Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Office conversations

There is a gentleman in my department that I often have very interesting conversations with.

I will call him JB.

JB is young - 32, he's very intelligent, a loner, fairly conservative, history buff; a ferocious reader - I think he averages 5 - 7 books a week depending on what he is reading. He does not read fiction though...aside from the classics or what he considers "great literature".

When I first met JB, I thought he was in his early 40's. He looks older than he appears. JB dresses in a suit and tie almost every day except in the dead heat of the summer time. Then he will just wear a dress shirt and tie and fore go the jacket.

On Fridays - casual day, I've seen him dress in khakis and a nice polo shirt.

He doesn't own any blue jeans.

JB lives with his Mom. His father passed away when he was very young. He has a relatively happy existence I think with his Mom, his dog Snoopy an aging spaniel/lab mix and his books. I know he is a Free Mason and he wears his ring very proudly. He occasionally goes to church and knows more about religions...many different kinds of religions than anyone I've ever actually known.

I didn't think JB and I would get along very well when I first started working here; he seemed too rigid...too conservative...Mr. Republican, but we've co-existed very nicely in our working relationship and he's actually found a certain place in my heart.

I worry about him...he seems lonely. He has some health issues that are progressive...some of these issues may be brought on by himself...JB is filled with anxieties and fear. You can see that just from looking at him. I have no doubt there are many demons in that mans mind that he is trying to control.

Actually - when you look at him as a whole - he would fit the perfect profile for a serial killer or a disgruntled employee who one day just SNAPS and comes into work with a semi-automatic weapon and takes out as many people as he can before taking his own life.

He's invisible in a way. No one pays attention to no one really sees him.

JB is extremely uncomfortable in social situations - he could possibly have Aspergers Syndrome...but I think his social anxiety has more to do with his upbringing than any physical or neurological impairment. The stories he tells about his father: strong and dominant alpha Italian man with perhaps some ties to local Philadelphia "families" that would make a great episode of the Sopranos!

There is a picture of his Mom and Dad on JB's cubicle wall. Taken perhaps late 60's early 70's. It's in front of a bar that they had in their house. Dad has one arm around Mom...the other hand holds a cigarette. He looks young, brave, cocky...confident. Mom looks stylish, she's smiling, but she's more reserved.

I wonder about that picture sometimes.

Hidden stories.

JB is actually a very approachable guy. He likes to talk. He likes to talk about himself a lot. Trying to get recognized perhaps? But you can ask him about anything, ANYTHING and he will talk about it. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't and I tell him so. He appreciates that.

We've learned to have a bit of banter back and forth. He joked about the Hilary Clinton Nut Cracker I have in my office - but then will discuss her possibilities and what she is up against in a very non-judgemental way.

He has a very satirical sense of humor and I like that. Sometimes he takes himself a bit too seriously, but all in all...he's an OK guy.

Every morning JB gets his cup of coffee and then stops by my office to say "Good Morning". We exchange the usual pleasantries: Hi are you today? are you? Good thanks...OK...have a great day!"...that sort of thing. Once in a while we drift off to a topic that just pops up.

Today he mentioned that his ol' dog Snoopy has to go in for an operation. Snoopy is 12. He loves that dog. It is companion. I think he thrives on the unconditional love this animal gives him.

JB is worried about Snoopy- scared. Hopeful that everything will go OK. JB told me that he and his Mom gave ol' Snoop a bath over the weekend. Snoopy didn't like that and he's been snubbing them since.

I laughed..."dogs are smart" I commented, "They know when something is going on."

JB agreed...he thinks Snoopy is a very smart dog. (most dog owners think that way)

I asked JB if he thought dogs have a soul.

He reflected a bit and finally answered: "I think all living creatures have a spark of the divine in them."

"I like that answer JB". I said.

We somehow got into a semi-religious conversation and he went on to tell me about various saints and apostles. Something about Thomas Aquinas being a jerk...Paul was a misogynist...Adam and Eve was just a story...some of it I know...most of I didn't. He fills me in on the spots when I ask him, but he's always very "matter of fact" about it.

We debated whether he thought Jesus was a liberal or not. I told him about the bumper stickers I've seen on cars. He said if you apply him in today's times he would have been thought of more liberal than conservative, but those terms did not apply when he was alive, so you can't really view him in that light.

OK...fair enough! :) (Did I mention he's a stickler for minute detail?)

"Jesus had a bit of a temper though", he commented, "He went a little crazy in the market!"

Sometimes JB truly shocks me!

Throws me a curve ball that I don't expect.

I always think of JB being a very conservative Christian and I have a horrible prejudice against what I consider "conservative christians". Bad experiences with ex in-laws and just from shit I read in the news has formed my opinions and I know it's wrong, but they make my skin crawl.

Anyway - JB is not a conservative Christian. He's just a Christian. He has his faith, he believes in it and believes in the underlying theme of Christianity - but he's a "modern man" and he understands how politics and times have played their part in shaping todays "organized religions". His one comment to me today was: "I don't think Jesus would approve of the Pope that is for sure."

I agree.

We talked more about dogs and souls and if dogs go to heaven...and what is heaven really? He prefers the Buddist's view of the afterlife that you find your new parents and you are re-born into a different life, but he finds faults in that too. "No matter really...we'll all find out when we die I guess."

JB has a curiousness to him that feeds his need to fill his mind with so much information. He's my walking "wikipedia".

He also has a gentleness about him that is quite endearing at times. He know's I am gay and his reaction was "Oh...OK. Well, that doesn't bother me at all. People are people...and you are a nice person."

That was one of the nicest things I've heard in a long time.

JB is a nice person too. He has his oddities, but don't we all?

We sometimes pick on him in the office because he can be so stiff and reserved, but I like JB. I like talking to JB - one on one. He has some very interesting things to say. I like to listen...sometimes.

He thanked me for our chat today. He really doesn't get to do that too often with his co-workers.

I told him, "The pleasure was all mine JB! Have a great day!".

He smiled and walked away.


the only daughter said...

What a nice telling of a nice, interesting, complex fellow.

Much luck to Snoopy.

Maria said...

I love reading posts like this...

Posts that paint a picture so clearly of someone that we can see him our heads, can picture him sitting watching television at home or maybe playing with his dogs.

Character sketches. I like it that you painted him as is, too. No guessing about him, just saying what is what.

I like him too....

Mrs. G. said...

Great post. It just confirms that we are all looking for a connection. I like a guy that is hard to figure out.

dive said...

Wonderful post, Shazza.
So when we see on the news that he has gone nutjob with a bag of guns, you will be the only survivor.
Being nice to office loners is good insurance.

The Village Carpenter said...

People are complex creatures, aren't they?