I work with the most annoying man alive

He high-fives everyone! He says, "Are we having fun yet?" He talks in a fake Jamaican accent!

By Cary Tennis

Published June 29, 2007 10:30AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I work at a community college and come into daily contact with a man who has absolutely no idea that his mannerisms drive everyone around him crazy! He is a very nice man and goes the extra mile on everything, but he likes to talk in a faux Jamaican or Southern accent about half the time.

He high-fives people constantly when either he or they make some kind of statement he thinks is "right on" -- even folks who barely know him and don't share his gregarious personality. He also says "Oh nooooo!" in a high-pitched Mr. Bill voice, or "Are we having fun yet?" more times a day than I can count.

His desk is near the entrance to the office complex, and he sees every person who enters and exits the building. He jumps up and follows folks as they come in, commenting on the latest thing he's done, a piece of equipment he's purchased for the office, or any breaking news he knows. The behavior I've listed is only scratching the surface. His behavior is incredibly childish.

Even as I write this I'm aware of how petty this seems, but let me assure you that all of these things (and more) are a giant irritant to our office.

What can we say to this man? We'd like to let him know that we value his work but that these quirks are negatively affecting our entire staff.

Oh noooooooo!

Dear Oh nooooooo!

One of the lesser-studied problems of the postmodern world is that of fictional seepage.

We talk of how "saturated" our "media environment" is, but we rarely stop to consider how that saturation actually behaves in the cultural atmosphere. We fret about the media "affecting" us in certain ways -- making us coarser as people, morally inept, more feeble-minded, philosophically bumbling, incapable of nuance or introspection (I believe that describes us fairly well!). But rarely do we pay attention to the physical behavior of the media itself the way we would the behavior of the weather, or a body of water. When the air gets saturated, it rains; whatever moisture is held in suspension tends to seep through windows and walls; our houses become humid and moist. We seem to be living in steam. Water puddles appear.

The same thing is true of our "saturated media environment." Your office has been permeated. The line between real office workers and ones that used to just exist on TV has been breached.

Your co-worker is obviously Colin Hunt, the unfunny office joker from the late 1990s BBC comedy sketch series "The Fast Show," which aired in America under the title "Brilliant!"

On television, the unfunny office joker is played by Charlie Higson, who also plays the lovable cougher Bob Fleming, as well as Swiss Toni.

In real life, though, Colin Hunt is being played by your co-worker.

I cannot claim to know how, exactly, fictional characters from defunct British comedy series handle the rigorous testing and interview process one must no doubt undergo to gain employment at your community college. I only know what I see: They are here, now, walking among us. And I know this: Whether we liken this to weather or to the meta-politics of immigration, it is a phenomenon of pressure. There is pressure at the border. That creates flow. There will always be flow across the border until things equal out.

It may be that we are experiencing something like media cold fusion, in which ideas and characters incompatible in the normal world, under great pressure of say 10 million memes -- and under the right lighting conditions -- can be compressed so much that they fuse and emit cultural energy. This cultural energy may turn out to be clean, cheap and limitless, freeing us from fossil fuel reliance and global poverty. Perhaps a great future awaits us. Perhaps Colin Hunt the unfunny office joker is trying, like Lassie, to show us the way out of danger.

Of course, a pressure of 10 million memes is impossible to attain in nature. It can be reached only by extreme and concentrated media pressure -- on the order of, say, 100 million television sets tuned at one precise moment to the same channel, the same image coming at the same space in time.

Something like that is probably what happened in your case. Somewhere, somehow, too many people were watching Colin, and he got squeezed, and fused, and popped across the membrane.

Of course that doesn't mean you are supposed to enjoy this or take it lying down.

He annoys the copy machine repair man. He invites punching. Nothing will quiet him down. He is the most odious man alive. His is the sort of behavior that inspires villagers to bring their torches and rope to the square. One wants to burn the character at the stake just to get him out of one's head! And even so, you still see his frightful dumb mask of empty mirth, his clown hair flaming, his cries of "Oh nooooo!" ringing hollow down to the last ember of a thigh bone.

How to get rid of him? I do not know. But I suggest that you address him as Colin.

He will pretend he doesn't know what you are talking about. But he will know. He will know because he knows, deep down, who he is.

We thought we were safe. But now we know. The appearance of Colin Hunt the unfunny office joker changes everything. The fictive membrane is permeable. It is a new world.

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