[Preface: I wrote this rather plain story in response to a job application when I first moved to Israel. As I remember, I was asked to write an article about a psychological aspect of something that had happened in my life.
Lo and behold a week after I submitted it I got a call telling me that out of over 300 applicants, I had placed “second.” My ego was soon put in it’s place when the Russian accented woman on the other end of the line continued:
“Unfortunately, we are only hiring one person at this time.”
I was then promised that I would soon be hired, but I never was. And, it turns out, this exact scenario has happened to numerous other English speakers that I know in this country – same company, same response – with no hire – absolutely nobody knows of anybody who has ever been hired by this “company” – ever. And, it had been going on for years.
Edging toward the slightly paranoid, I might suspect that perhaps this “company” is not a company but some kind of internal Israeli intelligence unit (Shin Bet?) that monitors new English speaking arrivals (you know – looking for those fresh off the boat who might write a story that maybe inadvertently praises Hamas and it’s recruiting techniques, or a story that somehow expresses an interest in importing certain lethal chemicals, etc.).
Or just maybe that Russian babe was telling the truth. Anyways, here goes…]
I remember an incident wherein I had a problem with a co-worker. He was ill. He kept coughing. Perhaps he should have stayed home, but like most folk, he probably couldn’t afford to. I know I couldn’t.
On this particular day, in an open room filled with people working on computers, I was sitting ‘directly down wind,’ so to speak, from his cough. And his coughing was incessant. I began to imagine that I could feel his ‘germs’ landing on the back of my neck. I said nothing and tried to concentrate solely on my task at hand, which was inputting a large legal document.
After several hours his cough was unabated, nor was an attempt being made to ‘cover’ his mouth. Finally I cracked. I got up abruptly – shot up is probably a more apt description. I marched around my desk and went up and without saying ‘excuse me’ or anything that might have giving him an inkling as to why I might be at his desk or what was about to come, I launched into what can only be described as a mini-tirade.
“Do you know that you are coughing non-stop” I asked excitedly. I’m sure he did.
“Do you know that you are probably causing others to become ill?” Ditto on his assumed response.
I continued in this vein of interrogation for what later, in retrospect, seemed like a good five minutes. When I finished my Gestapo like interrogation of him – during which I left no room for answers – I marched as abruptly as I had arrived, back to my seat. I felt better. At least for a few minutes.
Soon came lunch. I went outside, blew off a little steam, ate a little lunch, and went back to work. As soon as I sat down I was told that the Manager wanted to talk to me.
I went into her office. She was a large, rather kindly woman whom I had liked – up until that moment. She proceeded to read me the ‘riot act.’ My memories of what she said exactly are now dim. But the results of them were clear. I was fired. Something to the effect that I had ‘assaulted’ a fellow co-worker. I had ‘intimidated’ them.
I remember feebly asking something to the effect of “What about me? My rights?” About having the right to remain healthy on the job. She would have none of it and, by five o’clock, I was gone.
Now. What could I have done differently? The co-worker in question was ill. No question about it. Perhaps, you might say, I could have changed my seat? No way.
How about asking him to move? Wouldn’t work. The logistics weren’t right.
The simple answer is usually the right answer – I should have gone to my Manager. Left it up to her. By leap-frogging over her managerial responsibilities (which included maintaining a healthy work environment for her employees), I had gone out of my depth. And I had made several enemies within the office environment (after all, my ‘interrogation’ of my fellow employee had been witnessed by several others – seems they didn’t like my style either).
My simple, yet possibly sage advice is this: When in an office environment, follow protocol. Obey the rules. Be kind and patient with your fellow human beings (as for your computer, you can growl at it).
And remember to always take your vitamins.
[…that’s it …nothing too fancy, just a guy who doesn’t like to be coughed on …mmm, would I be paranoid to think that there are “people” reading this piece who won’t show up on my AC pages viewed account?]