Weird Co-Workers #2 – The Military Man

Paul R clearly had “Daddy” issues. We met whilst we were both working at a certain Telecommunications company, and shared an office for a year or so. It was pretty obvious from the outset that Paul has some sort of military background. His general bearing was one of stiffness, rigidity almost, and he wore patent leather shoes that just cried out for 15 minutes of spit and polish every morning (which they clearly got). Occasionally he would return from a fractious meeting muttering to himself “doesn’t he know that I could kill him with my bare hands?” – not a management tactic that was common at the time in the IT fraternity.

I asked him one day, whilst stood around the coffee machine waiting for it to dispense it’s grey beverages: “Paul, were you in the military in an earlier life?”. He looked a bit uncomfortable and shifted uneasily from foot to foot. “Um, yes, kind of. What makes you ask”. Then the story came out about how his father had spent years in the army, ending up as a colonel. An apparently strict man, he had wanted his only son to follow him into the army. Accordingly Paul had been dispatched into a military school, and on graduation enrolled into officer training. All of this Paul loathed. He found the discipline pointless and stifling, and his fellow would-be officers obnoxious and arrogant.  In the end he rebelled against the discipline, against the military, and against his father and left officer training shortly before his graduation.

Now, years later, Paul had a son of his own. Paul junior was around 10 years old and Paul was determined to bring him up differently to the way his own father had brought him up. Unfortunately, Paul had a small problem with this tactic: Paul was his own father! Not literally (obviously), but figuratively; his demeanor, behaviour, even his dress sense shouted out that he had become the man he so despised, even as he was blindly unaware of this himself. The most obvious example of this occurred one morning when I overheard his side of a phone conversation with his wife. She appeared to be telling him about his son’s ambition to learn to play the piano: “The piano” squeaked Paul indignantly.  “But only speccy four eyes play the piano” he sputtered down the phone with dismay.

The last time I saw Paul was on my way out of the office building on my final day with the company.  He was standing to attention at the coffee machine.  As he bent down to take the coffee I half expected him to snap back up and salute it, but he didn’t and instead did a brisk about wheel, and matched back in the direction of his office.


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