Bullied By A Disabled Man
When you think of a workplace bully, your mind might gravitate towards a Donald Trump type, or perhaps one of the Horrible Bosses. But the truth is, anyone can be a nemesis, if you allow them. Bad Vibes LLC is an equal opportunity employer.
I’d just finished my first year of uni and was looking for a casual job over the summer. Someone suggested trying a recruiter for labouring jobs. They were always looking for people, even over Christmas, and the coin was always pretty okay.
The recruiter lady was vaguely MILF-y and a big-time flirt. She probably fucked a lot of blokes who walked through her door, but spotty eighteen year old me was not so lucky. The fact that I had a car and could get to any job site in Perth was a big plus. She promised to give me a call if anything came up.
The following week she let me know there was a position available at a sheet metal factory out in Wangara. All I needed was a pair of steel capped boots.
The next day I bought a pair of boots and drove out to the factory. I arrived just before 2 in the arvo, just as the morning shift workers were clocking off. The factory was a huge shed with about ten different work stations. I found the boss, a stocky little Polish gnome, and introduced myself.
“Come with me,” the gnome said. He led me to one of the stations at the very back of the shed. “You work here. With Troy.”
Troy was a powerful unit; barrel chested and built for moving shit around. The guy was probably in his late twenties but looked ten years older. He had a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, and an intimidating five o’clock shadow. We shook hands.
“You help Troy,” the gnome said. “I show you.”
There were a bunch of recently hot dipped sheets of metal hanging on a rack behind Troy’s head. Troy unhooked one of the sheets and lay it flat on the table. The gnome and Troy used grinders to shave down all the hardened drips of zinc until the edges were even and smooth.
“Now, you do it,” the gnome said. “Listen to Troy.”
I got to work. After the second sheet I had the hang of it.
It took me about an hour to realize that there were a few kangaroos loose in Troy’s top paddock. First of all, he didn’t like to speak. I would sometimes ask for guidance about how to grind a piece of metal, and he would just point or grunt in response. And after scrutinizing the position of his eyes, I realized that he was likely somewhere on the down syndrome spectrum.
The bell rang at 6 and we broke for lunch. After just four hours I was feeling pretty beat. The work was monotonous and surprisingly demanding. I already had a ton of little cuts on both forearms from the stray bits of flying metal. And unhooking and rehooking the sheets involved a serious core workout. I scoffed my sandwiches in my car then went back to work.
As the day progressed, Troy’s mood worsened. He yelled something out, and I heard his deaf Chewbacca voice for the first time over the factory’s din, but I couldn’t make out what he was trying to say. I asked him to repeat himself but he ignored me. A couple minutes later he called me a “fucking cunt” out of the blue. I asked him what the problem was but once again he ignored me. For the rest of the shift he muttered nasty things under his breath and kept shooting me dirty looks. At one point he picked up a wrench and it seemed like he was considering belting me with it. The bell rang at 10. I clocked off and got the fuck out of there.
The next morning I woke up in agony, moving-house-without-movers type pain. I only had a couple hours to myself at home before it would be time to drive back to Wangara for my next shift with old mate Troy.
Every fiber in my being wanted me to pick up the phone, call the recruiter and tell her that the gig wasn’t right for me. But unfortunately, at that point in my life, I wasn’t a quitter. I told myself that perhaps Troy had been in a particularly bad mood the day before, and that things would be different moving forward.
The next 8 weeks were hell. Turned out Troy was in a miserable mood every day of his life, and his aggressive behaviour continued. Each day he’d swear, spit and yell in my direction. It was like I’d gone down on his Mum without buying her dinner. At first, I repeatedly tried to get to the bottom of his frustration, but I eventually realized that my attempts at inquiry were futile. So I just got on with the job and did my best to ignore his brutal presence.
The hours were not ideal. I’d start each shift at 2 and clock off at 10 at night, and so during the week all I did was work and sleep. I’d finish my final shift on Friday, race to wherever my mates were partying, and get shitfaced. I told them about Troy’s antics - instead of sympathy all I got was laughter. The beers had a numbing effect and the trauma from the week would drift away.
On my final week at the factory I got a lucky break. I was assigned to a new 4-man station that would be working on extra large pieces. A cheerful bloke called Brendan took my place on Troy’s station.
That afternoon I saw the gnome yelling at Troy, who had his head down like a naughty puppy dog. The one-way screaming match lasted for a long time, but I was too far away to hear what was being said.
After the shift ended I was about to jump in my car when Brendan ran over to me. “Hey man, how was Troy to work with?” he said.
“Ahh… not great.”
“Rude fucking prick,” Brendan said, shaking his head. “Cunt was swearing at me under his breath all day long.”
It was weirdly heartening to get confirmation that Troy had a problem with everyone, and not just me. I put two and two together. “You let the boss know?”
“Too right I fucking did! No way I’m working him tomorrow unless he shuts the fuck up.”
I sometimes wonder where old mate Troy is now. Poor old bugger might still be in the same factory. Wherever he is, I hope he’s changed his ways, because he certainly changed mine.