Joe and Bob

He was so angry he could hardly stand it. His face
was red, his veins were bulging, and he was sweating
profusely and fidgeting and pacing and breathing
heavily… The only thing that kept it from being a true
fit was that he didn't lie in the floor and kick.

"I don't have to put up with this. No sir. I
deserve better. He's pushed me around for the last
time. He's not getting by with it this time. No sir,
buddy, no sir. I'm not gonna put up with it."

He truly felt that he had been mistreated – as truly
as he was able to feel anything, being as angry as he
was. If the truth be told, he was much too angry to
put fact to fact logically and draw conclusions
properly.

"He'd better be ready when he gets here. He'll
answer to me this time. I'm tired of being taken for
granted around here. I'll show him what's what."

He wasn't usually given to violence, in fact he was
usually the peacemaker in the office; but this time he
was so angry that what he used to be and do and think
were so long gone and so far removed that when someone
tried to calm him down by reminding him of what he
stood for it was as if they were describing someone
else to him. He just couldn't think straight. He
felt insulted. It wasn't a "normal" insult, such as
merely being called a name or something like that;
this was, in his opinion, much worse. He was treated
with disrespect, and his co-workers all saw it and he
knew (or at least he believed) that they would be
forever snickering behind his back.

"A man can only take so much. I mean, really, he
didn't have to do that – and in front of everyone no
less! I'll give him a tongue-lashing like he's never
had before. That may be his problem; no one ever
dared stand up to him before. Well, this time someone
will, and it's me. He'd better watch himself or
that's not all he'll get. No sir, no one treats me
like this and gets by with it."

Joe was a good man, too good for his own good, maybe.
It was seldom that he grew this angry, and that is a
good thing, for he was awfully mad. Bob, the man at
whom he was angry, got wind of the trouble and was
himself angry. He hadn't meant to insult Joe, much
less to humiliate him in front of his co-workers. He
had been busy and he was tired and frustrated and he
just exercised poor judgment. At first he felt truly
sorry for his actions, but the more he learned of
Joe's anger the angrier he grew. He couldn't afford
to lose face either, he thought, and if he let Joe off
the hook after what all he has been saying things
might get out of hand. Besides, this was all an
accident – he had done nothing intentionally wrong.

"Joe had better watch himself," Bob said to his wife.
"He's been running his mouth and telling everyone
what he's gonna do when he sees me. If he's thinking
that then he's got another `think' coming. I've been
around long enough to know what's what. I'll tell
you, he'll learn to keep his mouth shut when I get to
the office today."

"Well, Bob, you have to look at it from Joe's
standpoint. You embarrassed him in front of everyone
and that hurt his pride," his wife said. "Besides,
you've been in his shoes before. You know what it's
like to be hurt."

"Why are you taking his side?"

"I'm not, it's just…"

"It's just nothing. Stay out of what is none of your
business."

"OK, OK, I'm just saying that there, but for the
grace of…"

"You a philosopher now? Just shut up and get me some
more coffee."

At the office, Joe is still steaming.

"I'm half a mind to let him have it. That'd teach
him to mess with me."

"Don't get so excited, Joe, this will pass," said
Betty, his secretary, in an effort to avert trouble.
"You'll see, people will forget about this like they
do everything else and life will go on as usual. Be
the bigger man and let it drop."

"I'll be the bigger man, all right, but when I get
through with him they'll be a right smart longer
forgetting than usual."

"And what will they remember? The day Bob and Joe
behaved like children and lost their jobs?"

"Don't you have some papers to type?"

"What do you hope to settle? Will more words undo
those already spoken? This whole matter started with
words spoken that should not have been. You'll only
make things worse by…"

"Why are you trying to take up for him?"

"I'm not. I'm just saying…"

"I know what you're saying, that I should let him get
by with it. You're on his side."

"I'm not, Joe, it's just that…"

"Sounds to me like you are. I have to settle this
once and for all. If I let it go I'll never be able
to live with myself. A man can only take so much."

"How do you know that?"

"Know what?"

"That a man can only take so much?"

"Everyone knows that."

"I don't."

"You don't know much, then."

"I know what you're planning on doing and what it
will lead to and that it won't settle anything."

"So you've said."

"You know it too."

"I know no such thing."

"How do you know that you've reached your limit? Is
there some test to be applied? What is it?"

"Stop talking nonsense."

"It's only nonsense because you don't want to hear
it. You are afraid I'm right."

"I'm afraid of no such thing."

"He didn't mean anything, he just acted in haste.
I'm sure he feels bad about it."

"Off with you. Be about your work. I'll handle
this."

As Bob drove to the office his anger grew. The more
he thought about it, the worse it seemed to him.

"How dare Joe get mad at me! Who does he think he
is?"

Joe is ready. Bob is ready. The time has arrived.
Bob parked his car beneath Joe's window. Joe saw him
coming and Bob saw Joe watching. It takes about three
and one half minutes to walk from the door to my hall.
He'll soon get his." Joe looked at his watch.

"I'll let him have it," Bob thought.

Joe is ready. Bob is coming. Around the desk and on
to the elevator. Up he goes. The elevator stops and
opens. Bob exits.

It won't be long now. He turns the corner to the
left and makes his way to the final turn before the
hall with Joe's office. He rounds the corner and
there is Joe – standing in his door.

He watches as Bob approaches. Bob watches Joe. Bob
reaches Joe's door and stops. The two of them stand
eye to eye.

"How ya' doin', Joe?"

"Fine. Yourself?"

MORAL: Much ado about nothing should always so end.

H. L. Gradowith
07-04-2002

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