Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Guy! (Karmic Wheel)

Sometimes it seems the world isn't fair.  Sometimes you just have to wait.  Not long, either.

I mentioned before the practice at the Patent Office of "mortgaging" cases - pretending to examine a case so you could exceed your quota.  In the days of paper docket cards and pen-and-pencil Office Actions, it was easy to do - but stupid, of course.  You could submit an Office Action to the typist and it would be counted as examined.  Then, you pull the case and say, "Oh, wait, I need to make a correction!" and then hide the file in the ceiling tiles.  Like I said, a guy got fired for it.  More than one, actually.

One reason I left the Patent Office was that while there were a lot of good people there, it did attract its share of weirdos.  I could go on for pages, but this one weirdo is the case-in-point.

Today, he would be called an incel  or gamer or geek.  He was a 30-something male, overweight and unkempt, who was lazy and didn't do his job and blamed everyone else for his woes.  You know, your average computer geek male in 2022.  He was fat, he was slovenly, and one habit in particular drove me nuts.

He would go down to the basement mall in Crystal City and buy these "big gulp" soda-pops in plastic cups.  You get to keep the cup!  And he did.  He would gulp this soda and then have a burping contest.  I am not kidding about this.  He would belch, loudly, and actually open the door to his office and lean out into the hallway so it would echo throughout the floor.  And I am not talking about a small burp, but these long, drawn-out, "Burrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap! kind of things.

Gross.  But it got worse.

He kept the cups in his office - unwashed - and stacked them up in the corner. As a result, we had an infestation of cockroaches in the office, and that was gross, too.   I mentioned this to my boss and since the guy was in another Art Unit, there was nothing to be done, as his supervisor (who was also slovenly and stupid) didn't see it as a problem but thought it was "funny" and that I needed to "lighten up."

Of course, the guy was mortgaging cases - he was a lazy slob, so he would pretend to examine cases to meet his quota and avoid being fired (he was always 1% above the level of production needed to keep his job).  And eventually it was discovered that, gee-whiz, whaddya know?  He's a scumbag!

Interesting thing that.  I read all the time online about people being harassed and bullied at work, and supervisors and managers who defend the bullies and harassers.  Later on, they find out the miscreants were stealing from the company.  Maybe when someone complains about boorish behavior in the workplace, you should pay attention.  The guy harassing the secretary isn't just a "jerk" or being "inappropriate" - he probably isn't doing his job, either.  When you have enough time in the day to stir the pot, chances are, you don't have enough to do.  Just fire people like that - if they feel so entitled they can get away with whatever they want - and you let them - they will probably be your downfall.

Just a thought.

Anyway, I can't say this guy is the one reason I left the Patent Office, but one of many.  I wanted to buy a house and my salary at the USPTO wasn't going to cut it.  I wanted to get ahead in life, and slogging my way up the GS salary scale over 30 years didn't seem so appealing.  I wanted more out of life than a tiny office with linoleum floors and steel furniture made by convicted Watergate buglers in minimum-security prisons.

I wanted to work with professionals who didn't think burping contests were the height of hilarity.

So I moved on.  Years later, I was interviewing for a job with a firm, sort of as a lark, and they mentioned that Mr. Burpee was working for them.  I laughed out loud.  They quickly qualified that they kept him in a separate room in another floor, because basically he smelled bad.  They used him to write responses to Office Actions (for foreign clients, who basically tell you what to say) and since he was fired from the Patent Office, he could never be a Registered Patent Attorney Patent Agent, or even Lawyer.

Well, actually he could. He tried to become a registered Patent Agent and on the application form was a question, "Have you ever been fired from a government agency?" and he put down "No" as if the Patent Office wouldn't notice.  It was an interesting case, as they basically banned him for life from becoming a registered agent not because he was fired for malfeasance, but because he lied about it on a government form.  Too bad rules like that don't apply to Trump Administration officials!

I never felt sorry for that guy - he dug a deep grave over the years and then jumped into it.  And he never learned anything in the process - life was always "unfair" to him and people were "out to get him" even as they made one excuse or exception for him after another.  He got away with things others would not have - up to a point.  And maybe that was the problem - if his supervisor forced him to "clean up his act" (literally - like shower once in a while) and pay attention to the cases he was "examining" maybe he would have changed direction in life.  But like a petulant child who is allowed to free-range, it becomes harder and harder to correct course, the further he went astray.

So I never felt sorry for him, nor did I feel schadenfreude when he met his comeuppance and final humiliation and degradation.  It was just the karmic wheel turning around and the world balancing out.  You can't behave that way at work - even without the fraud part - and expect to keep your job or get promoted.  In the end, he was abused and exploited, shuffled off to an office in the basement, like the stapler guy in Office Space.  And unlike that movie, he never got his red stapler back.

I hear stories about guys like him all the time - and how people who have to work with idiots like that get frustrated.  If this happens to you, be patient.  Don't make it a point to try to get that dude fired, it would likely backfire.  Just be patient and wait - the karmic wheel will turn around in short order.  Or maybe you should take this as a sign to go to work for an organization that does not tolerate such nonsense.

And if you are "that guy" ask yourself why annoying other employees and being lazy, slovenly, and dirty is such a great thing - and what the inevitable consequences will be.