There's a bullying streak in me that I'm not at all proud of. I'm not sure how much of it I picked up at home (from my older brother and my father) and how much from my peers but it's been a part of my personality since at least primary school. It most often manifests itself as "taking the joke too far".
Today I took a joke too far with one of my coworkers. He's a vocal Cubs fan, so I enjoy rubbing my Cardinals' loyalty in his face. We generally always make a minute or two when we meet to give each other the business about this or something else. Today, that all went terribly wrong.
I was sitting on a bench in the corridor outside my office taking a break to check my social media and I heard a tremendous THUMP on the wall behind me. I looked around the corner and found said coworker grinning at the water fountain. I wasn't amused. "That was super mature, you know," I told him. But then we exchanged a few friendlier words and I went back to work and forgot all about it.
A couple hours later, I was coming back from lunch and saw him ahead of me on the path wearing his Cubs cap. So I rushed up behind him and snatched it off his head. He made no attempt to chase me, so we continued toward the building, chatting all the way. I kept about ten-foot away from him at all times, just in case, and mocked him about the dampness of the sweatband. "The joke's one you if you ever try to put it on," he told me, smiling.
As we got nearer the building, I spied a post and ran up to it to perch the hat on top. And this is where things took a heinous turn. I was standing near him and he asked me to fetch the hat. "I think it looks good up there," I said. Suddenly anger flashed in his eyes and he said, "I'm not fucking around any more, go get my shit." "Calm down," I said, but since I didn't make an immediate move toward the post, he grabbed my hand and wrenched my mobile phone out of it.
He demanded again that I get the hat. I insisted he return the phone first. "My phone is a lot more valuable than your hat." "As far as I'm concerned, they're the same. What if I just threw this away and broke it?" This is the phone I carry with me always, since it's my primary means of contacting monshu
when I'm not at the hospital with him. So I stood my ground. He gave me the phone, I retrieved the hat and tossed it at him before walking directly back to my desk without a further word.
My best guess is that my playground behaviour triggered some ugly old memories in him and he responded in kind instead of how would be appropriate for an adult with a job to lose. His jibe about reporting me to the head of personnel for "harassment" (flung out seconds before he snapped) began to weigh on me, so I wrote up an account of the incident, just in case. I hadn't intended to report it myself, but I ended up saying something without naming him because I found myself so jumpy I was looking around corners whenever I left my desk.
We agreed it would be best to give him the weekend to cool down. I suspect he probably needs a little time to deal with why his reaction was so disproportionate anyway. At the moment, I don't feel physically safe being in close quarters with him. If I'd had any idea this was a possible outcome, I never would've started something, but people carry around so much psychic baggage that I should know it's always
a possible outcome.