You know when I said in the last post that no one walks up to me and says, “And you’re not sweet at all”? That’s not entirely true.
See, I used to work with Mike.
I loved working with Mike. I judge how much I like someone by how much they make me laugh. Mike could make me laugh until I couldn’t breathe.
One time we went on a three week business trip to New Jersey. We each drove our own car. I drove my car, Mike drove his car, and Emily drove her car. Emily? Yes. Mike lived in Baltimore but his girlfriend, Emily, lived in New York, so they met in New Jersey for a few days.
The drive to New Jersey was the worst drive I’ve ever driven. The details would take an entire blog, so let’s just say that I got completely and thoroughly lost. All I remember is driving on Route 1-9 in the dark, in the pouring rain and passing the same huge neon Budweiser sign over and over and over and over. After stopping at a few gas stations where no one spoke a word of English and passing a number of scary looking gangs on corners, I finally made it to the hotel where I collapsed.
In the lobby I recognized Emily from pictures and we chatted for a few minutes and she told me that she, too, got completely and thoroughly lost and kept passing the huge neon Budweiser sign over and over and over. I called Mike to warn him to be sure he didn’t miss the turn. Because if he missed the turn and saw the huge neon Budweiser sign, that meant he’d be stuck in an endless loop passing that huge neon Budweiser sign for a good hour.
Of course he didn’t believe us women drivers and said, “I’ll be fine. I don’t get lost.” Uh huh. Sure, Mike.
Obviously, Mike missed the turn, got completely and thoroughly lost and had the pleasure of viewing the huge neon Budweiser sign over and over and over.
The next day, we carpooled to the office and saw some poor Indian man driving on Route 1-9 with a map crumpled in his hand and a hopeless frown on his face. Mike went into a routine right on the spot, in the worst Indian accent ever, of the thoughts of the Indian man as he passed the Budweiser sign over and over and over. It’s probably the funniest comedy routine I’ve ever heard. I’m sure a few brain cells died that day from lack of oxygen. I could not inhale. Could not.
But we also used to fight. A lot. I mean, we fought so much in our shared office that the person in the next office over had to bang on the walls to get us to stop screaming at each other. Kinda like throwing a tin can at howling cats.
Our first fight was on that same New Jersey business trip.
Mike and I had looked over the hotels on the recommended list provided by our company. Mike wanted to stay in the most expensive hotel on the list at the company’s expense, just because we could. Another coworker had taken the same trip and stayed in a cheaper hotel. She told me about walking through a charming little town with flowers in all the yards and eating at quaint restaurants with delicious food.
If the cheaper hotel was so good, can you just imagine the expensive hotel?
Turns out the only reason the hotel we picked was more expensive is because it was closer to the airport. It was right on the side of some sort of freeway in the middle of an industrial park. Thousands of cars screamed by at 70 mph on their way to sightsee the Budweiser sign. The entire hotel was surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire at the top. To exit the hotel, you had to swipe your room card so that the gate thing (like at a toll booth) would rise and the spikes would lower into the cement.
Yes, you read that right. Spikes, to puncture your tires, had to lower into the ground in order for you to leave the hotel.
What sort of hotel is surrounded by barbed wire, gates, and spikes in the ground? I didn’t feel particularly safe.
A couple of days into the trip Mike and I were on lunchbreak at the office. As we waited for the elevator, I told Mike I was thinking of transferring to a new hotel. Mike didn’t want to move. It’s all a bit of a blur and I don’t know how it happened, but somehow or other everything spiraled out of control and by the time we reached the first floor, we were in a flat out brawl. There was yelling and spit flying and hands gesticulating. The elevator was packed and the other occupants of the elevator were pressed against the walls in horrified disbelief.
Right at the end, Mike sneered out, “You know what? You’re just like X.” Oooooo. X is a coworker that he knew I couldn’t stand. Could Not Stand. And he knew it. That was fighting dirty. I was so furious that I’m pretty sure Mike would be dead right now except that the door opened and he got away.
The thing with Mike is that he’s the only person where we’ve both been absolutely furious at each other, but never offended. We could argue and yell and tell each other how amazingly stupid the other person was being, but we would actually resolve the issue that way. One or the other of us would realize, “Oh no! S/he’s right! I am being amazingly stupid!” and we would fix the problem, stop the argument, and walk away friends.
And I’ll tell you, it felt great to be able to tell someone exactly what I thought of them without hurting their feelings. Maybe the rest of you do that all the time, but I’ve never been able to. People’s feelings get hurt pretty much any time I try it, so I’m careful.
Now maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, they were attracted to each other.” Nope. There’s no way to convince you otherwise if you think that’s the case, but we weren’t. Mike was like my cousin. I was the goody-two-shoes cousin and he was the smoking behind the 7-11 cousin who would meet for summer vacation at the lake and have the Best Summer Vacations Ever. But once vacation was over and we went back to our real lives we’d have nothing in common and would never have run in the same circles.
Outside of work we had nothing in common. Nothing. But while we were thrown together in that office with a job to do, it was magical.
All this is leading up to Mike’s pronouncement that, “and you’re not sweet at all!”
All our coworkers thought I was sweet. Don’t know why. I don’t particularly try to be sweet. I don’t consider myself sweet. But they thought I was.
Only Mike knew the truth. In the middle of one of our milder arguments (I’m pretty sure I was winning that one), Mike looked at me with irritated frustration and said, “You know, everyone thinks you’re so sweet. And you’re not sweet at all!”
From time to time, someone would pop their head in our office and ask me a question. I’d answer it, and (I’m not kidding this happened over and over) the person would then say, “Oh, thank you! That’s so helpful! You’re so sweet!”
It was all I could do to keep a straight face when they said that. Man, I should have won some sort of acting award for my performance. The sweet smile, the blinky eyelashes. I’d hear Mike in his corner exhaling a pained sigh.
When the office door would close, I’d give Mike the cheekiest grin I could. Didn’t need to say a word. He’d glare at me, shake his head, and go back to work. Sometimes he’d say, “And the worst part of it is that if I try to tell anyone you’re not sweet, they’ll think I’m being a jerk. No one will ever believe the truth.”
And that’s exactly what made it so much fun.
Here are some pictures of Mike. We used to write newsletters for our company and we’d put badly photoshopped pictures of ourselves in the newsletter. Here’s Mike as an ape in Planet of the Apes.
And as a musketeer: