Ever wanted to be the most unpopular person in the room? Need some techniques to max-out that precious alone-time? Maybe you know one of those self-contained biblical Job-types whose patience sorely needs testing? Well, fellow annoyers and persona non grata wannabes, pin back your ears and listen up, because here are my top tips for being the person others don’t want you to be.
Always get to work first and be the last to leave, and make sure everybody knows about it. When your co-workers arrive exhausted by the traffic, mention how good your commute was an hour before dawn. When people get ready to leave, pointedly check your watch but say nothing. Just mutter something about ‘workload’ and hurry out of the room with the Pensky file under your arm. You are, of course, just going to the now-empty Lactation Room to play Monument Valley until everybody else leaves. But they don’t know that. They’re all leaving work on time, thinking they’ve not being competitive.
Act like the boss even when you’re not. Remind people of due dates long before they’re actually due. Frown and raise your eyebrows when a co-worker is a minute late back from lunch. Make a point of counting the number of toilet breaks co-workers take, and record this information on a post-it note anyone can see. Whenever the boss conducts an impromptu meeting, sidle up so you’re standing at their right arm, frown and nod in agreement with every directive, and then when s/he’s finished clap your hands and loudly announce “You heard what s/he said, now let’s get back to work!” Seriously, write this down, this is gold.
Smile all the time for no apparent reason, especially in the face of bad news. Rise slowly like a grinning axe-murderer over the top of your partition and wait until your co-worker with shingles notices. That will usually be signalled by a sharp intake of breath and them reeling away from you in their chair. Some may even reach for their crucifixes. Say nothing, just sink slowly back down behind the partition, grinning like an deranged clown. Laugh like a maniac at random comments, like “the photocopier needs toner” or “who ordered the sushi?’ Or at nothing at all.
Sing along with the background radio to songs that contain lyrics you don’t totally know. Like whenever somebody gets up to use the toilet, sing loudly while pointing the way, “The-ere’s a bathroom on the right!” to that Credence Clearwater Revival song that has got nothing to do with bathrooms. You know the one. Maybe spontaneously begin to orate: ‘In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey, butane in my veins so I’m out to cut the junkie with the plastic eyeballs, spray paint the vegetables, dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose,” et cetera. Virtually anything by James Reyne or James Brown, because them boys make no sense.
Talk constantly about money, religion and politics from a contrarian point of view — i.e. the opposite one to everyone else. Everybody loves that. Throw in a few Catholic priest jokes, and question the utility of your workmates sending their dumb kids to expensive private schools. Point out that they could be stacking shelves in the supermarket instead. Just don’t actually call their children ‘dumb’ because that is too obviously annoying, call them ‘sporty’ instead, and make those inverted comma signs with your fingers. Insincerity, like vegemite, should be spread thinly.
Dress provocatively for the office, then call people out for staring at you. This is more fun for men than for women, because (let’s face it) we are grossly unattractive beasts by the time we hit our 50’s. Cultivate those grey hairs that peek out of your ears and nostrils like the legs of lurking wolf-spiders. And what’s wrong with comb-overs anyway? We don’t really lose hair, it just migrates to other parts of our bodies. Having a salt-n-pepper tree-fern growing out one ear is guaranteed to keep your workstation outsider-free and your days peaceful. Plus, women are things of beauty.
Always interrupt your co-workers during their meal breaks with non-urgent enquiries. Wait until a co-worker is one bite into their chicken teriyaki reheat before summonsing them to some urgent task the boss doesn’t need done by close of business. It’s all about timing. Yours, not theirs. Leave them with the file and walk out, enjoying the death-ray burn of their hate as you saunter off, whistling down the corridor to freedom. If you do this right, the whole office will end up eating lunch in their cars, leaving you alone to enjoy the nice, quiet mealroom.
Speaking of meal-breaks, ask everybody what they’re having for lunch, then hover around like a foraging seagull and treat yourself to their hot chips. Never ever reciprocate. Whenever anyone puts tasty leftovers in the communal refridgerator, eat them. Conversely, leave an uncovered plate of that untouchable vegan lasagna to mature in the ‘fridge while you’re on annual leave. You get extra points if upon returning to work the dish is still there but all of your co-workers are gone.
Give your unasked-for opinions on a person’s weight-loss journey. Unsolicited advice is always a winner. Actually, don’t stop there, I’m sure they would all fail to appreciate your subjective assessment of their outfit, hair, speech mannerisms and parenting skills. Unless they ask specifically for your advice, in which unlikely case feign utter boredom, as if the request is both demeaning and totally beneath you. What are you, the office oracle? Just effing Google it, people! Practice that response until it become almost autonomic, and you may even achieve peak-annoyance.
Ignore people when they come to work wearing new shoes, an engagement ring, or with pregnancy news. Anything significant, really. Hose down their joy by making it seem second-rate. “Cinque Terre? Oh yah, backpacked it in ’86 before it got trendy‘ or “Engaged? Hope you remembered the pre-nup.” Then immediately deflect away to something mundane as if it is breaking national news, in a sort of reverse-accismus type of manoeuvre. Reverse accismus … are you still with me? No? Oh FFS, just look it up. Yes, I’ll wait here. That was an example of annoying: superiority always rings the golden bell.
Don’t stare at your well-developed co-worker’s bosom when talking to them. That would be disrespectful; instead, make unflinching eye contact. With a male co-workers, maintain steady eye contact while eating a whole banana. Totally freaks out both genders. The ladies will be like ‘Just look at my fuc*ing boobs already!‘ But don’t do it, man — just maintain the dread basilisk banana-eating eye. They’ll think you just landed on a spaceship from Neptune or something, and as we all know, people from elsewhere are automatically annoying, so the further from they are from here the more annoying the are. It’s almost mathematical in its purity.
The next one is a no-brainer, but so effective that it needs to go on the list. Interrupt a co-worker with a question, then immediately start texting when they begin to reply. When they falter, stunned at your social ineptitude, glance up and nod as if you were actually listening but stopped because they are boring. Then walk away as if they’ve been no help to you at all. This doesn’t work with your boss, by the way. Be warned, annoying can get you fired. So be annoying and smart, rely on the CARE Principle (Clever Annoying Retains Employment).
Finally, leave officious instructional post-it notes on things like the toilet seat, toaster, the coffee urn, anything so basic it requires no instruction to operate. That’s the poin, of course. But don’t mother-hen people, because they might mistake that for caring. Lots of needy time-wasters out there who want a cuddle and a kind word at work, both of which are anathema to the professional annoyer. Remember, this is all about getting the things you need out of your workplace — solitude, uninterruptedness, a zen-like bubble of calm — they’re unlikely to amend the relevant Industrial Award on our behalf, so you need to take matters into your own hands.
And that’s it.
Part 1 of The Annoyer’s Handbook. We’ll traverse more perilous ground in our next instalment: Part 2: Annoying At Home.