I’m lucky to be online tonight, as when I came back from visiting my folks in Worthing for the first time in two months, our Internet connection was down. I knew how to fix it (unscrew the cable from the router, touch the core, screw it back in), and so did my former-drummer housemate — indeed, he was the one who came up with the solution originally — but for some reason he hadn’t done so, and with him in the lounge (where the router is), I felt I couldn’t go in and take care of it.
It was only when I heard him go in the shower that I dared step foot outside the sanctity of my room, and got it working on the second or third attempt; I’d killed the intervening time by, amongst other things, starting season 5 of Game of Thrones, which I have on Blu-ray and thus don’t need an Internet connection to watch (sorry Netflix).
But why should I feel so intimidated by my housemate, a session drummer / music teacher who became a truck driver? Wait… shall I call him “drummer-trucker”? Yes, that works. I find “drummer-trucker” intimidating because he’s gone wonky recently, and acts condescending and confrontational, like the kind of bully who insults you for no reason and then claims you’re the one with the problem, because he’s just having a laugh and you’re taking it too seriously. About the only thing missing is a crowd for him to be playing up to, like when I was at school…
Don’t worry, I won’t drone on about every individual school bully I faced off against, or we’d be here all day (and I’ve probably forgotten a few) — and more to the point, I’ve covered a lot of this before. No, I’ll just focus on the ones who stayed with me, up here (Dave-ros taps his temple, pointing approximately at his brain), for long periods of time, and perhaps changed my life directions now and then…
Moving to Worthing in 1992 wasn’t ideal — I’d worked my way up the social order going to an all-boys school in Surrey (and no, not through any vulgar or political means), and going to a mixed school in September just meant I got bullied by the girls as well as the guys. Fortunately the girls had grown to accept me by Easter 1993, and it was just the boys making my life hellish… especially one guy with curly hair, big gums and permanently-slitted eyes (and no, he wasn’t from the Far East, just incredibly smug). He was certainly the kind of bully who’d get everyone against me when I was minding my own business, and somehow I let him get inside my head, to the point that it was only when he left school at the end of Year 11 that I was finally able to get on with my life.
The strange thing is, a couple of times he was actually nice to me — either returning my schoolbag when other thugs were throwing it around, or chatting amiably outside school one day. It’s why I’ve often wondered if he and I were actually supposed to be friends… but hey, I wasn’t into BYOB parties when I was 15-16, so I’d never have fitted into his crowd. Fortunately, I no longer bear him ill will, and hope he’s sorted his life out.
You’d think leaving home would change things, but nooo, I got more of it at university — perhaps due to studying Geology, the most “thuggish” of the sciences (presumably because you have to do a lot of walking, and get to hit rocks with hammers!). Not only did I get comments like “coathanger” shouted out when I was nearby during a field trip to Wales, but apparently one night two real scumbags got drunk and decided to come by my room to beat me up! Fortunately I was out playing Quake in a computer lab that evening, otherwise I’d have suffered for the crime of… what, exactly? Being myself? I guess they made me more determined to be myself, if they had any effect at all…
My postgrad days saw the two blokes in my Astrophysics MSc ka-tet treating me badly, but at least one naffed off to do a PhD, while the other became the fellow I always refer to as “good housemate” in these hallowed pages, simply because I learned to roll with the punches, and gave as good as I got — in a way, he toughened me up and helped me laugh. This guy, of course, once upset me by saying I was obliged to hurry up and (he thought) lose my virginity to a prostitute, to stop letting mankind down, but when he got his own place, and precipitated my worst month, he let me sleep on his couch for a week, while I waited for my new room to become available, so he’s forgiven. I haven’t heard from him in ages, but I hope he’s all right and living his life!
