Sharing an Office and Wanting to Throw Your Officemate off a Bridge

I’m not a violent person. I’m not even really an angry person, just a little frustrated sometimes. However, at my second job I share an office with someone, and he is rapidly corroding all the barriers general decency and patience have in my personality.

He talks. He’s a talker. A chatterbox, really. I walked into the office today and mentioned I had finished grad school. It’s a comment that might merit a few seconds of discussion: a “that’s great” here or a “How does it feel?” there. That’s not what happened. I think me starting the conversation acted as the needle that slipped through the cracks in a dam holding back what I can only describe as “too much fucking talking.”

To demonstrate this with birds, he would be the bird second from the left, the one that looks to be really into talking to the birds around it. I, on the other hand, would be a bird outside the picture, in a dark room, in front of a computer, joyfully interacting with no other birds

First it was a trickle. He started with a “that’s fantastic.” I thought it was a little excessive. Yes, it’s fantastic, and I’m happy to be done, but we’re not at the point in our relationship where you can comment on anything in my life being fantastic. Our professional relationships allows for “great” and nothing more. The trickle became a steady pour. He asked me what my plans are. I told him I’m applying to jobs around town and online. The dam broke, the foundation crumbled, the little workers in little yellow hats and vests were crushed as all his conversational inhibitions bled away like a college freshman learning about whiskey for the first time.

He started with his year in Australia, which happened after he earned his first Masters degree, but he took a summer to finish his post grad work, and he planned on working in a middle school, but he wanted a break from academia before he entered it for a career, but he didn’t know where, but then he learned about work visas that would let him work for about a month at a time before he had to move to a new job. He mostly stuck to the coastal towns, worked for six months cleaning yachts on an island. One of The Beatles had a house there. My chatty office mate led me by the hand through all the professional and personal minutiae of his year in Australia. I know exactly how he cleaned the bathrooms at a convention center on an island where rich people partied. It was with a firehose. He said he could have done it on his hands and knees with a rag, but he had a firehose and he preferred that.

Yeah, that’s cool and all, but please leave me alone

I thought it ws over when my boss came in, but then she started talking to him too, and then she left. She could have saved me. She could have given me some task to work on. She could have pulled me away because she knows this guy is a talker and I’m more of a person to text ‘unsubscribe’ to someone who sends two messages in a row. She knew, but she did nothing. She saw her way out, and she took it and left me to rot in social hell.

After I learned all the details of his year abroad, he moved quite seamlessly to a discussion of politics. We agreed on a lot of points and have quite similar ideology, and he’s even a nice person overall, but I don’t want to talk at length about gun rights while I’m drinking my tea and trying to look busy. There’s a time to discuss how silly I think it is that Americans can own enough weapons to pose an actionable threat to a mountain. There’s a time to discuss what I think of the current president. It’s not when I’ve just gotten into the office, and I tried with all my social acumen to demonstrate my absent investment in the conversation.

Like this, except I didn’t think of biting a pencil in half. I wonder if that would have worked.

I tried looking at my computer. My thinking was that it would show I had something I’d rather be dealing with there. The conversation continued. I tried a more subtle route, thinking maybe he was a really over-analytical type like me. I turned my feet away from him, fiddled with my thumbs, tried to look uncomfortable. Subtle cues did not work. I tried leading the conversation to an end. I said “I hope you have a nice weekend at least 3 times.” He was in the doorway at that point so I wasn’t just saying bye to try to end the conversation.

He persevered through every natural end I offered to the conversation, but he’s a nice person, and I was thinking about what a nice person he was while he was telling me about Holland’s political structure and standing in the doorway very noticeably not leaving. He also told me he’s from Holland which explained the sudden international shift. He told me about how Holland’s political parties had changed in the last few decades. I thought of telling him I really wanted to try to get some work done. He told me a story about some “soccer hooligans” fighting in a field. I wondered how I could work soccer hooligans into my everyday vocabulary, and I also decided escaping through work didn’t guarantee the conversation would die. He talked about the great barrier reef. I thought about how it could be possible for me to enjoy someone’s company while simultaneously hating every second of a particular interaction with them.

Then I thought of a way out. Something had been building in me for the duration of this conversation. It might have even taken hold of my system a little while after my first cup of tea for the day. It was devious and inarguable and it posed no way for him to continue to talk to me. During the first available lull, I looked up at him. I was poised to strike. I practiced what I’d say in my head, then I delivered my line: “Hey, I actually have to run to the restroom!”

Then I walked out of the office, my heart light, my cheeks flushed. Suddenly, the world had potential. Suddenly, I could be alive again.

But he followed me.

He kept talking.

I walked past the women’s restroom, but he showed no signs of stopping so I continued. I walked past the men’s, and still he followed. I made it to the unisex bathroom, the one they have for families, a single lockable door separated me from this endless talk that had already run the range of plans for after school and what he thought of assault rifles. I made it to the door. He was still talking. I opened it. He was still talking. I walked in and told him to have a nice weekend, because he genuinely is a nice person, but I wanted my life and his to be separate for a while.

He said goodbye.

He left.

Once I was safe with the door locked, I checked the time. He had talked to me for an hour.

