--- This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. ---
He was not the sort of fellow you would expect as a superior. Though he took pains to impress upon me that he expected to be treated as no less.
We called him "Furry". Not, not because he had hair sticking out of his forehead or ears, not that there is anything wrong with that either. He simply had a face full of beard, no trimmed neat but not falling down smooth either. They were just long enough to seem to stand up a little in your face as a tangled mass, stars to be addressed directly rather than mere stage decorations.
His cheeks tended to be rosy, maybe from the wind chills of Canada, where he lives and spends half of his time. His eyes didn't exactly spark, but they were animated, so often there was at least a twinkle. It was no surprise then, with a beer filled belly and laugh that was fitting to its size, he was a Santa doppelganger amongst us, only a red outfit missing.
He could be less than jolly though when it comes to work topics. In fact we argued almost whenever we talked. Me, the young upstart looking for validation with my hard earned skills, knowledge and smarts. Him, seasoned, established, and quick witted slyness, dotted in his funny expressions like "bob's his uncle!" or "A quick whack upside the head" or... In the heat of a debate, you never know when one of these are coming, halting you just long enough for him to think of an answer that silences you, red faced, panting, and looking for a rebuttal but coming up short, as you are still too distracted from trying to figure out what the saying meant, and have forgotten completely what the argument was about. This worked repeatedly over the years, as no one did ever figure out the meaning, and when they appeared in the oxygen depleted meeting rooms, they never failed to lure us away from sanity to try.
Furry would get redder than most in an argument, eyes slightly bulging and breath quicken so he literally puffs, like a bull in the china shop. Yet the few times we caught him in a dead end, he had the ability to turn 180 in under a second. Like he hasn't just heard you scream the idea out loud for the past hour, he would restate it in terms of his words, and smugly turn to you with twinkling Santa eyes, and say: "now that, is a great idea!" Since you can't tell if he is talking about you or himself, it leaves no room for argument, and that tends to sizzle any further debates and deflate the room instantly. For me, he has an especially nice treat, smiling like a true jolly saint, he'd say: "you know what your problem is?" Before I could answer, he'd continue: "You are way too damn much like my daughter."
It was a brilliant ploy. As we couldn't resist his jolly nature, his red neck jokes, and the wind he seems to blow into a room just by entering it, I could never bring about a reply to that condescending, yet somehow warmly dressed quip. It doesn't help I lean on the ESL fact way too often I have bought into it myself, faithfully coming up with just the most clever come back 5 minutes after the fact, much like George in Seinfeld, though the poor guy didn't even have ESL as an excuse.
I don't know where it all went so wrong, when one day I heard he was leaving us, and a dozen or so colleagues showed up to send him off. I had not seen him for a while, having transferred to another division long ago. He gave us a jolly goodbye, no tearful speeches or heartfelt memories, just more beer, jokes, and belly laughs. I wondered what happened, perhaps the economy, perhaps HR finally caught on, perhaps a better offer, or perhaps he was just tired. I may never know, but after all those years of abuse I had gotten used to him, not the arguments, but the eccentric antics, the offbeat comments, the bit of color, that is so rare in a white on white office building. We seem so much the paler without that salty, pungent air blowing in once every two weeks.