Even beyond education, there exist bullies — and sadly, some of them have authority… when I first moved in with “good housemate” and our two female friends in Wood Green, I managed to get a temp admin job working for the local council (which I’ve mentioned before); at first I was doing well, organising deliveries and collections of Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, and making friends with the delivery men (and on one or two occasions, helping them out when they were a man down) — and this seemed to frustrate the boss, a Scots lady with long white hair, whose very presence eventually made me cringe.
Although at first I was apparently the best they’d had in that job, she changed her appraisal of me when she decided that I should stop using my initiative and start blindly following rules — as though process was more important than results. She’d also heap her own work on me in stupid ways, telling me to prepare fax messages, then telling me “that’s not how I’d phrase it” and requiring me to ask her for the exact wording I should use (which she then scrawled on the smallest size of Post-It notes, rather than e-mailing me).
At times it felt like she was trying to “sicken” me, and one day I actually had a bit of a breakdown from her constant nagging and work-heaping… fortunately the guy between me and her smoothed things over. Still, this was the only job I ever quit for reasons other than returning to university or moving on to a better job, and I don’t regret doing so — and apparently I lasted longer than anyone else, and virtually no-one else liked her!
She wasn’t the only female superior to make me sad at work, though at least the loud girl I worked with at a nearby housing department in 2005 turned out to be all right in the end, and just a bit bossy at times. However, it was a different but similar girl in my HR (Recruitment) days who really got to me — and, much like my current woes (not to mention the “brain fuzz” I was getting at the start of the year), it would always seem to be one week good, one week bad. If she was unhappy with me, she’d criticise me for just about everything, even stuff that wasn’t my fault (like two recruiting managers for the same job telling us different things, or someone having written the wrong department next to a job in the diary), and claim I was “picking and choosing” my work. If I was lucky, she’d leave me alone, and maybe sometimes even thank me.
It’s largely thanks to her hot-and-cold treatment that I didn’t reapply for my job there when yet another restructuring took place, and jumped at the chance to be redeployed in 2009 (to the job I was doing when I first started this blog). Mind you, she got her comeuppance: she actually wanted to work in HR as a career and so reapplied for her job, yet when it came time to her interview, she panicked so much (perhaps due to criticism of her treatment of me?) that she had to walk out to compose herself! After that she was a lot nicer to me during the remainder of our time there, and I wished her well when she went on to better things.
I reckon she was going through some bad stuff at that time of her life — what with actually wanting to succeed in a job I could take or leave — and perhaps that’s why my “drummer-trucker” housemate is being such a see-you-next-Tuesday lately: he regrets his decision to throw in music in favour of trucking, and is taking it out on the rest of us… or maybe he’s gone alcoholic: he drinks a six-pack every time he’s home in the evenings, with his music or DVDs playing loudly, and these are the worst times if we encounter each other.
He used to be all right: yes, there have been times we’ve argued, and he accused me of “needing to get laid” when I didn’t enjoy being locked out of the kitchen, but he also drove me to the hospital when I did my ankle in last year… mind you, he was still teaching drumming at the time, and thus had social skills. Still, his pranks have never even been funny: things like shouting out he’s joining me and “best mate” when we’re going to the Castle, or telling me there’s a man who keeps coming to the door asking for me — it’s like he’s setting up jokes, but never follows through with the punchline. Even today, he yanked the kitchen door open as he was walking past from the lounge, and any time he catches me using the upstairs toilet, he rattles the door handle impatiently.
Worst of all: this guy who sits alone drinking, actually has the gaul to accuse me and my other housemates (including “best mate”, the only person who doesn’t actively try to avoid him) of being “anti-social”! Perhaps he’s just a hypocrite, considering he fills the house with his cookery smells (or on one occasion, petrol fumes from the motorbike he keeps on the front path), after leaving passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen for a previous housemate over curry odours.
I wish things hadn’t gotten to this stage, as I respect him for handling our billing (and the landlady) all these years, and want to part on good terms — but it’s up to him to make any moves to apologise, as he’s the one behaving badly… though I wonder if he himself is trying to avoid me, for precisely that reason?