The new guy joined our team the week before our annual barbecue. Naturally, we decided to invite him.
As the beers were consumed, the tales grew taller and taller. The new guy was getting carried away. “When I was a cop” he began, “I arrested the most notorious serial killer in the country.”
The beer-saturated audience was in awe. And why wasn’t he a cop anymore? “I didn’t want to risk my life on a daily basis. I’ve got a family to provide for.”
He told us about his uncle who’s so rich that he could lend his nephew a spare cottage overlooking a remote headland. It sounded convincing. Apparently the new guy lived there for the next three years whilst his family toured the world on lottery winnings.
He had one final tale: “You know that planet that was recently discovered? The first exoplanet discovered by a scientist in this country?” Everyone concurred. “Well, I was looking through one of my rich-uncle’s telescopes and I discovered it myself. I even got a letter from the president.”
This didn’t fly with me. I’m the HR guy. I processed the new guy’s job application. I screened his resume. I knew that everything he was saying was a lie. He’d been a bus driver for the last ten years and we hired him because his background check revealed that he’d grown up in foster care. We felt sorry for him. He had no rich uncle. He’d never been a cop and he had no family.
But he crossed the line when he made it personal. I volunteer at the National Observatory where there are plaques on the wall commemorating the contributions of citizen scientists. There’s a plaque commemorating the discovery of the planet he said he discovered. That plaque belongs to me!
I’m going to make this guy cry.
Rather than delivering my fatal blow in front of everyone, I waited until he was alone. I approached him and said “you know, I saw what you did to that little girl the other day.” He looked nervous. “You know: the one that dropped her candy on the ground?”
I had his anxious attention. “You gave her a whole packet of chocolates that you had in your backpack.” I said. Then I delivered the blow.
“Your mum would have been proud.”
According to his background check, his mother had died when he was seven. His father had left before he was born. I held out my arms and – like I’d pressed a magic button – he embraced me.
“Thanks” he said. And with his head buried in my shoulder he began to cry.