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       DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS
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Writing doesn't provide enough money to pay the bills right now. Sigh. "Boo-hoo" sobs the tortured artist. So in order to support a minimal degree of creature comforts, I work in the building trades -- sometimes solo and sometimes in a crew. When with a crew, the melting pot sometimes boils up a foul stew. But there are ways to deal with this.

An odd behavioral pattern I've picked up is whistling at work: you know, as in that old tune Whistle While You Work from the Disney movie Snow White. Sometimes it's an actual song and other times it's just some blues riff or partial melody. Whatever the selection, this whistling is a primitive yet effective form of jamming technology that blocks out the din of idiocy that sometimes surrounds one on work sites.

Such idiocy reared its ugly head this past Friday. As contractually agreed upon the preceeding day, my electrical rough wiring was to be completed by Friday noon, as that was when the sheet rockers were to arrive. Though this noon deadline was tight for the work to be done, it was doable. The general contractor came walking in and informed me that there had been a change and the sheet rockers would be in at 11 A.M. to start their work. With this news, the Alien was not a happy camper.

Brief discussion and cussin' followed, with the bottom line being I'd be compensated well for the contractual change. Cool enough. However, as the morning progressed, one of the other tradesmen on the job was taking some cheap shots at my reluctance to "take it in the shorts" for the team. Instead of engaging in another argument, there was a more effective approach to dealing with his snide remarks.

Enter whistling: more specifically, the theme song of the 60s television series, The Wild, Wild West. Don't ask why that particular song. It just somehow presented itself, so I ran with it. On and on. Over and over again. Once during a brief pause between sessions, I enthusiastically yelled, "One more time!"

No one joined in. Undeterred, I whistled on.

After some time, I stopped for about five minutes, only to start up again with renewed gusto. That five minute respite provided a false sense of relief for the affected and ratcheted up the agony quotient a few notches when the theme resumed.

Can you say mind fuck?

After one full hour (yes, I kept track of the time) of whistling that one, lone song, I abruptly stopped and walked up to my antagonist. With nary six-inches separating our noses, I looked deep into his eyes and asked: "Do you want to be Artemus Gordon or James West?"

You could have heard a pin drop - on a construction site. The dude was dumb-fucking-struck. Poor bastard didn't know whether to shit or wind his watch. Cerebral castration. Neural neutralization.

And although the other workers had witnessed the entire morning's events, the funny thing was, nobody said a word. Oh sure, there were plenty of glances back and forth, but nary a word was uttered. Walking around wrapped in an explosive vest with a finger on the actuator trigger couldn't have commanded more attention than that grand finale of the "Do you want to be Artemus Gordon or James West" question.

We all went back to work. Everyone left me alone - surprise, surprise. The wiring was done by 11. And the bonus bucks were delivered at noon.

Hunter S. Thompson proclaimed "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Sometimes these forays into professional weirditude can backfire. But sometimes they work. And when they do work, it not only makes you laugh today and tomorrow, but it plants what I'll call a laugh seed that sprouts for years and years. Although the initial plan is to deliver a crippling mind fuck, there's an added bonus in that the target of the mind fuck, as well as any witnesses thereof, will be asking people for years and years, "Did I ever tell you the story about the Wild, Wild West whistler guy?" And more often than not, the story will be prefaced with, "Now I'm not shitting you: this really happened."

I've never played well with others ...


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Revised - Wednesday, March 22, 2006