Three’s Company

“Be yourself, forget yourself.” I have no idea who said that and under what circumstances. Whoever and whatever, the idea is oxymoronic in the extreme. It is something like: Remember who you are but think nothing of it. Or: You are what you were but aren’t any longer. As a graduate of the School of Yogi Berra, it makes perfect sense to me that it doesn’t. Or is it the other way around?

On the other hand, listening to the odd way some people talk in the Small Office, you must wonder if they took this advice literally.

Angela is an office manager who has thick ankles and talks in the third person. She heads up a task force created to get the various, rather autonomous, divisions in the Small Office to combine their purchases in order to save money. I recently overheard her giving hell to an underling. “Angie is not happy that we overpaid for these business forms. Angie wonders why we didn’t bother getting three quotes. Angie wonders what certain people were thinking.” I can imagine what the underling was thinking… something like: maybe Angie should seek out a short pier.

Thomas, without looking up said, “I’m right here, Helen”.

Then there is Helen, a spinstery type who I believe was a sea urchin in a former life. She doesn’t talk in the third person; she talks to the third person. Helen is a coordinator in our Customer Care Center. I heard her telling an inside sales rep named Richard “Tell Thomas to not leave orders in the OUT basket when he goes home, hoping that someone else will pick them up the next morning”. She was not using her inside voice. Thomas, without looking up, said, “I’m right here, Helen.” Helen turned quickly to Richard and replied, “Tell Thomas that if he’s right here, he should enter his own orders before he leaves”. Thomas, without looking up, said nothing.

My favorite sideways talker is Don, our west coast sales manager with weirdly moveable hair. He was in a sales meeting and was addressing a dozen or so reps. It was his habit to turn every conversation into a question and answer period and to use the royal “we”. “Are we happy with our results?” he asked the assembled. “I certainly hope we aren’t. Are we going to do something about it? Yes, indeed we are.” Questions. Answers. We are twice blessed.

Was I witnessing a strange kind of displacement disorder or, perhaps, a subtle manifestation of passive-aggressive behavior? Or was it all simply a case of people being what they are and then forgetting themselves. The bard, anticipating Yogi Berra, would likely have said: To be and not to be.

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