Sometimes I wonder why I don’t drink more caffeine – being more alert would stop me from saying stupid crap. Unfortunately, today I earned myself a new nickname from my coworkers: The Narc.

Years ago I was taking a required ethics class and I was assigned a presentation on “an ethical dilemma involving your coworkers“. Luckily for me, I had the perfect situation. I was interning with Anonymous Software Company and there was another intern who was…unpleasant. In every way that he could be.

Unpleasant stole credit for my work multiple times for the first few months I worked here – as the senior intern he would collect work from all of the interns and present it to our boss. He was supposed to credit us by saying how much of the work we had done. I was working on a few projects directly with him, rather than being assigned side projects. He never cc’d any of the other interns on his emails to the boss, so we only found out months later that he often claimed we did less work than we actually did or omitted our names entirely from the email. I was the only one he omitted because the boss assigned the side work and would have noticed if those intern’s names were missing. Since I was working on the main project, he could easily leave my name off and make it look like he’d done everything.

He could often be found playing endless games of solitaire while email requests for various jobs piled up in his inbox. My good friend Lady Culture sat next to me at the time and would often send him small jobs to do; when she didn’t received any response from him, she would stand up and stare directly into his cube where he was usually muttering advice to himself on what move to play next. She would then look at me incredulously, while he continued to ignore her requests. He was passed around from boss to boss as everyone tried to get rid of the black hole of wasted requests. If he was tired of solitaire, he would prop a graphic novel up and spend hours reading.

Worse than his work ethic was his physical presence. He was overweight and clearly didn’t shower very often or change/clean his clothing. A stain obtained on a Monday was worn until Thursday and getting within ten feet of him led to a gag inducing smell. One day he was giving me instructions on how to enter some information into our system and he leaned over my shoulder, pointing out areas on my screen. I tried to hold my breath but I’m not a damn whale and my lungs weren’t large enough. When I finally inhaled, his odor brought tears to my eyes and I started hoping that he would either finish his lecture or that death would take pity on me and release me from that torture. I really didn’t care which happened first. When he left my cubicle, the scent lingered for hours.

He would drink massive amounts of soda every day. He had a special novelty cup from an amusement park, the kind that are gigantic, and he would refill it from the coke machine multiple times a day. It got to the point where I gave up soda because I was disgusted by watching him slurp down a gallon a day. Since he was chugging carbonated flavored water, he burped constantly. While the rest of us where typing emails, updating spreadsheets and, you know, working, Unpleasant could be found knocking back soda and burping every few minutes while restarting his game of solitaire.

After I went back to school and took a break from working for Anonymous Software Company, I received an instant message from Poww. That conversation remains etched in my memory. Apparently one Friday, everyone from the department headed to the cafe down the street to grab lunch. When they came back, they were overcome by an overwhelming stench and found Unpleasant unconscious in his cubicle. He had passed out and shit himself. Due to health concerns (and basic human empathy), the company let the whole department go home for the rest of the day while they brought in a carpet cleaner and poured disinfectant over the entire area. Unpleasant was fine, although no one knows why he fainted. I assumed from a sugar overload or overdosing on solitaire.

Eventually, he earned the ire of every worker in the department. No one could figure out how he was still employed. Since my department was made up of immature yet geeky men, they gave him a nickname referencing a monster from a well known trilogy. It’s how they refer to him to this day, even though he was let go in the first wave of layoffs during the recession. I refuse to call him this name, because it is mean and unnecessary.

I knew that if I presented on the topic of Unpleasant and my coworkers, I would reel in a high grade. I started out describing his annoying attributes and how my coworkers responded. It was clear from my classmates faces that they agreed and would have probably joined in mocking Unpleasant themselves. Then I pointed out my dilemma – although he’s not someone you would want to associate with, was it right for everyone to malign him? What would HR say if they knew what was going on? Is it ok to mock a coworker like that, even if he does reprehensible things? Based on the shame that appeared on every face, they hadn’t considered that. I took home an A+.

Today, Poww was updating NBA (an incredibly tall coworker) about Unpleasant. SpeedRacer started making comments about how disgusting it had been to sit near him and I guess the disapproval appeared on my face.

“Seriously Zoogie2, you knew him. He was terrible.” Poww said, giving me a look that dared me to contradict him. I had come to work an hour earlier than normal and hadn’t yet had caffeine, but you think I would know better by now. I told him that no one deserved to be treated as a pariah and he countered by saying that if more people knew Unpleasant, they would agree with him.

This is the part where I wish I’d bitten my tongue clean off. I told them that the people in my class agreed with me, Unpleasant was…unpleasant and could be a jerk but it had been years – couldn’t we move past it?

“You told other people what we said?!” SpeedRacer exclaimed. You’ll note that he wouldn’t feel so guilty if he didn’t think that what he said was over the line…

“I didn’t say your names! My class didn’t even know what company I worked for.” I pointed out.

“Then why would they believe you? Maybe you were exaggerating.” Poww replied. I shifted uncomfortably. “I may have used some of the IM’s you guys sent me as proof,” I replied. At their panicked looks, I quickly responded, “but I blacked out your names!”

“Damn. That’s what I do to Courtney when I’m mocking her.” SpeedRacer said, shaking his head. “You don’t like the fact that we gave him a ‘mean’ nickname? Well, from now on I’m calling you The Narc!” He growled.

So all day they’ve gone around calling me Narc. I need to learn to keep my big mouth shut.