He was always reserved, and became even more so in the last few years. Never one to first say hello, but always quick with a smile whenever anyone passed by his desk, those in the office kept away from him – not because he was unlikeable, or even because he himself initiated any enmity or scorn, but merely because that was the way things were.
He was a stranger among coworkers where working together brought individuals of different perspectives, outlooks, backgrounds and personalities together to form a union of common objectives. He was older than most of his fellow compatriots, but not too old to stand out as stodgy or unwelcomed. Most others simply knew him because he had been there for as long as they could remember, and some, of a time when he had not yet arrived.
The strange story of X is just that – it is not so strange, and he was just another individual whose anonymity was pronounced by the very likeness to everyone else’s story. In this world where people work together for years and years, but where neighborliness stops at the clock that shows when office hours end and the compensation to be received will not exceed the ticking of a minute thereafter, lives are lived in close proximity, but never known.
In other universes, in different civilizations, in foreign communities and amalgamations where the human species congregate in tribes, townships and collectives of human detritus, the strange story of X is often not of that stranger described, but of the others who never took the time to invite that stranger into one’s home. The story always continues, of course – of the sudden disappearance, of rumors abounding, then the dissipation of any notice, until time concealed and the question went away; until the strange story of X became focused upon the next person who everyone passed by as a nobody amongst a universe of somebodies thinking that the strange story of X was unique in some way.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact the Federal or Postal employee’s ability or capacity to complete and fulfill all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position, the strange story of X is often a familiar one – except that, instead of the “person” himself, it is the medical condition that everyone, or most everyone, “knows about” but never acknowledges, and treats as if it doesn’t exist.
This is a funny and strange world, where the suffering of others is barely spoken about, and anonymity is preferred over empathy expressed.
Perhaps it is time to “move on”, and to do so, preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a necessary first step. For, in the end, the strange story of X is in the very estrangement of human beings from the humanity we have left behind, and fighting for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit may be the best hope of leaving such strangeness behind, where neither the workplace nor the coworkers will query much beyond a day’s absence when the clock ticks five.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire