Daily Drama Queen

This is an old entry, written long ago but never posted, so here it is with a disclaimer: It's not a feel-good story, and includes no Christmas spirit, which is why I'm posting it on Christmas.

TL/DR? Some people are difficult, on purpose.


Once upon a time many jobs ago, I had a co-worker who was a daily drama queen (DDQ). For him, every problem was a MAJOR problem, and he was always eager to talk about it, to anyone, to everyone. We worked in an 'open office', so there was no escaping.

Neighbors wronged him, and we heard about it. Family disrespected him, and we heard about it. His dishwasher stopped working, and we heard about it. "And why am I working here?" DDQ sometimes said. "I can code like a king, I should be making three times as much working for Google or Apple."

Yeah, he was a programmer, he claimed, stuck working a basic office job alongside us dummies. But he wasn't very good at what we did, and he made more and dumber mistakes than anyone else, and he struggled with anything beyond the basics of Windows, so I suspected he was full of feces about writing excellent code.

Mostly, though, what we all disliked about him was that he brought every annoyance from his personal life into the office. DDQ's life was ever-so-full of drama, most of which he manufactured himself. Part of me wanted to feel sorry for him, but most of me just wanted him to shut up. A couple of times I said it: "Please shut up." He never even tried shutting up.

Comes one particular Saturday, and the whole office was working overtime, so DDQ had a sixth day to screw things up, and tell everyone what was going wrong in his life that week. On this day the details were different, though, and the drama deeper. He described a strange psychotic incident the previous night, and said he was having suicidal thoughts, and that he desperately needed to see a psychiatrist ("desperately" was his word, not mine), but he wasn't sure whether it would be covered under our medical plan.

Well, I didn't like the guy at all, but I didn't wish him dead, and you have to pay attention when someone talks about suicide, so I made a sincere effort. I listened to his story, more than I'd usually listened in the past. I gave him a hug, though he wasn't a huggy sort of fellow. I asked if he had enough weed to make it through the weekend. I gave it the old college try, man, and I'd never even gone to college.

Some of my co-workers tried, too. We spent more of that morning giving him words of encouragement than doing our work. DDQ wasn't having any of our encouragement, though.

I looked through our employee benefits website, and found what I thought was jackpot information: DDQ was right, psychiatric care wasn't covered, but we had a weird company benefit — a toll-free hotline for mental health. Any employee could call an 800 number, tell them you worked for Acme Amalgamated, and they'd transfer you to an actual shrink's office, where they'd give you up to ninety minutes of talk and listen time on the phone, on the spot, at no charge, and then refer you to a local professional if that seemed warranted.

A free mental health phone call is better than nothing, so I told DDQ about this, emailed him the link, but he was opposed to the idea. It's company-connected, he said, so everything I tell them will be reported to HR. Reading the webpage, I replied, "It says it's confidential. It says they don't even tell the company that you called, let alone what you called about." Nope, he wouldn't do it.

A little later I remembered some discount counseling that I'd received from a charity many years ago, and it had been helpful for me, so I mentioned that to DDQ. Nope, he wouldn't settle for a counselor; he wanted a genuine psychiatrist. Accept no substitutes. But he couldn't afford a psychiatrist, so what could he do? What could he do?

I searched the net for affordable psychiatrists in our area, and told him about several listings at less than $50 p/session. One by one DDQ dismissed these suggestions, 'cuz he'd heard bad things about that neighborhood, or he wouldn't feel comfortable talking to a psychiatrist with an ethnic-sounding name.

"Are you religious?", I asked him. "Maybe your priest, your pastor, your rabbi or imam or whatever might help?" He answered loudly, so our very, very Christian co-worker could hear clearly, that "Religion is for weak minds." To myself, not out loud, I said, Well, who's suicide for?

Finally, I did something I rarely do. I gave him my phone number, and told him he could call if he wanted someone to talk to. I don't think it was obvious how much I hoped he wouldn't call. I was probably supposed to ask for his telephone number, and call to check on him every few hours all weekend, but I didn't, and I didn't. Maybe I was supposed to take him to lunch, sleep on his couch, I don't know. Remember, this schmuck wasn't a friend. I didn't like him. At all.

But when our work ended that Saturday, I told him to think about the options we'd talked about, and handed him a printout from the toll-free help-line, and patted him loudly and literally on the back. Then I said good night and as I drove home, I heard myself whistling.

I didn't think about DDQ for the rest of the weekend, except ever-so-briefly every time the phone rang. It didn't ring often, and he never called, and on Monday morning DDQ was back at his desk, as healthy and as annoying as ever. Maybe more so. I asked if he was doing better, and he said, and this is an exact quote 'cuz I'll never forget: "Ah, I was just fucking with you. The whole psychotic episode? I made it up to make a Saturday shift more fun."

He said it with a smirk that really sold the idea, and to be honest, I didn't know then and don't know now whether he was serious. DDQ always exaggerated his drama, complaining about everything in his life, but making it up entirely? I'm not sure. He'd been totally believable on Saturday, talking about his psychotic episode, but that smirk on Monday as he said "I was just fucking with you" — that smirk was like it was under oath, too.

So did I mock him? Insult him? Did I slug him? No, I did not. I just stared at him, and then said something along the lines of, "Well, if you ever do need someone to talk to," but damn it was hard to say that. Slugging him was my preferred option, and maybe if we hadn't been at work. Maybe if I saw him on the sidewalk ...

Should I add some sanctimonious disclaimer, that suicide is a serious problem, not to be ignored or made light of? That goes without saying, and that's what I did, so no, I'm not going to tack on any such scolding.

I'll add an epilogue, though: DDQ continued to annoy all of us in the office, often talking about the endless cascade of problems in his life, despite nobody ever asking, and despite being asked to stop, several times, by several co-workers, and at least twice by our boss.

One day his car was vandalized while it was parked on the company lot, and no, I had nothing to do with it. But I enjoyed hearing about it. Yup. Not like any of us had a choice, so far as hearing about it, but DDQ told us all about it the next day, and for weeks.

Eventually, DDQ was fired. Nobody ever officially said why, but take your pick — he was bad at his job, so even disregarding what an ass he was, there were valid grounds for firing him.

I Googled him this morning, and his LinkedIn page says he's working at a local high-tech firm. That's the kind of job he sometimes said he wanted, so it sounds like a better situation for him. And yet, I'm confident that he's no good at it, that his co-workers don't like him, and that he'll be fired there, too.



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