Bert

Well, since I got an email from Bert, I may as well tell you good folks all about him

Many moons ago, right after finishing college, my first post-college job involved doing tech support for a government agency. One of the coworkers I had the displeasure of working with, I referred to as Bert. That’s not his real name of course, but I named him Bert, because he bore a startling resemblance to Bert from Sesame Street. No, I’m not kidding. He even acted a bit like Bert from the show.

He wasn’t terribly well liked by other techs, and had a habit of trying to get away with doing the absolute minimum possible effort at his job, just to skirt by and avoid being put on probation. In many cases, when a ticket would come in, without assigning it to himself, or even saying a word to anyone that he was going to work on it, he’d sneak up to wherever the problem was, tinker with it for a moment or two, and if he couldn’t fix it, would silently come back down, telling no one he was even there, or what he found. This earned him the moniker “Ghost Rider”, and would also lead to other techs doing double work more often than not, since things he found out, he would only tell the tech who fixed it after the fact, and would have saved the tech some time if Bert had simply told them.

Bert would also occasionally try to annoy or irritate the other techs, for no other reason than to get under their skin. In one instance, a group of us went to a remote office to pack up a bunch of obsolete equipment to bring back, and Bert was going on and on about having to do actual work, how he was sweating, his feet hurt, and so on, to such a degree many of us simply asked him to shut up. Towards the end of the project, Bert said something (I didn’t hear it as I trying not to pay attention to anything Bert was saying) that caused one of the other techs, who was normally the most calm, collected, and level-headed person on the planet, to finally snap, and threaten to throw the 75-pound UPS unit in his hands at Bert’s head. The look in the tech’s eyes was one of a death stare, which was a bit of a surprise, but Bert quickly got the hint and stopped talking for the rest of the project, and considering the tech’s physical strength, it was definitely plausible he could toss that UPS.

Bert was also not terribly well liked by users either, for that matter. Several departments quickly got wise to his lackadasical work ethic, and would occasionally have tickets submitted, with a statement requesting Bert not be the one assigned the ticket. This didn’t stop Bert from going up there anyway, and claiming ignorance that he wasn’t requested, which would only irritate the users even more. In one rather memorable case, the Front Office had a relatively simple computer issue involving a mouse needing cleaning or replacement, and Bert went up there on one of his “Ghost Rider” runs. The Front Office secretary recognized him, and asked for another tech with more competence and expertise to come fix her problem. It quickly devolved into a shouting match, resulting in Bert being banned from going to the Front Office without our boss present, and a permanent reprimand on his record.

One of the reasons why he often shirked his duties was because of his love of radio station contests. He always had his radio on, and would flip between the popular stations in the area to see what contests were running so he could call in and get the prizes, or qualify for them. He would also go on his lunch breaks and off-hours out to locations these different stations were on-location to, again, get entered for contests, and try to win more prizes, even despite radio station rules barring him from winning more prizes than was allowed within a certain time period. This inevitably led to several radio stations banning him completely from entering any more contests, and the few stations that still allowed him to call in, referred to him as “Crazy Bert”, and the DJ’s would openly mock him on the air for, among other things, being a 40-something single guy still living with his mother (he’s now in his 50’s). In one case, after getting caught making 87 phone calls in a single work shift to different radio stations that day, our boss finally had enough, and ordered his desk phone line to be restricted from calling any phone numbers outside the facility. This was the only reason he ended up getting a personal cell phone, so he could keep calling, often from his car in attempt to hide from our boss.

He was also insanely stingy with his money, which was the closest to a good thing about him, but it was to such a degree, he’s literally a millionaire from his extreme thriftiness, and bear in mind, he’s worked off a government salary almost all his professional life. Because he lives with his mom, he doesn’t pay rent, and it’s unknown how much, if any he contributes to utilities, and despite winning several newer models from radio station contests, he still drives an old beater of a car, and lives close enough to work, he barely pays anything in gas. And his mom, who, as I mentioned before, is well known to several local DJ’s, is easily described as a real-life version of Mrs. Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory, with her son being like a real version of Howard.

And any time Bert did get into trouble, he knew just how to game the system. He did the exact bare-minimum requirements while on probation to get out of it, then quickly resumed his bad habits, thinking he was out of the woods. A couple HR people I was friends with while there said that while they couldn’t, for obvious reasons, divulge exactly how many times he was reprimanded or put on probation, or what was written in those reports, they did admit with a slight grin on their faces that his file was the largest they had by a considerable margin.

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