…I worked with a guy we'll call Doug.
This was, for those who may be wondering, at the same office in which I worked with the aforementioned Tim. I could, in truth, write an entire book about the experiences from that particular place of employment, and when there are people who question whether offices like the one in The Office really exist, I assure them: Yes. Oh, yes. They do exist indeed.
But I digress.
Doug had the most repulsive aura of any person I've ever met. I don't mean that he was dirty or smelly or unkempt or unpleasant in some way to any of the five senses; he was, in fact, a well-groomed, nicely dressed, and meticulously clean man, whose compulsive hand-washing and midday sock-changing suggested borderline obsessive thoughts with cleanliness. But that wasn't what made me (and pretty much everyone else in the office) give him a wide berth, either. It was just an intangible quality—equal parts creepy, cold, desperate, diabolical, and affected—that was improbably off-putting.
When I shook his hand for the first time and made eye contact with him, I felt like throwing up. My reaction made me feel absolutely dreadful and ashamed; when I guiltily confessed feeling instantaneously revolted by him to two co-workers at lunch, both of them (one female, one male) breathed sighs of relief and exclaimed, "I had the same reaction!" Still, we all felt bad—and confused.
It wasn't long before Doug provided explanation for the shiver along our sixth senses.
Doug was inappropriate in every way imaginable. He would sidle up to your desk and then shove his college ID into your face (he was in his 40s at the time, and bald) and say, "Can you believe the hair I had?" then wait for the inevitable WTF-masking polite response—"Um…yeah…that's cool…?"—before sidling off to the next pod of desks and repeating the same performance for each of its denizens.
He would ask what you did over the weekend, and when you replied with something generic and lacking in any of the personal details he seemed to catalog about everyone in the office, he'd then tell you about how he drank oodles of a new tea he'd bought without realizing it was a diuretic and gave himself a cataclysmic dose of diarrhea. And you would hear this story not once, but three times, or four, or five, as he made sure to share it individually with every person in the office.
He would touch the women in the office without their permission. If you recall the photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel after former President George Bush tried to give her an unsolicited backrub, that was a familiar scene in our office. Doug would sidle up behind us at our desks and lay his cold, chapped, scaly hands on our shoulders unbidden, and we would shrug him off and tell him to get lost. (It was a habit of which he was finally broken when my co-worker and dear girlfriend Miller shouted at the top of her lungs, so that half the office heard, "DON'T TOUCH ME!" sending Doug scurrying back to his office like a startled rat into its hole.)
He interrupted conversations; he cornered people to show them pictures of his nephew's bris; he made generally unsuitable comments (like telling a female co-worker that if he were her husband, "I'd dress you every morning"); he couldn't let anyone pass his office door without shouting at them to come in, where he'd bore and discomfit them with endless stories about subjects that are reserved for intimates; he'd tell stories about women who saw him at the gym or rollerblading and stopped him just to tell him he was hot.
He was clearly, palpably, a lonely and clueless fellow, but it was impossible and irresponsible to be nice to him. Because he was also a creep.
I had learned quite fast that being nice to him at all would be read as an invitation for Doug to unleash the creepiness, so I wasn't nice to him. After awhile, I was barely even professionally respectful to him (because he was also shitty at his job, and he constantly took credit for work I'd done and ideas I'd had)—I snapped at him incessantly and was brutally contemptuous toward him, making not the slightest effort to hide my disdain.
But, for some reason, he was set on making me his friend.
One day, I was briskly walking past his office when he called my name and said, "It's an emergency!" knowing I would ignore him otherwise. I came in and looked at him impatiently and asked what was so important. He said, "I just wanted to tell you that there's something on your butt. Probably no one else will tell you, but real friends tell each other these things."
I calmly said, "Okay, thanks," then walked out of his office and, horrified, ran back to my desk, called Miller's extension, and told her to meet me in the women's room tout de suite.
I'd told her what Doug had said—we paused to let the shivers run down our spines and suppress our gag reflexes—and then she started looking for the "thing" on my butt to remove it. I was wearing baggy trousers, and she had to pull them up and lift the crotch backwards before she saw what appeared to be a tiny little white sticker, buried among the folds of fabric. "How the fuck did he even see that?!" she exclaimed.
"I don't even want to think about what I was doing and where he was looking that he saw that," I said.
She removed the sticker. I went back to work. Later, Doug swung by my desk to tell me he was glad I'd gotten "that thing off your pants," and cheerily assured me, "No thanks necessary!" as he sidled away.
I knew that would not be the end of whatever scheme he was cooking up.
A few days later, Doug sidled up beside me while I was sitting at my desk, working. His crotch was right at eye level, and I could see in my peripheral vision that his fly was partway open, with about six inches of his button-down shirt sticking through, standing out away from his pants. It was obviously staged.
I looked straight ahead at my computer. "What do you need, Doug?" He mumbled some pointless drivel about how he needed something by noon, which I'd already put on his desk. "It's already on your desk." Oh, gee, I must have missed it. He moved closer to me, in case I'd missed his test, to see if I would be "a friend" to him like he'd been "a friend" to me and tell him his fly was hanging open and his shirt poking through. I didn't take the bait. I just kept looking at my computer. Eventually, he left.
Miller and I confabbed in the women's restroom. I predicted he would later accuse me of not telling him.
About two hours later, Doug again visited my desk. "Melissa!" he scolded dramatically, hands on hips. "I'm really mad at you!"
I looked straight ahead at my computer. "Oh, yeah? Why is that?"
"I was walking around earlier with my zipper open and my shirt hanging out, and you didn't even tell me!"
"Didn't notice," I lied. I just kept looking at my computer, typing furiously.
"Next time you should tell me!" he said. "That's what friends do!"
Finally, I turned and looked at him. "Doug," I said firmly, "we are not friends. Now leave me alone."
His face went red and he turned and scurried back to his office.
This, then, was the final straw. The other women in the office (and a gay man on whose "lifestyle" Doug couldn't stop commenting: "I'm so envious of your lifestyle!") got together and listed our grievances. It was a very long list, filled with everything from inappropriate conversation topics to unwanted touching and culminating in my getting Doug's junk shoved in my face in his seriously misguided ploy for my friendship. I took it to the owner of the company, asking that he speak with Doug about these issues and give him a warning.
He said he'd take it under advisement.
A few days later, I asked him if he'd spoken to Doug. He told me he had not. "That would be a really awkward conversation."
Well. We certainly wouldn't want you to have to feel awkward!
I reported back his response to a vice president of the firm—who was a powerhouse in sales and marketing and one of the greatest mentors, in everything from writing contracts to being a woman in a male-dominated business, I've ever had—and she stormed into his office and gave him an ultimatum: Doug or me. She hadn't liked Doug from the start—hated him at his interview, recommended against hiring him, loathed working with him, and argued regularly that no one else should have to work with him, either, since he was both terrible at his job and supercreepy.
Shortly after, she took a job with one of our clients.
In the wake of her departure, it became unavoidably clear that Doug, who was promoted to her position, had no idea what he was doing.
We only had to suffer Doug another few months before he was fired for abysmal job performance.
It only cost us the most senior woman in the firm and lots of individual women's comfort and dignity.
But at least it wasn't awkward for the boss.