad news is I can't make my cartoon anymore.


to add something aside from coworker commiseration, i just wanted to say i loved reading this piece. your style was lovely, and hilarious. thanks!

P.J. Morse

Your wisdom is deep and true. Your translations of Californian are impeccable as well.

Well done. Now I'm off to tell the speakerphone-obsessed person down the hall to pretty please close her door during her next conference call, or I will get negative.


I seriously keep thinking about this post and getting angry. Even though this is a co-working space, there must be a management company or someone who takes your money for it to whom you can appeal. If this guy is so obnoxious that he is monopolizing an entire room, he should be paying to rent an office. Which is to say, that's money that whoever's in charge of this space is losing. Unless this is a library or public space there has to be SOMEONE you can complain to! Grr.


@supernintendochalmers At least in a library you could ask the librarians to shuuuuush him.


Can I use this space to VENT (I know) and ask for verbiage tips when dealing with rude people? I live in NYC, and every morning after I get off the subway at Times Square (for work), I have to climb up the subway stairs, where I dutifully stay in the right lane of people going up. This leaves the other side of the stairs for oncoming traffic, right? This seems logical to me, since it's a very narrow staircase and there is only room for two people across at once. Well, every morning while us right-siders are slowing climbing up in order, some people attempt to go around us and walk up the left side of the stairs. Then when someone tries to walk down, the "rusher" will push on into the normal right-lane walkers and make everyone squish/stop walking and slows down the whole progress. This infuriates me, because it's obvious that we're waiting in an organized "climbing" line for a reason, and these "go-arounders" think they are more important or in more of a rush to get to work? But I'm not sure how to deal. Yesterday I boxed a girl out when she tried to cut back over in front of me (due to oncoming walkers) and I said "It's a line!" but that wasn't right. (She then said some stuff about how happy I was and some other sarcasm that I couldn't really hear because I had headphones in.) I would love tips on the perfect, snappy one-liner that will communicate to the "go-arounders" that they need to get in line like everyone else. Advice? Other venters welcome!


@Stevie "Wait your damn turn" is pretty satisfying. But the problem with people like that is that they can't look at the stairway and see that the most efficient way is what you're doing; if you were driving, they would be the people who wait till the last possible minute to merge and slow everyone down.


@Stevie "Fuck you" works pretty well in most situations.


@stuffisthings So true.


@Stevie I have had this happen more than once around Herald Sq, but I have mostly perfected my annoyed sigh/"REALLY?"


@Stevie Man, New York City is full of endless frustrations. Even if you came up with something to say, you cannot teach all the people of the city to stay to the right, let people off the subway first, don't lean against the entire subway pole on a crowded train, don't stand in the middle of the sidewalk and text, don't drive in the bike lanes, don't upstream people when you're getting a cab, etc. etc. It's the worst.

apples and oranges

@Blushingflwr I HATE the last minute mergers. Or the ones who merge INTO the lane that's ending because there are fewer cars (because the lane is ending!!!!). Like what, you're the only genius who figured out the quickest way is to drive in that lane? NO.


@Stevie Sorry, such is the NYC commute. Some days everyone's a total fucking asshole, some days you're accidentally the asshole. I've spent way to much energy thinking of how to deal with jerks in the subway who just don't get How Things Work, and I decided the best way is no way. That's a very distinctively NYC brand of zen.
Also, sometimes, I mentally rearrange the way people are standing in a subway car if I deem them to be taking up space in a sub-optimal manner. Also, sometimes people will cut in front of you, and sometimes you'll squeeze in to prevent it, but not always, and sometimes you'll shove some jerk who totally deserves it because he's standing on the passing side of the escalator for NO REASON ARRGH.
But I hope, for your own well-being, that you don't think you're doing anyone a favor by following the unwritten rules of being a good commuter. Just do what you need to do and don't be a dick unless you have to be.


@Spaghettius! I have a fair amount of commuter angst, but a lot of it went away once I stopped thinking things like, "if everyone just did it x way, we'd all get to work faster" or "why is she trying to get into this train before me? I waited here 10 minutes and her ass just sashayed on up. Doesn't she know there's a line?!"
Focus not on the best way, just alot time for the totally unavoidable hold-ups and carry on.


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I can hear the loud talker in our HR department clear as day, all day. It's HR, lady--you best be keeping some of that info on the DL! But no, loud talking and the volume pumped up on the speakerphone too. I've heard people's SS #s, legal stuff, reasons for terminations and docking of pay, all of it.

Further, she talks all day about politics and she always knows best! I know she's having a conversation with someone but that someone doesn't seem to get to say much.

Also, her cell phone ringtone is the theme from Cheers.


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My sympathy. It does sound like he is deaf, and probably something similar to Asperger's or high functioning autistic-- not able to understand or respond to social cues, even when others make polite, direct requests or conversation. And unable to make socially appropriate answers that diffuse conflict; instead they make things worse.

It's hard to believe that it is unintentional, but such people can respond in a maddening way to requests to change their behavior due to confusion of not knowing what they should do or say. It's like their brain freezes. Then it gets worse because out of panic they start saying stuff that continues to offend.

They actually can change behavior over time, but not immediately. You can't tell from their face or words that they are frightened by not understanding how to behave without causing offense. (Some retreat to their home and all avoid social contact. Others work very hard at learning how to "pass." )

They don't intuitively learn social boundaries when they are small children as most of us do, by picking up nonverbal cues. So they may stand too close, talk too loud, and be undersensitive or oversensitive to touch. (Some cannot stand the feel of certain fabrics or even certain earphones or headphones. The guy I know did eventually find a type of bluetooth he could tolerate.)

Nowadays there are ways to work with kids to teach these skills better (so such folks are more likely to attend college in recent years, if they can master the social issues). But folks in their 50s didn't get this help.

Change is at first very threatening to them --they may have figured some things out on their own, but still depend on routines in order to "survive" in the world that still confuses them. At first they think that if something changes they may not be able to function, and again they panic. I have found that they may need some help to find a bluetooth they can use, etc.

When they get too upset, they may try to calm themselves by rocking, jumping up and down, flapping their hands, etc. Usually the functioning ones will prevent themselves from doing this in public, so you can tell they are pretty scared if you see this.

I don't know if any of this is true for your co-worker, and I apologize for such a long comment.

Having someone else handle the communication and the requests and work out a solution is a great idea.

One of the hardest things for me with my co-worker has been that his behavior is indeed like the behavior of an entitled man who does not feel the need to change. Over the years I finally realized that he has a different issue that prevents him from responding appropriately, and that it is not intentional. However, I do still ask him to make changes, and very slowly he has done this. I now explain how he is 'coming across' and say that he might not realize it. And, I still get triggered by his responses, thinking he is doing this purposely. I sometimes lose it and yell, but it makes things worse and later I can see (or he admits) that he is reacting out of panic.

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