Ever wanted to be the most unpopular person in the room? Need some techniques to max-out your precious alone-time? Maybe you know one of those smug, self-contained Job-types whose patience 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.
Part 1: Annoying At Work.
Always get to work first and be the last to leave, and make sure they all know it. When your co-workers arrive looking exhausted and harassed because of the traffic, mention how much better the commute was an hour before dawn. When people are getting ready to leave, pointedly check your watch but say nothing. Just mutter something about a late meeting 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 done enough.
Act like the boss even when you’re not. Remind people when things are due, long before they are 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 your 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 his or her right arm, frown and nod in agreement with the boss’s directives, and then when s/he’s finished, clap your hands and say “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 busy co-worker 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 mad thing at random comments like, “the photocopier needs toner” or “what time was the meeting again?” Or at nothing at all.
Sing along with the 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. Or virtually anything by James Reyne or James Brown, because them boys make no sense.
Talk constantly about money, religion and politics from the contrarian’s 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 when they could be stacking shelves in the supermarket instead. Just don’t 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 the ‘don’t give a shit’ years. 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 in the same way that water runs downhill and collects in unusual and surprising places. Having a wispy salt’n’pepper tree-fern growing out one ear is guaranteed to keep your workstation outsider-free and your days peaceful.
Interrupt your co-workers during their meal breaks with non-urgent enquiries. At the very least, wait until a co-worker is about to leave for the day then raise that urgent task the boss needed them to do 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.
Ask everybody what they’re having for lunch, then hover around like a foraging seagull and treat yourself to their hot chips, and never ever reciprocate. Whenever anyone brings tasty leftovers, eat them. Conversely, leave an uncovered plate of that untouchable vegetarian lasagna to mature in the ‘fridge while you are 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 unasked-for advice on weight-loss. Actually, don’t stop there, I’m sure they would all appreciate your unsolicited opinion on 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, and tell them to JFGI (just fuc*ing Google it). What am I, a walking encyclopaedia? The office oracle?
Ignore people when they come to work wearing new shoes, an engagement ring, or with pregnancy news, or anything significant really. Hose down their joy by making it seem second-rate: “Cinque Terre? Oh yah, we backpacked it in ’86 before it got trendy‘ or “Engaged? Good luck. Hope you remembered the pre-nup.” Then immediately deflect onto something mundane as if it is breaking national news, in a sort of reverse-accismus type of manoeuvre. Reverse accismus … are you with me? No? Oh FFS just look it up. I’ll wait here. Yes that was an example of how to be 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, or, with a male co-worker maintain eye contact while eating a banana. Totally freaks them out; the ladies would be like ‘Just look at my fuc*ing boobs, already!‘ But don’t do it, man — just maintain the dread basilisk eye. They’ll think you just landed on a spaceship from Neptune or something. And as we all know, people from somewhere other than here automatically belong in the annoying category, so the further from here they have come, the more annoying. It’s mathematical in its purity.
The next one is a no-brainer, but so effective 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 feel a bit sorry for their stupidity and then walk away as if they’ve been no help to you at all. This works best with people lower in the hierarchy than you, and doesn’t work with your boss at all. Be warned, striving to be the most annoying person at work 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, the toaster, the coffee urn, anything that is so simple it requires no instruction to operate. That’s the point, of course. And don’t mother-hen, because the less intelligent might mistake that for caring. Which you don’t want, trust me. There are a lot of needy people out there who want a cuddle and a kind word, both of which are anathema to the truly professional annoyer. Remember, this is all about getting the things you need out of the workplace. Solitude, uninterruptedness, a zen-like bubble of calm. Because they are unlikely to amend the Industrial Award on our behalf,we need to take matters into our 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.