See you laugh
See you dance
We take that all away every day
See you cry
We turn your head
And then we slap your face
Bow down
Bow down, live your life
Head down
Head down, hide that smile

— Soundgarden


V. started training on the job the same day I did. A young guy, polite, with a gentle, intelligent expression on his face. Working with him, I learned he was a fellow vegetarian (which he was enthused to discover), a cyclist, and a liberal Christian, with “Patience, Compassion, Simplicity” tattooed on his arm. He bemoaned the macho mentality of the electrical company he had worked at previously, but enjoyed working with his hands, he said, so he was hoping this would work out.

I could tell over the past month that the stress was getting to him, especially on one job we did together. He had a brief temper tantrum after we were done. Working with him again a couple weeks later, though, he actually broke down and cried over something relatively minor. I talked him through that one, but a week or so after that, he walked into the office and broke down again when one of the guys asked him how he was doing. I heard my boss’s wife say “Would you like me to have a talk with him, see if I can get him to grow some balls? Christ, I’ve got more balls than he does.”

You can guess what the other guys began to say about him. One of them entered him into his phone contacts as “V. the Flamer”, with a perky techno ringtone. Jokes about him being “an emotional one” soon followed, along with morbid humor about what the signal would be for one of the guys to take him out should he snap and come into work with a gun. He took up smoking just to try to calm his nerves, at the suggestion of one guy, and they made fun of him for the “fruity” way he held his cigarettes.

He had told me at one point that his goal was to try to get through the summer before quitting. Then I saw him two days ago at the office, where he had another crying spell in front of everybody. He told me then he only wanted to work long enough to get out of debt. But he gave his two week notice today, and the only reason he’s even sticking around that long is to avoid getting financially penalized for not lasting ninety days.

There’s the wisdom of experience for you — the only thing separating me from him is that I know most people can’t be trusted to be shown weakness. Never let the bastards know they’re getting to you.