I sit next to Norman up to eight hours a day if I am not down in the lab. Between us is a five foot panel of cloth covered cubicle wall which does nothing but allow us to work without having the other watching you. I'm okay with this. I'm not okay with Norman.
Norman is unlike anyone I have ever met in my life. He was born with out a single ounce of social graces. He is that proverbial fish out of water. He has never had a girlfriend in his life and is a self affirmed virgin at age 45. After years of gentle suggestion, I got him to try internet dating and he actually found someone who would email him back! I was shocked until I remembered the old internet dating rule that 'the odds are good but the goods are odd.' Norman and the girl communicated via email for several months and then when the girl finally told Norman that he needed to call her or she would leave, he went out and got a cellphone so that she couldn't trace it back to where he lived in case she was a rapist... his words not mine. The calling went on for only a couple weeks when she finally asked Norman out on his first date ever at age 42. They went out and she broke up with him the next day. Norman just doesn't have any social graces which is a hard fact to cover up on a date. That was the last date he ever went on.
Norman walks by the break room three times a day to scout for food left on the table. If he finds some, he will immediately load up a plate with a huge portion and then make two or three trips back during the day with no feelings that perhaps he should let some of the other people have a portion. I'm guessing part of this behavior is due to his diet at home. He eats three squares of frozen TV dinners a day, seven days a week. I've seen him in the grocery store many a time with about twenty frozen dinners stacked up in his cart and maybe a gallon of milk. That's it!
Once Norman asked me and a couple other people to help him carry a pool table down to his basement. He said that we could grill out later as payback. (This seems like someone with social graces but wait until I finish.) We stopped by after work and moved his table down and got it set up in good order by about five o'clock. By 7:30, Norman was still not picking up on our suggestions that we were hungry and so we started making excuses that we needed to go home and left. As I was leaving, Norman was just taking a package of hamburger out of the freezer.
Because I sit right next to Norman, I hear his phone conversations. He begins every one by asking What? instead of saying Hello. He loudly sighs whenever the person asks him for something on the phone and says 'I suppose' in response. If you ask him a question, you have to ask him exactly the right question if you want the right answer. A sample conversation:
Me: Norman, will this wiring harness work for my application?
Norman: (Loud sigh) Yes
Me: I can just go down and plug it between point A and point B and it will work?
Me: Point B has this connector on it?
Norman: No, point B has a different kind of connector on it.
Me: So this won't work for my application then?
Norman: Well it would with the right connector.
Me: Do you have the right connector?
Me: Does anyone here have the right connector?
Me: So I have to order one?
Me: So this wiring harness won't work for my application unless I find someone with the right connector, order it, wait until it is delivered, rewire the connector?
Norman: I suppose but it might not be long enough.
At that point I just usually walk away and cry. Pulling the correct answer from him takes a lot of skill and I have seen many a person fooled by him by accepting his first answer.
But the whole reason I began this post is because a week and a half ago, Norman came to work hacking and looking like hell had done him a number. He was obviously sick and sounded an octave lower in voice than James Earl Jones. From across the cubicle wall, I asked him why he didn't stay home today since he was obviously sick and we have two weeks of paid sick leave a year. He said he didn't have anything better to do so he came to work, totally missing the point that he may be infecting many other people who do have better things to do in their lives than to be sick at home. I washed my hands dozens of times that day but to no avail. Last week, I caught his pestilence, along with about a third of the office in his immediate vicinity and we all misses a couple days of work each.
Did I tell you that Norman just doesn't have an ounce of social graces?