“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Mark Twain
Donald* tells me most people would not think he has a problem. In fact, most people would believe he’s the problem. Not me; I think he has a point.
What’s all this about? Donald attended an arts event in mid-February. Ever since, he’s been watching his back; his colleague, Lyndon*, was nice to him. Lyndon began a spontaneous conversation with him, complimented what he was wearing, and asked after his family. He asked him if he had lost weight, told him he was looking “fine” then asked his opinion about a local political issue. All of this sounds like normal conversation between colleagues, doesn’t it? Except Donald and Lyndon do not have a normal collegial relationship, they are each other’s nemesis.
Donald is the newest faculty member in the music department and when he began, he felt vague animosity coming from Lyndon. He knew he hadn’t done anything to deserve that sort of treatment and blew it off to begin with. Lyndon did things to undermine him, talked over him in department meetings and did not acknowledge his presence. Little, petty things occurred on a regular basis so eventually; he could no longer ignore the fact he seemed to be the object of some sort of petty war with Lyndon. Donald swears he does not reciprocate and tries to pretend it doesn’t happen, but it happens over and over anyway.
Last year, one of his other colleagues noticed Lyndon’s treatment of Donald in a student recital. Lyndon ignored Donald most of the time, however, when one of his own students gave an especially fine performance; he turned his back on him when Donald attempted to congratulate him. Their colleague saw what happened and assured Donald it wasn’t his imagination. For some reason, Lyndon has it out for him. And the colleague told Donald, Lyndon’s always been a bit of a Diva.
So, back to the arts event in February; what really disturbs Donald about the whole thing is how he feels about Lyndon’s behavior. He doesn’t feel comfortable with Lyndon behaving like a normal person with him. To Donald’s knowledge, there is no reason for Lyndon to start treating him differently so he feels unsettled. He feels like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. He feels like he’s missing something and there is a reason (a selfish reason) for Lyndon to be nice to him. Donald’s wife told him to stop borrowing trouble and relax, but he can’t.
I told Donald I say my Spidey Sense is tingling when I feel the way he does. I usually can’t put my finger on it, but when something doesn’t feel or seem right to me, I go with my instincts. And I suggested he do the same.
UPDATE: I’ve been conversing with Donald and working on this Blog post since the beginning of March. During the weekend, Donald contacted me with the reason, the real reason, Lyndon was nice to him. Donald was just told Lyndon’s chamber music students will be giving a chamber recital in his choir room during his normally scheduled large chorus rehearsal. He wasn’t asked; he was told that is the way it’s going to be. The music department, with Lyndon’s persuasion, feels the chorus room with its raked seats for the audience (usually his singers) and the perfect spot for a string quartet (usually where his podium stands) is the best place for this special recital for their alumni. He will just have to find somewhere else for his one hundred-plus chorus to rehearse that day. Yeah, that will be easy.
Donald, as you can imagine, is livid. I reassured him about how he felt before and told him he should always trust himself. He will just have to get through this and it will be fine. Donald is a bit relived he has until the end of April to figure something out for that rehearsal. They will probably end up using the concert hall several weeks early; it could be worse.