And then I silently screamed into the mirror

He had talked to me for an hour, and most of my contribution had been saying “Yeah,” and “mhm.” I was totally unnecessary in the production of that conversation, but it had been inflicted upon me. Why is this something that can happen? What can I do to make my total lack of engagement any more apparent? Can I get a sign? Something with neon that I can plaster to my forehead that lights up when I just want to be left alone.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I can’t be the only one who has a near-physical revulsion with these afflicted social interactions. My head was buzzing by the time I had the brilliant idea to flee to the bathroom. I know complaining about someone talking too much is the entitled equivalent of someone complaining about how long it takes them to clean their mansion to a person who lives in a tent, but entitled bullshit is what I’m peddling because I am a white overeducated American.

These tiny social disturbances are more than an extreme introvert encountering a lonely extrovert. It’s more than me just not wanting to chat. It’s a total absence of perspective for everyone involved. He could not understand that I had absolutely no desire to be involved in that conversation. And I couldn’t–and still can’t–understand why he was talking to me so much or what he was getting out of it.  

I can’t pretend that I was being the nicest person by trying to synthetically conclude my office mate’s aggressively collaborative monologue, but he was also completely oblivious to my unremitting disinterest and desire to be left alone. I wish mood ring technology had improved instead of being left to mall kiosks and the types of stores that say that can photograph your aura. I wish there was something I could actually wear that would demonstrate in bright colors exactly what I’m feeling. If I had some jewel resting in the middle of my forehead that lit up a bright, sickly yellow at the five-minute mark of that conversation, then he wouldn’t have had any excuse to keep it going. And maybe his forehead jewel would be yellow when it stopped, so we’d try to find some middle ground between our yellows. We could chat a bit, sit in silence a bit, and both be left in a neutral brown or a pleasant, serene blue.

14 Replies to “Sharing an Office and Wanting to Throw Your Officemate off a Bridge”

  1. ‘I know exactly how he cleaned the bathrooms at a convention center on an island where rich people partied. It was with a firehose. He said he could have done it on his hands and knees with a rag, but he had a firehose and he preferred that.’ – Hahahahaha.

    ‘I can’t be the only one who has a near-physical revulsion with these afflicted social interactions’ – You aren’t. I much prefer the choice that the web gives us so far as communicating goes, you can get out of anything at all just by turning it off and at a later point saying the computer went bluescreen on you! I have a neighbour. Lovely woman in her early eighties; she’s like this guy was, she doesn’t quit, I could literally say “I’m going to shit myself right here, right now if you don’t let me go into the house and get to the toilet” and she’d still carry on chatting, probably about how terrible it is when someone ends up shitting themselves in the street. She hold onto your sleeve too with a vice-like clawy* grip, which is far worse.

    *Troposphere word

    I enjoyed your pain, as ever.

    – Esme Cloud falling about chatting away to him holding his sleeve real tight

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I’m going to shit myself right here…” made me cackle. I’m so glad you can relate. These people are completely ridiculous. I wonder I if I could just try working in weird and extremely inappropriate things into my responses. “Oh, you used a firehose? Yeah, sometimes I use one of those to clean myself after rolling in a barrel of chow mein.”

      You’ve inspired me to get weirder

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bathroom was genius. I can’t believe he followed you.
    Additional tips to avoid conversations:
    1) Headphones
    2) Pretend to focus on your work. Say “what?” or “hmmm?” a lot and make him repeat himself.
    3) Other miscellaneous errands – supply closet, car, coworker’s office, janitor’s storage room for rope and ceiling pipes.
    4) Introduce him to a game on the computer. I recommend geoguessr or
    5) Tell him you prefer to communicate via writing, and ask him to write down everything he wants to say on sticky notes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet I could have fun with the sticky notes. I could tell him I prefer to communicate in sticky note messages, and those messages must be pictures as words confuse me greatly. I wouldn’t mind getting little comics drawn for me

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your office mate sounds a lot like the IT guy at my office, except that my IT guy’s verbal incontinence is usually completely self-initiated. He’ll stride purposefully into the office (that I share with another verbal over-sharer, but he’s a different case), with a sincere grin plastered across his face, and open with something like “I’m having a GREAT day!” First of all, if you’re opening with how great your day is going, I’m already guaranteed to want to punch you in the junk, regardless of whether I like you as a person or not. He’ll then proceed to go on and on about…I don’t even fucking know, the latest innovations in voice-over-IP phone service or something else equally as brain-deadening…for anywhere from 10-25 minutes. Often he will actually RUN HIMSELF OUT OF BREATH talking because he’s so into the sound of his own voice that he forgets to inhale. Like you, I’ve tried everything: not only breaking eye contact but actively attempting to do work on my computer while he drones on, turning my entire body away, mentioning that I have stuff I need to get done, etc. One day I did an experiment where I would slowly count to fifty in my head, pointedly yawn, and keep repeating that process for the entire time he talked, just to see if it would have any effect at all. It didn’t slow him down one iota. He’ll start in even if I have headphones in, and will fully expect me to take the headphones out and listen to him even though whatever he’s yammering about has ZILCH to do with me or my job duties. In his case, I believe part of it is mild Asperger’s / ASD, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly just a deep and abiding love for the sound of his own voice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s so much I love in this comment. Your office mate sounds like he could really benefit from a more intimate relationship with duct tape… Or the bottom of a well. “Verbal incontinence” is also the best way of describing this horrible social affliction I’ve ever heard?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He’s amazingly un-self-aware. The real killer is, he’s convinced that he’s operating on a higher level than everyone else. He once stood here and, without a hint of irony or sarcasm, proclaimed that the reason so many people don’t like him is that they don’t understand his “superior intellect”. Direct quote. It was in that moment that I truly came to understand the term ‘gobsmacked’. O.O

        Liked by 1 person

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