Writing Calisthenics

AvatarA collection of short stories, essays, and exercises to keep my brain from rusting between larger works.

The Dick

His name - I know, I can't believe it either - is Dick.  And, well, he's a dick.  It's not the way he looks, which is an unoriginal and scruffy business casual.  He invariably wears a tech vendor's polo shirt tucked into a pair of too tight navy blue khakis and a lanyard, proudly proclaiming "ARMY" in yellow letters against a black background, and bedecked with a thick assortment of ID cards, badges, and the industry standard RSA security token.  It's not his wild black hair that needs a cut — though he gives the impression of wearing it unstylishly long as a full frontal assault on his rapidly retreating hairline.  It's not even the pepper and thoroughly salted goatee that should have remained on his younger self sometime around 1992.  No, it's really not about the way he looks at all.  In fact, there's absolutely nothing about the man that were I to see a picture of him in an employee directory or in some random Facebook photo album that would make me say "I bet that guy's a dick."             
    It's Dick's voice that makes him a dick.  It's the way he uses his voice that makes him a dick.  He sums up and he categorizes everyone he deals with, then separates and labels them with his voice.
    Dick spends a lot of time talking — on the phone and in person — and there are many people he likes to make it clear he doesn't have time for.  When he wants to express his disdain that he's forced to talk to you, (to you — Dick rarely talks with someone, and even more rarely listens) his words are clipped and his sentences are short and closed.  He leaves no room for the customary banter that would foment relationships or soften the edges of contentious business communication.  He answers social greetings or inquiries with "what did you call for?" or worse, "I assume you have a reason for calling?"
    He bullies with his words.  "You're not building my confidence in you and … Stop talking.  I'm talking here.  Look, you've proven it once again, all right?  You don't seem to care and I'm telling you, I'm 100% disappointed in you right now.  Got it?  I said stop talking!  I don't want to hear from you that…  Right.  Now you're… Look, the time for you to be sorry is…  I said stop talking.  Got it?  I'm talking here!" 
    It's not just the content of what he says either, it's the tone.  He enunciates.  He talks quickly, firing each word from his mouth as though sharpening it on his teeth.  He slaps and spits with his words.  You don't even have to understand English to recognize he's belittling someone.  Dick is a superlingual asshole.
    He's ex-military - a fact that seems relevant, though neither surprising nor necessary for a personality like this.  He talks with the attitude of one who's always held positions of petty power which he then shapes into the platform he stands on to shout down at those who are unfortunate enough to be his subordinates.
    For just a moment, in an outburst of sarcasm crafted to lure its victim into an unjustified sense of hope that he's about to say something nice, I can imagine his voice being pleasant.  I can imagine his voice as a smooth baritone saying "here you are honey" and "don't you look cute?" to the hesitant princess trick-or-treating on his doorstep.  For a second, I can hear him soothing a pup frightened by the crack of thunder from a too-close lightning strike.  But then, after sitting and listening to him bark and snap everything he's spoken for the last three months, I can't help but think that his next action would be to rear back and kick the living shit out of the poor thing.
    I try to forgive his voice.  I try to assume the best.  I try to believe that this is just a necessary part of his job — dealing with people he thinks are trying to get the best of him — that he doesn't enjoy it.  Then I catch him really laying into someone and I know — this is the part of his job he loves best.  His voice gets higher and his words come faster.  He spackles his sentences together rapid-fire with declaratives and rhetoricals: "you know what I'm gonna do?", "let me tell you what I'm gonna do," "here's what you're gonna do," and his favorite: "are you listening to me?"  He uses them to mortar a brick wall he will inevitably slam his victim into.
    I try to ignore him.  I try to not listen, but I can't.  I'm mesmerized by the way he whittles away at his victims and the groveling, obsequious responses his position forces them to respond with.  I wonder how the conversation would be going if Dick didn't have them over a barrel.  I empathize with them.  I feel their shame and their embarrassment. I feel their helplessness.  So I do the only thing I can do.  I call him a dick.


May 8, 2010 at 9:31 AM Unknown said...

Hope I never have any dealings with Dick. :)

May 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM Perplexio said...

The nice thing about dicks named Dick is that you can call them a dick without them necessarily realizing you're doing so, much like you just did.

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