I work with this guy Willie. Willie is the kind of person that I would generally file in my “how people relate to my life” book as a nonentity. You meet them, they make pretty much no impression on you whatsoever, you go your separate ways, and then they’re never thought of again.
But like I said, I work with this guy. He’s the guy that my boss hired to lift shit when I wrecked my back a while ago. The thing about nonentity people is that they can quickly move from that basically inoffensive spot to something much worse.
He annoys me these days. He’s boringly cynical. Fun people might be cynical, but at least they make me laugh, you know? Willie, he just talks shit all the time. You drive by some guy a the bus stop, Willie’s got a comment: “That guy right there, he’ll just sit there all day, probably got a beer in that backpack. I bet he got thrown off the bus already.”
“It looks like he’s probably a college student. Probably just, you know—waiting for the bus.”
“Nah. He’s a drunk. He’ll be drinkin’ all morning, he won’t even remember his name by this afternoon.”
This goes on all day every day. In Willie’s mind, everyone is a jobless drunk, or a lazy bastard that “is takin’ it easy ‘cause the boss is out, they havin’ themselves a little picnic ‘till he get back.”
Willie puzzles me, because he’s the first person I’ve ever met who I can’t tell if he’s actually a little retarded, or just weird. I honestly can’t tell if he has mental problems or if he’s just odd.
For a long time, I thought maybe he was just kind of stupid. I don’t think he is, though, because he has some very in-depth insights on some things. But he doesn’t process information like anyone else I know. Also, I was under the impression that he’s hard of hearing, but I’m not really sure if that’s the case anymore. I’m starting to think that he just ignores people when they talk to him. I don’t know—he’s a strange fella.
Anyways, here’s the problem: Willie is beginning to stink.
When he first started working, he smelled fine. We work in a warehouse full of chemicals, and we spend most of the day lifting shit (although since my back stopped working, I haven’t really been lifting much at all), so we don’t smell like flowers or anything, unless you’re talking about some sort of special shit flower that grows in junkyards and sewage plants.
But every day, Willie came in smelling fine. The last couple of weeks, though, this hasn’t been the case. I noticed on the Tuesday before last that when Willie came in to work in the morning, he was smelling a little rough. It was already stupid hot, though, so I figured he had probably worked up a pretty good sweat walking from the bus stop. We did our work, I dropped him off at the bus stop, and that was that.
Except that wasn’t that. Because when Willie came in on Wednesday, he smelled slightly worse than when I had dropped him off on Tuesday. By Thursday, he smelled so bad that it was giving me a headache.
I know that I tend to exaggerate sometimes, but be assured—this is not one of those times. The dude’s scent was making my head pound, and when we got into the delivery truck, I actually had to put my head out the window. He only works Monday through Thursday, so thankfully that was the last day I had to put up with it.
He called in sick on Monday, which was actually pretty nice. When he showed up on Tuesday, he didn’t smell nearly as bad, leading me to believe that perhaps he only bathes on the weekends. But I decided to give him a chance—perhaps he just didn’t get around to doing laundry the week before.
I mean, I was a trashman for a while, and at the time, I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, in my house, and I had a girlfriend who also smoked. My point is, there have been times that I’m sure I smelled funky. I generally try to smell nice, but I’ve had to wear dirty clothes before, due to some misunderstanding with the laundry, so I know that shit happens.
But by Wednesday, Willie was beginning to smell bad once more. And by Thursday, he was reeking again.
And it pisses me off. I start out trying to be cool, but after being around this stench for hours, I’m an irritated, annoyed mess of aggression. I try to keep calm, but I’m getting close to my snapping point, kids.
To add to the problem, Willie has grown accustomed to getting a ride to the bus stop. From me. In my car. This isn’t a problem, except for when he smells like a fucking corpse. The first Thursday that he smelled all nasty, I got lucky—my boss needed Willy to go do some yard work or something, so I was Willie-less for the afternoon. This last Thursday, I told Willie that he could go on and go home—we were done with our work, and I just had a few more things to take care of before going home.
“That’s okay,” he said. “I’m gonna hang out until two, so I can get my hours.”
Shit. “Okay,” I told him. “I’m going to finish pulling this stuff, and then I’m heading home. Probably be about ten minutes.”
I finished doing my thing, resigned to the fact that Willie was going to funk up my ride. I went downstairs and said, “All right, man, I’m outta here—you stayin’ or goin’?”
“I’m going. Let me just finish this up.”
When I’m ready to leave work, I’m ready to leave work, you know? And after working around his stink all day, I’m already pretty pissed off at Willie. But I’m trying to be a good person these days, so I just tell him to go ahead and finish up, but try to hurry, because I’m ready to go home.
I close up the warehouse, Willie finishes up, grabs his stuff, and we go to sign our timecards. And then, as I’m about to walk out the door, Willie says that he needs to go talk to the boss right quick.
“I’m trying to leave here, Willie.”
“I’m just gonna go talk to him right quick,” he said. I waited five minutes, and when Willie still wasn’t done, I left.
I felt kind of like a dick, but fuck it. It’s a three or four block walk to the bus stop, and I’m not his limo driver. I figure if you need a ride, be ready when the ride-giver is ready.
I’m sort of concerned that he’s going to be pissed off when he shows up at work tomorrow…if he shows up at work tomorrow—Willie has a habit of showing up to work about every three days or so. My boss—who is inching closer to brain damage every day, I think—once told me, in all seriousness, “Well, at least Willie’s reliable—he always calls to tell us when he isn’t coming in to work.”
What I’m more concerned about is that when he shows up, he’s going to show up stinking. Generally, I’m pretty good at reading people. I mean, I would usually know how to handle this problem. But Willie is a mystery to me—I can’t get a read on him, so I can’t formulate a plan on dealing with this problem of him reeking up the entire warehouse. I can’t just tell him, “Hey, Willie, you stink—do something about it, okay?”
I’ve worked with people that I could say that to. One time at Circuit City, this guy was talking to me, and I pulled out a pack of gum and handed him a piece.
“No thanks,” he said.
“Trust me, bro—you want it.”
“Oh, shit! My breath smells?”
All the people standing around us thought I was being a dick. The guy didn’t think so—he was trying to sell TVs for Pete’s sake. You do a lot of talking when you’re trying to convince someone to buy a seven-thousand dollar TV, and if your breath smells like you’ve been eating dead birds all morning, your success rate isn’t going to be spectacular, you know?
Most people don’t want to smell, is my point. And if you can casually point out the fact that they do smell, without being an asshole about it, they generally try to fix it, and the problem is solved.
But I don’t know how that would work with Willie. How do you tell someone they stink without hurting their feelings? I’m out of ideas here, Strangelanders, but I’m going to have to find a solution by this week.
If anyone has any advice about how to broach the topic, or fix the problem, let me know.