I've got these two people who work for me who've been having an ongoing battle. First there's M. He's a 52 year old South Indian Tamil chap. He's as hardworking as an ox and as keen as mustard. He is honestly one of the best people I have here in terms of workload and eagerness to get on with things and do as much as possible. If there's extra work that needs doing he's always first in the queue. If I was the type of chap with occasional scant regard for employment law I'd get him to work 18 hours or even 20 a day. Of course I'm not like that though.
He has downsides though. He's not exactly a master of the English language and he's deaf as a post. This makes communicating with him a bit of a problem. He does speak English and understand it, the problem is that most things have to be said about 237 times before he hears the words, then they have to be repeated a few times whilst he gets to grips with the comprehension side of things. I think it would be a nice stroke of English understatement to describe a chat with M as interesting and challenging, a bit like a chat with my Dad actually. He's also got a way in which he winds people up the wrong way. I don't think he means it but it just happens. Partly to do with his lack of English and partly to do with his slightly antagonistic nature, it's a dangerous mix.
I'm not a necrophiliac or anything like that, I don't want to sound ambiguous here. In fact I've never had a desire to write with both hands anyway. But M has a peculiar smell to his persona too. And it's the smell of dead bodies, not that I have had significant experience of dead body odour. It's just that he has this sort of ghostly smell, like I would imagine you'd get from an old caretaker in an episode of Scooby Doo. The old caretaker who turns out to be the baddie, you know the story. M has that whiff and it kind of exists as a cloud that travels everywhere with him. I have a strong feeling that he may be a ghost, or a Scooby Doo character.
Then there's the other party in this. I'll call her A, because that's one of the letters in the alphabet. A is Greek, very large, with very bleached blonde hair. She has a pleasant demeanour and is quite religious. She wears far too much make up, has little sense of style about her and is one of those types who could benefit by going on one of those TV makeover programmes but wouldn't, because she thinks she's way too stylish. Frankly I find her as scary as fuck. If I met her in a dark alley, even though she knows me and works for me, I'd run. I'd run as fast and as far as my little Sri Lankan drummer's legs could carry me. Then I'd shit myself.
She's a genuinely kind person too. Last year she went to Lourdes and brought me back a bottle of holy water. It's one of the most tacky looking things I have ever seen, a dodgy plastic bottle painted badly by hand in a blue crayon looking effort. But the thought was nice and I appreciated it. Frankly I hadn't even realised beforehand that she was remotely interested in cricket.
A is also a good worker, but with a slightly lazy attitude. She has made a bit of a niche for herself in that she takes care of one of our sorting frames (we process mail). Her frame is a bit like her living room, not that I have any intention of ever seeing her living room. There are pictures up in this work area, it's all quite homely and welcoming. I have been surprised that she doesn't have a real fire burning in the corner there during the winter months. But I've tolerated the behaviour as I think that people who assume ownership of a role are often ones who take that role seriously and do their job with pride, which she does. So it's a bit of a win win, just with some losses on both sides.
For several months this feud has been simmering. M, our South Indian smelling of dead bodies chap and A, our big fat Greek scary woman, have been on the verge of a big fight. There's been a few shouting matches, not helped by M's deafness, A's Greekness and their fiery tempers. Things appeared to calm down some weeks ago as they came to a ceasefire agreement. I'm not sure how familiar you are with these ceasfire agreements but, in my opinion, they are about as strong as one of those stripey blue and white carrier bags, the ones that split at soon as they are touched. Just waiting to be broken.
Broke it did. Last week I got a text message (an SMS to you lot) from one of my partners to say that it had all kicked off in the warehouse between the two of them. They were both there working the evening shift and something had taken place. It was Friday night, I was happy to sit back, wait for the sparks on Monday, which may have just dissipated into the night over the weekend. I'm not sure if sparks do dissipate but you get my drift.
Well they didn't. On Monday morning M came to me to complain about A. All sorts of accusations were flying around my office. I felt like one of those chaps who has to keep ducking and moving his head out of the way as he tries desperately to avoid some bees that have been attacked by a lizard and are on the warpath. I listened to M, there's little point in saying stuff to him as the deafness and comprehension issues are always present. I let him sound off and get things out of his system. Then I told him I'd speak to the Greek woman before I made a decision on what to do next. He wanted her sacked because of all her "unreasonable" behaviour. He hadn't mentioned his alleged threat to kill her, which I had been told about. Fun and games.
