It's both easy and hard to offend me. Easy, because once you know a few of my buttons, the offense is fairly predictable. (And since one of the things that makes me take offense straight off is someone with malice aforethought trying to offend me... ) Hard, because the standard-issue human doesn't keep their offense buttons in all the same places as mine, and because even especially more so the standard-issue phone goon. If there is such a being, which I sincerely doubt with all the parts of me that can doubt.
Unfortunately, the random sampling of phone goons includes a good random sampling of Middle America -- the good wholesome sorts of folks who take bottle-blonde permed hair as a God-the-Father-given Right, laid out there in the US Constitution. By which, of course, I'm talking about not the class in general, but a specific raccoon-eyed instance of the class, an instance who would probably be judged representative by a panel of outside-the-country observers.
This gem of a woman is warm, caring, fun-loving, light-hearted ... and has utterly crass taste in political cartoons. I'd been showing her the workplace cartoons I do, and I guess she felt compelled to return the favor or something. She managed to find a newspaper clipping cartoon featuring a posterized-to-black-and-white photo of the Shrubbery on the telephone. While I, like Trent Reznor and MTV, would have found that offensive enough by itself, this one managed to do one better? worse? with the caption, which was, in essence, "Let the towel-heads know that it's laundry day and we have the washing machine." That may have been it verbatim, actually. I was disgusted. I restrained my first impulse to rip the filthy thing to shreds, and instead returned it with a little note featuring a frowny face with several exclamation points, and the written comment, "That was not funny."
Directly as I finished up with passing that down, I was summoned to monitor. One of my first few reports was the infamous blasphemy on an open line moment. This was, amazingly enough, the late-teens son of Laser Mom -- shall he now be called Crusty Cake Kid? What with that and other moments in the monitor report, I soon enough found myself heading for the copy room to pick up the bad monitor report from the printer. On my way to Stressy College Chick's desk, I detoured to my older clone's desk, and asked if she could reach me "that blue thing in the cubby there". I left the monitor report -- and the nerf-bat -- on Stressy College Chick's desk, as she was out. Sadly, Laser Mom was not in, or I would have deputized her and handed her the bat.
I started getting a headache shortly after this. I could hear that someone, somewhere, was playing with one of these. For those not familiar with them: it is a bird call, and can make alarmingly high and shrill bird-sounds. This is great out in a huge muffling field or forest. My commentary left at the REI site: "This item is not recommended as a toy for small children. While it can reproduce realistic calls in the hands of an expert, it can also reproduce the tuneful notes of fingernails on a chalkboard in the hands of someone with high enthusiasm and inversely proportionate skill." The headache built to critical mass, and I popped out of my monitor room and told the two punks down at the end of the row of booths next to the monitor room to put that thing away.
I came back from break and my computer was suddenly and inexplicably off. I lost fifteen minutes starting it all up again and getting everything set up. As I was getting back into the swing of monitoring, the Cute Short Supervisor's kid brother (one of the punks with the bird call) walked by tweaking the damn thing. "[Dude], cut it out!" I half-wailed, because I was about yea close to snapping.
"Don't tell me what to do!" he shouted at me.
I ripped the headset off my head and stomped out the door of my monitor room -- not after his fast-retreating ass to give it a whuppin'1 like I wanted to, but in to the Stressy College Chick, where I tight-facedly reported the exchange, then stormed back to my monitor room.
I was starting to feel less dreadful and more human in the span of several minutes, particularly because the noise had died down and my head was starting to feel less like demented budgerigars had taken residence in my sinuses. (And I was all out of chocolate by this point.)
... and then Cute Poser-Geek Super walked by, chirping the hellbound bird call.
I lost it. I completely lost any grasp I actually had on a decent mood, but managed to not interrupt the monitor session I was in the middle of. I grabbed my cellphone (the use of which at work is sternly proscribed, but I was in a monitor room with only one phone, and that was in use at the time) and punched in the number of the bullpen from memory. Stressy College Chick answered the phone, and I sniffled that it was even less funny when Poser-Geek Super joined in, then burst into tears and hung up.
Somehow, I managed to keep monitoring, even though I wanted nothing more than to turn in a fifteen minute break card and hide under my desk with the electrical strips and the dust bunnies, or alternately turn in my resignation. Stressy College Chick eventually came in, after the worst of the crying was over, and let me know that yeah, she would be talking to the punk kid the next time she saw him, and that actually, Poser-Geek Super had been nowhere near the bullpen when all that kerfuffle went down, and hadn't the foggiest -- he was just playing with the stupid little toy because he saw it lying around. And she would also have a few words in the ear of the punk kid's big sister, who keeps him pretty strictly in line. And eventually said big sister came in and gave me a hug and I started sniffling again.
But the blasphemy moment, which managed to make Cute Desk Guy do a very interesting double-take, almost makes up for that entire mess. I'll be really interested to see Laser Mom's take on it tomorrow. She can borrow the nerf-bat.
1) Which is not a particularly elegant word, but I was feeling like dishing out a particularly unsophisticated pummeling at the time.