Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The Tuesday Twat(s)No 20. Racial Bullies.
This is something that really pisses me off. My research group at work has always been famed for it's diverse members. I estimate that I have worked with at least 40 nationalities over the past few years. Consequently, at any one time at least half of my coworkers don't speak English as a first language. They are all competent in its usage of course - after all they are expected to read and write complex scientific reports in English and they have to live in an English-speaking country and work in an English-speaking workplace. Neverthless, to many English is definately a foreign language.
For most of us, it is great fun. The literal translation of foreign sayings and proverbs can be extremely amusing, and the whole lab shouting "Happy Birthday" down the phone in (very bad) Mandarin to one of our student's mothers resulted in fits of giggles from our Chinese contingent. I will remember the look of concentration on an Egyptian student's face as he tried to pronounce "Bullshit Baffles Brains", until the day I die.
But some people take advantage of this in the most unpleasant of ways. Although we have a very pleasant lab generally, it is inevitable that when 20+ people try and share a communal space and use the same equipment and chemicals, friction and conflict will occur sometimes. Voices will be raised, opinions will be aired - and in the case of one unpleasant individual whom we shall call "Jim", rapid fire colloquiolisms and a suddenly impenetrable regional accent will emerge from nowhere.
I have seen "Jim" reduce a Chinese student almost to tears over the most trivial of matters, simply by shouting incomprehensibly. The student kept on apologising and saying that they didn't understand. "Jim" simply spoke faster. It later emerged that the student wasn't at fault and that perhaps if they had been able to defend themselves it could have been resolved. This isn't a one-off-event. On another occassion, they made one of our overseas students look like a total fool at a conference, by simply asking rapid-fire questions and refusing to understand the answers they were given. The student became completely flustered and tongue-tied and eventually had to give up and claim they didn't know the answer. I sat in the front row of that talk, knowing full well that the student could write a 10,000 word essay on the topic at the drop of a hat, but was unable to give any form of help for fear of making the student look even more foolish.
So perhaps emboldened by my (hopefully) imminent departure, I have started to take a stand against "Jim". When he goes "off on one", I interupt his flow. When he is needlessly rude I "jokingly" ask if he's left his manners at home today. When he starts to shout about some unwashed glassware, I make a crude joke about masturbation that has the whole lab laughing. Following my lead, other workers (including one who is unfortunate enough to share "Jim"'s bench - and thus is in the firing line if he is being an arsehole) have started to back me up. I am the pointman (fuck it, I'm gone in 2 months - I'm pretty much untouchable) and they will laugh etc on cue, thus defusing the situation and/or humiliating "Jim".
Humiliation is the only way to deal with these sorts of twats. I hope to reportray "Jim" as the lab "loon", rather than the lab "dragon" - think of it as my leaving present to all of my overseas friends.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
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