I work with the weirdest bunch of people I’ve ever met. Seriously. Most of them are men, white British men in their late forties or fifties who immigrated when the company decided to expand its operations in South Africa. There are a few women on site too but the men outnumber us 20 to 1. Even though I was blessed with the ability to engage in the vernacular with everyone and their granny, I often converse in my mock-British accent with the Brits and in Afrikaans with a few of the Afrikaaners. It keeps things interesting. But in this Fortune 500 Company we call home from 08:00am until 16:30pm, there are more than just a few whack jobs that lurk in the hallways.
There’s Benjamin, a 65 year old Engineer who’s a month away from retirement. Ben is originally from Britain too and happens to be fluent in Arabic after having worked for a number of years in the UAE, often putting me to shame. He even signed up for a degree in Arabic at a University a few years ago. He usually calls me up in the mornings:
Ben: As-salaamalaykum Blossom.
Ben: Rambles on in Arabic
Me: I think I skipped that class
Ben: Blossom, I’m starving
Me: So eat
Ben: But I can’t, can I? I’m fasting
Me: Ok then, fast
Ben: But I need my morning coffee innit
Me: But you just said you’re going to fast
Ben: Yeah but coffee’s not food innit, so technically I won’t be eating anyfhink.
Me: Ok then have your morning coffee, its not like you’re obliged to fast
Ben: But I’m fasting, so I can’t be drinking coffee and wotnot innit?
Ben usually takes all his holidays in the UAE, where he spends his entire holiday in peak hour traffic, jumping from one bus/train to another, chatting up strangers in Arabic. He reckons that the only way to really learn is to chat to the locals. And when one of them says a word he doesn’t understand, he looks it up in his dictionary and uses the same word on his next unsuspecting victim.
There’s Richard, also British who’s always laughing about something. He never let me forget the day that I forgot my shoes at home and had to walk around in my gym trainers/tekkies. And he usually calls me every evening, to make sure that I don’t forget to pack my shoes.
There’s Dennis, always making fun of me too, twisting my words and threatening to tell the big boss things I supposedly said.
There’s Donnie, always playing pranks…rearranging all the letters on my keyboard, resetting the language on my Cisco IP desk phone to French, bubble-wrapping my entire desk…
There’s Henry, also close to retirement, who drilled holes in his Tupperware so that he could lock his lunch away with two combination locks after someone repeatedly ate his lunch stored in the fridge.
There’s Bob, whose wife took him sky diving for his birthday, and when his parachute failed to open, he plunged 15 000 feet to the ground. And lived.
There’s Anthony, whose best friend is Uncle Jack (Daniels) and knows everything there is to know about cars.
There’s Kevin, who’s an expert in anything financial related including the Stock market and the best investment options, even though he’s a Chemical Engineer.
There’s Dewald, who’s always cracking the funniest jokes in Afrikaans and happens to confuse his tenses when he tries to speak in English.
There’s Mark who believes that every woman will try to poison her husband eventually and doesn’t allow his wife to make his lunch.
There’s Nicolas, a fitness freak who spends his lunchtime jogging around the Plant in his sweats.
There’s Uncle Bill, a Mechanical Engineer who spent 12 years working in the British Navy on the high seas, travelling to every continent.
There’s John, who’s always getting divorced because of his affairs with his secretaries.
One of the things I’ve realised while working with these men is that they love to gossip, far more than most women do. If you want the world to know something, just tell one of these men. It’s astounding what they can do. That aside, I prefer working with men…there’s less drama. Maybe it’s because they’re all too busy gossiping to stab you in the back.