RJ is, by anyone's definition, a rather strange man. He's the kind of OCD that leads people to speculate in the lunchroom whether there is an actual term (like "Asperger's Syndrome") for his condition. For any giving conference room in our building, he has a favorite chair, and if you sit in his chair he will give you the hairy eyeball for the duration of the meeting and become so discomfited that he will be unable to concentrate or answer any direct questions. He spends every lunchtime, every break, and at least an hour after work every day in the lunchroom perfecting his pingpong game. His whole day can be ruined if he has a bad game.
Now, it's hard to tell whether or not he's having a good day unless you know him well. If he is having a good day and he likes you, he will be so talkative that it is hard to get anything done. He doesn't take clues ("Okay, I have to get back to work now....") but then again he doesn't get offended if you just turn away and start working again.
RJ has worked here for nearly 19 years as an engineer. He knows more about our equipment and processes than most people, and there is a lot of research that he's done that he's never documented because he does not like documentation and it is not physically possible to make him do anything that he doesn't want to do. It has happened in the course of those 19 years that he's thrown some temper tantrums. Once he got on the PA system and began screaming because someone had stolen his running shoes. He got a reprimand from HR over it, but by the end of the day it had been turned into a hilarious story.
I myself joked with him about wanting to be there to see his next meltdown because it was just so very much at odds with his normal personality.
On this particular day, I had gone running at lunch. I was a little distracted myself and realized, when I came back from my three-mile run, that I had locked my padlock key in my locker. I want to explain that it was Thursday. Meaning that I had already worked out in these clothes at least three times before. When I had put them on before my run, they were already crunchy. My hair is soaking wet and matted down, my shirt is soaked through with sweat, there are visible funk waves emanating from my person. I tried calling facilities so that they could cut the padlock off, but there was nobody in facilities. It's no use even taking a shower because I have no clean clothes into which I might change.
I was hiding out in my cube when RJ came in. He was smiling in a very self-conscious, rueful sort of way.
"Well, you missed it," he said.
"What did I miss?"
"My seven-year meltdown. I really did it."
I winced and asked him what had happened.
"Well, The Owner of the Company [TOC] called me over to his lunch table after my pingpong game. I had lost, so I was already mad. He started asking me why our company is behind our competitor on this particular process. I tried to explain that the method our company is using is inherently slower, but he doesn't care. He ended up saying 'Maybe you should spend more time figuring out this process and less time playing pingpong.'"
At this point in his story, RJ is starting to get agitated again. His eyes are reddening and his sentences are getting shorter and louder.
"I tried to reason with him," RJ continued. "But I finally just started yelling at him and he waved his hand at me and said 'I don't want to talk to you anymore. Go away.' So I started to walk away, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought How dare he tell me how to spend my lunch hour, my personal time! How dare he tell me that I'm not doing my job! He knows nothing about my job and how I'm doing it! So I ended up going back into the lunchroom and getting right up in his face and screaming at him, calling him obscene names and telling him that he could go to hell and and banging on the table in front of his face. The facilities guys grabbed my arms and were dragging me out of the lunchroom."
Aha. This is why I couldn't get hold of them...
Just before he came to me, the head of HR had paged our boss to her office. RJ told me that the reason he came to my cube was that he wanted me to know the truth, and then he left. Two minutes later, my boss came by asking if Rod was still in my cube. I told him no, and he paged RJ. No more than five minutes later, my boss sent out an email saying that RJ was no longer with the company, having been dismissed for inappropriate and threatening behavior.
Within half an hour, I had ten people in my cube wanting to hear the story and to commiserate over the loss. The general consensus was that it was TOC gunning for RJ and that although RJ was certainly in the wrong, that dismissal was vindictive and severe. Most people's reaction was "But this is RJ! He does this! Everyone knows that!" My own boss was more upset than I've ever seen him.
I've talked to RJ since then, and he's doing okay. He won't be hurting financially. One factor of his OCD is that he never spends any money. His amusements are few and inexpensive. He's not married, he's naturally frugal, preferring to invest his money. He can afford to take several years to figure out what he's going to do next.
But I'm still going to miss my friend.