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David Eddie's Damage Control

Harassimus Rex can't help but hit on you Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I work in the advertising section of a small newspaper. One of the regular clients we have gives me, all the other employees and even my boss (the only male in the department) the creeps. Every week when this client comes in to place his ad he only wants to deal with me, and, more importantly, he calls me names like "sweetie." My boss knows how uncomfortable this client makes me feel, so he'll offer to assist the client, only to be told things like, "That's okay, I have this cute young thing to help me." Other than the fact that it makes me uncomfortable and angry, I find it entirely rude, disrespectful and inappropriate. What can I say to this client? I don't want to be rude myself, but I want to make my message clear.

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THE ANSWER

I'm not an anthropologist, nor am I a paleontologist.

However, I have a layperson's fascination with how many of these dinosaur types continue to walk among us, with heavy-footed tread, their large-lidded eyes missing much, their acorn-sized brains processing little, oblivious to the path of destruction they leave in their wake.



If you roll your eyes at Harassimus Rex, he thinks you're batting your lashes at him. If you try to avoid him, Harassimus Rex thinks you're being very naughty and saucy, and playing hard to get.


Let us dub this species of dinosaur Harassimus Rex.

Now, I always try to advocate compassion for all creatures of the Earth, great and small, faulty and even faultier.

So, let's take a moment, inhale and exhale, and see what pity and understanding we can find for Harassimus Rex.

Of course, when Harassimus Rex looks in the mirror, he does not see an outmoded, antediluvian throwback, made obsolete by evolution, preying upon smaller, unwilling fauna, which scurry and hide when he approaches.

Rather (so I believe, at least) he sees a charming, dashing creature, witty, urbane and irresistible, engaged in "consensual flirtation."

The key word in the above statement being "irresistible."

And here is where your compassion might possibly be engaged. Perhaps this particular Harassimus Rex was indeed once witty, urbane and catnip to the ladies.

But time is cruel. Time is harsh. Time did its thing, and now (perhaps) he is portly, boring and corners people at parties.

However, flattered by flunkies, buttered up by underlings, he sees no counterevidence to disabuse him of his self-image as a dashing fellow.

In any case, madam, he can't help but hit on you. Like the scorpion in the adage (who hitches a ride across a river on a frog's back, then stings him halfway across, thus sealing both their dooms), it's in his nature.

If you roll your eyes at Harassimus Rex, he thinks you're batting your lashes at him. If you try to avoid him, Harassimus Rex thinks you're being very naughty and saucy, and playing hard to get.

But the person really falling down on the job, it seems to me, in the scenario you've described, is your boss. Why does he insist on throwing you to this guy like chum to a mako?

He should be running interference between you and this horndog client.

When the client comes in, and asks for you, your boss should say something like: "She's busy right now, can I help you?"

If the client insists, your boss should insist right back: "I've got her working on a big project right now, and I really can't spare her. Can I help you?"

Tell your boss to do that - and you have a right to be mad at him if he refuses. If he won't do it, for whatever reason (lack of vertebrae, fear of losing the client), then get a colleague to do it.

If a colleague won't do it, then do it yourself. Say: "Oh, I can't right now, Mr. ____. I'm so busy. Maybe someone else here can help you."

Be all business. Make it uncomfortable and unfun and uncool for him to continue insisting on you helping him; then go back to your work station.

If the prey scurries around and twitches, and tries to avoid Harassimus Rex, and doesn't seem to know what to do, that only whets his appetite. Adds spice to the chase.

But when the prey rears up and acts defiant, that puts paid to the notion that this is all just fun, festive "consensual flirtation." It makes it all very boring.

If you do as I suggest, Harassimus Rex will turn on his heel and stomp off, muttering something about your office "being no fun any more," and leave you alone henceforward. I can almost guarantee it.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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