New Employee’s Nebulous Affliction a Mystery to Coworkers

Confusion hinders natural course of mockery and ridicule.

August 15, 2003. Seattle Washington: Employees at Westcoast Marketing Network, a local advertising agency, are experiencing confusion and apprehension over the presence of a new coworker, they confessed in separate interviews yesterday. The appearance and mannerisms of the recently-hired copyright editor, Edgar Rhames, have been the topic of much thought over the past week, but almost completely avoided in the way of conversation. Rhames was described alternately by three different employees as “strange and bizarre,” “goofy, unkempt, and kind of scary-looking,” and “almost, like, retarded or something…definitely a few bricks short of a full wall”.

“It’s really frustrating,” admitted Keith Stoggins, 29, who’s worked at WMN for two years. “When Edgar sloughs by with that slack-jawed, lazy-eyed look on his face, my knee-jerk reaction is to turn to [coworker Todd] Jackson and make a crack or something,” he explained, “but then I’m like, ‘wait…what if he’s retarded or has some disease,’ because that wouldn’t be cool.”

Kara Sturgis, who sits one cubicle over from Stoggins, expressed similar feelings, though she remains unaware that her neighbor shares her thoughts about Rhames. “Sometimes it seems like he’s just, you know, goofy…trying to be different. But then other times, I look at him, and I think he’s sort of mongoloid…you know, Downsin-dromed [sic] or whatever it is.” Summing up her exasperation at her coworker’s ill-defined abnormality, the 27-year-old office manager added, “Mr. Hanks [owner and founder of WMN] should have sent around a memo or something so we all know what’s up with him.”

Paul Rodriguez, the 30-year-old data analyst who considers himself “the office clown” feels that his creativity is being stymied by the lack of information. “I’ve got Edgar’s walk down great,” he admitted from his office next to the stairwell. “I mean, I’ve practiced it at home in front of the mirror, and can simultaneously imitate the dim-witted expression of his face, the half-limping gate, and the slumping shoulders perfectly. I’m just dying to try it out on everybody in the office some time when Edgar’s out,” he continued, “but I don’t know if it’s cool. You know, if he’s got some real problem, then I’d be the asshole.” Pausing for a moment of serious thought, he added, “maybe he was in a car accident or something.”

“It’s definitely cast a shadow over the atmosphere here,” Stoggins reflected, remembering how the staff at WMN—all in their mid 20s and early 30s—always enjoyed a jovial and light-hearted work environment. “It’s like we’re all walking on eggshells or something.” But Stoggins admitted that he plans to broach the taboo subject at the end of this week.

“Friday night is our bi-weekly office outing. We all go out to [local sports bar] Huey’s for a couple beers,” he explained. “Once we’re outside the office, it’s fair game, and I’m gonna say something. I’m sure some of the others have been holding their tongues, too.” Aware that their new coworker might attend the informal office gathering also, Stoggins added, “If Edgar’s there, I’ll wait till he goes to the john or something, and then I’m gonna ask around and see if anyone knows what’s up with him.”

Saying he’s determined to get to the bottom of the matter, he concluded by saying, “If nobody knows, I’m sneaking into Hanks’ office on Monday and reading the new guy’s personnel file.”

(c) Hylo Bates, 2003
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