There’s this guy who cleans the offices where I work. He’s in his early 20’s, and I think of him as “the Cleaning Kid,” which is a sure sign I’m getting old. The Kid comes in at night, and there’s pretty much nobody monitoring him, but he works hard anyway and I like him for that. He has his routine down and hits all the areas pretty quickly, then he picks some corner that’s hiding some dirt and spends about 10minutes working on that thankless and sisyphustic task before calling it a night. Somebody in management came to the control room and decided that the area behind my computer monitors was a disgusting breeding ground for dust bunnies (which it was) and complained to the cleaning company. I used to clean behind there about once every 2 weeks when I was on night shift, but when the vacuum cleaner disappeared I felt that I was excused from that duty.
A day or 2 later an old guy who worked for (owned?) the cleaning company came by. He craned his neck around behind my horseshoe of 20 monitors and tsked. He asked me what I thought of the cleaning service. And I said I liked it fine, and if anybody wasn’t satisfied with it, it was because they hadn’t made their expectations clear. That Kid works.
Months go by and then one night the Kid made some comment wondering whether people thought he did a good job. I recounted that his boss had come up here after somebody complained about my horseshoe, but I told him “if anybody wasn’t satisfied with it, it was because they hadn’t made their expectations clear. That Kid works.”
“Wow. Thanks man.” The Kid replied. “Unless you’re just saying that to make me feel good.”
“Yeah, like I care about your feelings enough to lie to you.”
In the hush that followed I see that Daniel is shaking with silent laughter.
“Did that come out too harsh?” I ask innocently.
“Yes. A bit harsh, Shad.”
I didn’t apologize to the Kid for the burn, and it took me days to realize why I reacted the way I did. In his desire to milk the compliment for greater assurances he implied I was a liar. I pride myself on my honesty.
I told my insightful wife this story and she said “that’s why everyone is always so stunned when you get rough. You start out smiling and giving compliments and then out of nowhere you hit ‘em with a “Yeah, like I care about your feelings.” If I was an asshole as the baseline the mean things that I say would roll right off of people. Instead I start out all friendly. It’s like my left hand is a sock-puppet that distracts them before the right-cross.
This is now officially dubbed “the sock-puppet combo.”