Then, on Monday evening, I was sitting quietly in my newly decorated and refurbished office and A came up the stairs and headed in my direction. When a large mammal like that charges I know exactly what to do. I sat totally still, I didn't even move my eyes, I could hardly feel myself breathing as I waited for her to retreat. Had she been an elephant my plan would have worked, but she's a fat Greek woman with decent eyeseight so she saw me and headed for me.
"Mr Rhythmic I don't know what to do" she said.
There was a hint of tears in those big, overly made up with that blue stuff that women use on their eyes that looks like crayon, eyes. I'm not good with women who cry, or men for that matter. I think crying is an evil invention, made to stop a fellow in his tracks and to feel sympathy. If you're a woman reading this and you want to get something from me then just turn up at my doorstep whilst crying. That'll do the trick. If you're the sarongtroubleshooter woman just turn up, there's no need for tears.
She told me her "story" how M had threatened to kill her, how they used to be friendly but she "doesn't know what happened but it all changed", how she is at her wit's end and how she wants him to be fired. I had a very brief thought that perhaps they had had a fling and things hadn't worked out, causing bad feeling and death threats. These brief thoughts are a nightmare aren't they? To think of those two having sex is a terrible, terrible vision. If there was a porno film showing it I don't think even someone like Java Jones would watch it. That's the only way I can attempt to portray their ugliness.
I tried to put the thought away, to park it and move on. I knew that it would haunt me, and I was right.
I continued to listen to A's story. I made a point of not letting her sit down on the chair in my office. It had some stuff on it which I consciously left there to keep her standing up. I figured that it would prevent the thing taking too long and she could do with the exercise. I'm kind like that.
So, having heard her out, resisted her crying and not being moved by her pleas for M's dismissal and having heard out M and resisted his pleas for A's dismissal, I pondered and tried to figure out a course of action. I wasn't going to fire either of them, they're both good workers, I need them and they have employment rights. The UK has some good things, like peace, Ed's Diner, Apple stores and smooth roads. Employment rights are not one of them though.
I had a flash of inspiration and remembered that story from that book, The Bible. It was that story about a King or a wise man, not one of those three wise men, but a different one. There was a baby in this story and 2 possible mothers. My memory goes quite hazy at that point but I recollected something about said wise chap threatening to chop the child in half to see if one of the mothers would back down, thereby giving a clue that she was the real one.
But, I wasn't sure if A actually had any kids, nor was I sure on the whole "threatening to chop a child in half" thing. The threat may not have worked, then I would have had to do it. There was only one mother involved here too, and I wasn't sure on that. So I thought laterally. I decided to get them together, leave them in the new posh meeting room and tell them that they are both adults and need to sort things out. I would refuse to be a middle man and go up to my office leaving them to fight, argue, kill or just possibly find a solution. Either way I'd tell the fuckers that they couldn't come out of the room until they had sorted things.
I also decided that I wouldn't tell them about my plan until getting them together, it would give them minimal opportunity to prepare a defence as such. Tuesday evening came and I grabbed them, put them in the meeting room and sat down with them. I told them that we needed to sort this out, no one would be fired but that we had to work together and behave like adults. Every time I stopped to breathe on of them would interrupt me and try to say something, to get a point across. I wasn't having any of it. I told them that I wasn't a teacher in a school acting as the middle man and that they needed to talk to each other. I didn't expect them to become best friends but that I knew they'd sort it out. Then I left, telling them I'd check back in 10 minutes.
About 10 minutes later I returned to them, half expecting to find M's body lying on the meeting room floor. As I walked into the room I smelt dead bodies, a good sign as it made me realise he was very much alive. They were arguing, it looked a bit hostile and clearly hadn't been sorted but I told them I'd return in a while. About half an hour later I returned again. Peace had been declared. I didn't ask for the details, I didn't care actually. I was just pleased that the plan had worked.
Things are happy on the warehouse floor now. They may well have decided that they both hate me, that I am the cause of their problems, but that's ok, I'll live with that.
As Mr T would say; I love it when a plan comes together.
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