Thursday, December 15, 2005

Topper, aka Napoleon Dynamite


This Dilbert cartoon from Monday reminds me of a guy in our department. I call him Napoleon Dynamite.

Napoleon Dynamite is a second-year masters student/graduate assistant in our department. Just like the movie, Napoleon is tall, lanky and annoying as hell. He creates these fantastic stories and tends to piss people off; the guy has few friends. The only difference between our Napoleon and the movie is that ours doesn't have a 'fro and his voice is more whiney.

Our first inkling that this guy was Napoleon was a party last fall that a prof threw. Out of 8 GAs, 7 of us were new and we were all just getting to know each other. K had been a GA the previous semester and just a sweet as could be. We started talking and I found out she was training for the Chicago Marathon. I was envious, as my leg was in a brace from a car wreck. Come to find out that the previous year we had both trained for the same local marathon under the same program; she in the town where she was an undergrad, me locally. She actually ran the marathon while I got a stomach virus the night before. I was very depressed about doing all my training only to be sidelined. This was going to be my year until the car wreck two weeks before the program started.

Needless to say I was interested in her training for Chicago and was discussing what we had heard of the route. We were talking paces and finish times when Napoleon jumped. "You know when I was in the Army I ran a marathon in full gear up a mountain. I finished in 3 hours." K and I just looked at each other. The fastest marathon time ever is just over 2 hours -- you have to be damn fast to do a 3 hour marathon -- that's a 7 minute pace for 26.2 miles. Impossible with full gear and up a mountain. It took the fastest guy I know 6 hours to complete Pike's Peak -- the lack of oxygen at higher levels can just drain you.

Yeah, Napoleon, whatever. And you hunted a pack of wolverines last summer in Alaska.

As the school year progressed, we found this guy full of wild stories. No matter what you've done, he's done it too, only better. One day I told K, "You know, if I said I was pregnant, he would say he had given birth to triplets last year." We started associating the song from Annie Get Your Gun with him.

"Anything you can do, I can do better. Anything you can do, I can do too."

So the school year went on. Napoleon had a tendency to latch on to sweet young girls who would be too nice to him to tell him to get the F*&% away. When one girl broke up with her Army Ranger boyfriend, Napoleon was right there, borderline stalking and just way creepy. There were actually some girls who made a complaint against him when he got in their face about something after a class. I wasn't in that class and the details are fuzzy, but I know the girls and Napoleon had to go discuss it with university officials.

Then there was the incident about getting out of the reserves and not going to Iraq. Evidently he got called up to go to Iraq but was too sick with some phantom disease to go. This drama went on for a couple of months and he had a lawyer to try to get out of it. The Army kept denying his claims. It was high drama. Not that you ever want someone to go to war, but most of us weren't going to be sad if he was sent, especially since several of us grew up in military families. At the last minute the Army decided he didn't have to go. It was like, "oh, yeah, I don't have to go to Iraq." Two months of high drama and all he could talk about, and then it was just a passing thought. Go figure.

We never imagined that Napoleon would be back this year. One, we didn't think he had the stick-to-it-ness needed for the job. After all, he told us he's had more than 30 different jobs, including his time in the Army. Second, we couldn't imagine the department allowing him to continue as a GA, and if no GA, we knew he wouldn't be returning to grad school. Third, as a GA you have to keep 9 hours per semester, unless you get special permission to take less. Last spring Napoleon dropped one of his classes mid-semester.

We were wrong. The first day of the semester I walked into the office I share with five other people, including Napoleon, and there he was, holding court with one of the newbies. I was there 15 minutes before I decided to interrupt and introduce myself to the newbie as I knew Napoleon wouldn't do it. Napoleon went right on with his pontification of something or another about what companies look for when doing this and that, yada, yada, yada. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world for six months could tell he was full of BS.

I finally had enough of his misplaced theories and whiney voice, so I left the office to grab some lunch. On the way, I called K, who has since graduated and is in another state. I left a voicemail, "You'll never believe it, but Napoleon is back -- they let him stay as a GA. Go figure. I hadn't seen or heard from him all summer (thank god), but within 10 minutes of being in the office with him, I was ready to punch him." Sometimes Napoleon just brings out those feeling in you.

Of course, little has changed with Napoleon. He is getting his assignments/professors switched for the spring semester, and he emailed everyone the changes before certain individuals were told themselves. And somehow over Thanksgiving, our office was left unlocked and he pretty much blamed everyone else.

I'm still not sure how Napoleon gets to stay in the department. Maybe it's because we need more GAs than we have applicants and Napoleon is better than nothing. Maybe it's because the university just won't fire anyone.

Whatever the reason, I don't have to hang a poster of Napoleon Dynamite in my office when I actually share an office with him. I think, however, I will hang this Dilbert comic in the office after the holiday break.

1 comment:

scim said...

That's nothing. I know a guy who tops the topper.

just kidding. hilarious post.