Our initial meeting was auspicious: On my third day on the job, I turned from noting the salinity and pressure of the largest tank in the lab, only to see a slack-jawed yokel staring at me from the doorway. A runner of drool escaped the corner of his mouth. I kid you not.
"Uh . . ." he said.
I had seen this character around the lab in my brief tenure, and had initially taken him to be a janitor, what with the stink of cannabis and his tendency to talk to a mop he has apparently named "Janey." But this moment of actual verbalization led me to believe, briefly;y, that he was a mental deficient hired on as part of one of those arrangements made between group homes and large businesses, the sort that generally result in gammas working as Kroger's baggers and such, and tend to come with a nifty tax break for the corporation willing to reach out to the mentally retarded in search of minimal employment.
"Are you lost, poor fella?"
"Uh . . . no."
"Do you want a cookie?"
"Yeah. Why are you offering me a cookie?" His voice markedly lacked that wide-eyed basso I generally associate with the cataclysmically learning disabled.
"Are you mentally retarded? Like the baggers at the grocery store?"
"Me? Naw. Never worked as a bagger. My name's Rob Miller," he tromped to me, extended his mopless hand, "I work for Lord A."
I took his hand, clammy though it was, "Lord A?"
"Lord Architeuthis," he replied, nodding towards the largest tank behind me, home to a magnificent, live specimen of a giant squid, Architeuthis dux. Mr. Miller continued to grip my hand despite the lack of shaking.
"Listen," he said earnestly, intensely gazing into my eyes, still holding my hand, "I been watching you for the last couple of days. Do you wanna go to the server closet and get lit?"
He dropped my hand so that he could pantomime the international I-am-smoking-marijuana gesture.
It has since come to my attention that, owing to the fact of my internship being unpaid, Mr. Miller is actually my direct superior. This is, of course, cosmically unjust, and subsequently fairly humorous, albeit in an Oedipus-Rex sort of way.
My interactions with Mr. Miller have continued largely along these lines: He watches me through doorways and then pretends to be greasing the hinges when I turn around (ignoring the fact that, even in a lab with 30-some employees [that is, since the INS seized the bulk of our menial workers. Bad business, that] the hinges to any given door hardly need to be lubricated on an hourly basis. Some of the doorways have become treacherous with WD-40 run-off), offering me soft drugs, bringing me anecdotes off his largely feckless existence (a habit strongly reminiscent of on old tom cat I once had, who showed his affection by bringing me the heads of mice and snakes) and concocting excuses to approach me so that he might surreptitiously smell my hair.
I would certainly file this under "Sexual Harassment" if it wasn't so inept. Calling Rob's advances "harassment" is certainly valid, in a strictly textbook way, though it is truly to "sexual harassment" what an eight-year-old's Nerf assault is to "battery." Why is there not legal classification of "sexual nuisance"? The very notion that Rob may occasionally (or may someday occasionally) exchange intimacies with a female of any species (either freely and consensually, at a price and consensually, or otherwise) chills me to the core.
TO be entirely frank, the claim that Rob makes for "an uncomfortable work environment" is certainly valid, but nonetheless feels cruel. I have begun to suspect that he can do little about his hygiene (apart from applying a greater quantity of what seems to be a very cheap knock-off CK cologne; a less-than-desirable solution, considering the recirculation scheme used in the lab's climate control system) and possible suffers the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. In all fairness, he is more a victim of circumstance and shoddy pre-natal care (or contraception) than anything else. I find it difficult (though nonetheless tempting) to attribute malice to his bumbling. On the up side, his constant need to find a reason to approach me means that I need not worry about fetching my own coffee, or mail, or faxes. I strongly suspect that if I were to casually mention that I needed a full grown ox, I'd hear Rob go pounding down the hall only to return several hours later, stinking, disheveled and accompanied by disgruntled lowing.
At any rate, I suppose any abnormally fine opportunity carries an abnormally high cost of some sort, and Rob Miller is the expense I must absorb in order to benefit from my time here.
But, dear Lord, it is trying! I feel like I'm in high school again. At least no one is subjecting me to the musical stylings of Huey Lewis and the News. I have that much to be thankful for.
A, one last illustrative note regarding my beau: the password on all of his computer accounts (and these are public accounts, the ones he uses to maintain his employer's web-based ventures and such) is "Gandalf". When I was in middle school, dad (a systems administrator for MIT's mainframe) was making jokes about how that was the classic stupid password. I imagine that if Rob owns luggage with locks (although I strongly suspect that he usually travels using either a Hefty bag or some sort of woven-hemp rucksack festooned with Grateful Dead and Phish patches) the combination is "123456."
My nephews are right; I am a total geek magnet.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson