Monday, April 29, 2013

Fiction #43: Tim Lehnert

We All Hate Rob Ford

All of us in our section despise Rob Ford and routinely mock him. My putting a picture of the mayor on L.’s computer was obviously a joke. It had to be.

"Oh my fucking God, what the fuck? Who put this here? How do you take this off? Shit. God, this is so fucked up." L. saw the Ford image and freaked out.

And why put Rob Ford’s face on L.’s computer in particular? True, we all hate Rob Ford, but L. really hates him. I swear, she would kill him if she ever came face-to-face with him. She’d take a ballpoint pen and gore him to death.

"Just right click," I begin, but L. has already gotten up from her desk. She doesn’t reappear for twenty minutes, and in the interim LE (his name, coincidentally, also begins with an L, so I’m using two letters) comes in and asks who put Rob Ford’s picture on L.’s computer. I admit that it had been me.

Apparently, L. felt violated, like the photo of the mayor on her desktop had defiled her entire computer, and by extension her person. I remove Mayor Ford (restoring the elegant Microsoft logo), but when L. returns, she is still out of sorts. I mumble that I am sorry.

I hadn’t expected this kind of outburst. I’d thought there would be a chuckle all around and that would be the end of it.

LE calls me in for a talk that afternoon. You wonder when LE became an automaton – he used to be a normal thinking person. First, he asks how come I have so much time on my hands that I’m messing around with a colleague’s computer. I explain that it took me, no exaggeration, thirty seconds to place a photo of Rob Ford on L.’s desktop. (This is less time than a bathroom break, and certainly far less than the hour or so LE routinely kills discussing his fantasy hockey team). But I can’t say this. Next, LE addresses the violation of L.’s work space. L. never logs out of her computer, except at the end of the day. She just gets up and leaves whatever is on the screen sitting there. I mean how concerned could she be? And we’re all pretty casual in our section about this. Nobody’s too worried about passwords or anything like that. LE starts making out like I am some kind of code busting hacker when all I did was sit in L.’s chair and save a picture of Rob Ford to the desktop. For a joke.

Finally, LE brings up the hostile workplace. It’s not like I made lewd comments, or harassed L. for a date, and there is no racial/ethnic/religious angle. So the hostile workplace is what exactly? Rob Ford? He’s the mayor of the country’s largest city. I didn’t put porn or a swastika on her desktop. What does it say that a simple picture of our mayor can constitute a hostile work environment? Doesn’t that make Toronto itself a hostile environment (actually it is, but not that you could sue anybody over it). And incidentally, I know L.; I’m sub-friends with her. We joke around (I thought, anyway). I have broken bread at the mall food court with her, S., and J. on many occasions. Regardless, these are LE’s three prongs: wasting time, tampering with/violating L.’s work space, and creating a hostile work environment. All nonsense.

Context is key here: we all hate Rob Ford. This salient fact explains everything. But I can’t get into this with LE because he digested a manual somewhere which says you can’t talk about politics, or anything of consequence, anywhere, ever, under any circumstances at all. Sports, weather, traffic, restaurants – that’s about it for GE’s conversational palette. The fucked thing is we don’t even work in the corporate world. It’s a non-profit for Christ sakes. But I must humble myself before LE. An error in judgment. Don’t know what I was thinking. Didn’t mean to upset L. Yes, yes, what I meant isn’t the issue; the result was that L was offended. Won’t happen again.

What’s doubly (or maybe triply) galling is that I get it. I don’t make sexist jokes and then say, "Oh, come on, I was joking, what’s the big deal?" I understand that not everyone finds the same things funny, and it’s not for you to judge what’s amusing – if it might offend someone, then don’t say it. What you do at home is your business, but in the workplace you have to take others into account. And so on. I don’t need a lecture or seminar on the topic. But again, we all hate Rob Ford. And from this premise, much flows.

Even outside our section, everyone hates Ford, with the exception of M. It’s funny, he’s the one you would think you’d have to worry about – he’s so outnumbered. I’ve actually thought about this when people in the office are trashing Ford (or Harper). It occurs to me that this kind of rhetoric should be toned down. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot: everyone in the place was a Conservative and they were always mouthing off and you were the lone NDPer; you probably wouldn’t like it. That I would even think of this demonstrates how much I get it. As for M., I don’t know what he thinks about being the lone Conservative; I don’t interact with him that much. I get the feeling, however, that he is one of those guys who kind of enjoys getting all hot under the collar and feeling persecuted. He probably calls talk radio programs hosted by foaming right wing baboons and wails about how conservative white guys like him are always getting screwed, and where’s the government program for them, huh? But never mind M.

I feel soured now on L.; I can’t go back to our same level of sub-friendship, and I’m pissed off at LE for lecturing me. Plus I bet this will bite me in the ass come raise time. Which is a joke anyway: we’ve been frozen for two years, except accounting (R. and A. get increases and nobody else; how fair is that?). Still, what entertainment this must be for everyone in our section. How the workplace loves a juicy incident or bit of scandal. How it breaks-up the day. You should have seen L. lose it, she had a total fit . . . then LE comes in all concerned and T. is just like sitting there all “what?” . . . and later T. has to go talk to him in his office with the door closed.

So far I’ve avoided the subject with anyone in our section. L. and I are cordial, but it’s a bit strained. No more pranks, that's for sure. In the wake of this episode I’m down on the whole organization. I’m beginning to seriously question our mission (as if I hadn’t already). And yes, I know, ultimately it was my fault; I put the Rob Ford picture on L.’s computer, and none of this would have happened had I not. But again, we all hate Rob Ford. No one more than me.

*


Tim Lehnert grew up in Montreal and now lives in Cranston, Rhode Island with his wife, two daughters, and dog, Zeus. He works mostly from home writing petitions on behalf of “aliens of extraordinary ability” and “outstanding researchers” for an immigration law firm. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and his short fiction has appeared in journals in the U.S. and Canada including Prairie Fire, Descant and paperplates.

www.timlehnertonline.com

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