Cousin Fester has a colleague. They’ve been working together since forever. That colleague has never done anything to me, but I immediately disliked him. Not as much as their other colleague, who also has done nothing to me but automatically makes me roll my eyes when I see him. This might have more to do with the second colleague appropriating from a culture he could never belong to. That, and dating his boss’s daughter. But, as my brother and several good friends would say, “none of your business. Butt out.”
I don’t talk to the Cultural Appropriation Guy, but the other one I had a brief conversation with. Mainly because I was doing research in his field, so thought I’d ask for five minutes of his time. Predictably, this did not go well. He tried to fob me off, while his wife was trying to help me. I’d never met her before, and here she was going against her husband, trying to convince him to help a total stranger. It made me really look at her. She’s from our corner of the world, and in my experience those chicks don’t like it when you approach their significant others, even if it is for help and / or advice. But here she was, practically twisting her husband’s arm.
As her husband wasn’t having any of it, though, I do what you normally do in those situations, thanked him for his time and moved on. What I didn’t know then but realized pretty quickly was how dependent on Cousin Fester this colleague was, in fact how dependent on Cousin Fester all his colleagues (though really, subordinates) were. They worked in the same department (still do), and Cousin Fester was essentially the boss. This I knew. What I didn’t know was that people didn’t sneeze without Cousin Fester’s permission.
Which would have been fine and well, he wasn’t my only hope for help, I believe in all hands on deck / the more, the merrier. So I was asking anyone I could think of, and asking them whom they knew who might be able to help out. Except there were two problems. One, I was on their turf, two, a mutual friend / colleague had overheard. I love this friend with all my heart, but he’s one of the biggest blabbermouths I’ve ever met. If I’d brought the guy I was crushing on together with this friend (and they knew each other, so it wasn’t that far fetched), he’d know exactly how I was feeling and wouldn’t have been forced into second-guessing. And Blabbermouth told everyone who was there, including The Dude.
The Dude was, and still is, a very good and close friend of mine. Soon after we met, he introduced me to his wife, and the three of us became thick as thieves. His wife started to talk to me in Finnish as often as possible and told off The Dude if he didn’t do the same. The Dude used to work for Cousin Fester as well, but I didn’t find out until their CEO told me. He knows how I feel about Cousin Fester and a few others. And he’s been a huge help just by being there and understanding where I’m coming from. He once played wingman when I made a casual remark about a mutual friend, and when I called him on it later, both he and his wife suddenly went deaf. It really moved me that someone cared that much about me as a friend.
But back then, I wasn’t sure how he saw me, casual acquaintance, friend? I hadn’t met his wife yet, so this was really early on. And you don’t burden a casual acquaintance with the same problems you’d discuss with a friend.
The Dude was having none of that though. When he saw me outside smoking, he came over with the Praetorian Guard. I call him that, because if you were a casting director for Gladiator II, you’d hire him as a Roman. He’s purely Finnish, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was mixed with something Mediterranean. It was raining buckets that afternoon, so we were all squeezed under the awning. Earlier, The Dude had told me joke after joke in which the punchline was the stupidity of the guy who worked in the same field as Cousin Fester’s colleague. But I didn’t catch on. He’s a prankster by nature. And normally, I would have cottoned on to it straight away, but back then it didn’t cross my mind that he already considered me a friend. I was always close friends with guys, so that was nothing weird. I just thought they weren’t too keen on me being on their turf. Which just goes to show the power Cousin Fester had over my mind, or the power I gave him over my mind.
The Guard just stood there saying nothing. The Dude reached into the lower pocket of his cargo pants and fished out an article. I realized only now that he must have cut it out a few minutes before.
“Read,” he told me. “See how much you understand. I’ve got more where that came from.”
Then he mentioned a book, which contained all the material I would have asked of Cousin Fester’s colleague, told me he had it and would loan it to me. The Guard just stood there and said nothing. I got it then, the message they were telling me in their quiet, Finnish way: you just keep coming back. Don’t worry about the other guy, you’re always welcome here. You’re our friend.