This Man I Call Leonard

There are two things, two odd things, that define this man I call Leonard. The first is obvious. It’s something his friends find both frustrating and commendable on some level. Leonard won’t go to any restaurant that serves Pepsi products. If you agree to meet him for dinner, you can be sure that when he arrives at the eatery, his very first question will be, “Do you serve Diet Coke?” If the answer is no, then you will go to the next restaurant, closest to the first, and will repeat that journey until the answer is a definitive yes.

Sometimes Leonard already knows the answer, but he agrees to meet you there in the hopes that the lamebrains, his word, will have made the right, his word, decision to offer Coke products instead. Had he not had that very thing happen just one time, perhaps the collective efforts of all parties involved in those moments before the act of actually eating would be a touch less tense. But alas, just one time, and never again since, one of the restaurants he so desperately wanted to try did, in fact, replace their Pepsi products with Coke products, and so he theorizes – and he has the right to do so – that despite the overwhelming odds of it ever happening again, that it could occur another time. So, don’t try and get Leonard to pick a restaurant based off previous visits to any joint he’s already queried, or by trusting his nagging suspicion that they will most likely still be serving the beverage he refuses to drink.

No, you should go and let it play out. You should support this man named Leonard, because if you analyze his behavior, as closely as I have, you will see: he is optimistic and he sticks to his guns. These are desirable qualities, are they not? He doesn’t like Pepsi, life is short, and it’s something he can control – no experience should be sullied by a second rate cola, and that’s fine. In all honesty you don’t have to eat with him if you don’t like, or if you want to join him, you can try and make arrangements before hand to dine where they do pour Coca-Cola products, and go from there. The fact that he gives every owner of every establishment the benefit of the doubt, as he continues to believe they might turn the corner, reassess their beverage offering, and join the winners of the world – his phrase, not mine – will make this difficult. You can tell him to get over it, try to explain that it isn’t really a big deal, make a suggestion that he have water just this one time – but in the end, you will lose.

Ultimately you will dine somewhere just as nice, where you’ll probably have an alcoholic beverage to take the edge the whole process has bestowed upon you, clean off. Then maybe you can try to determine what exactly is this other thing I’ve previously mentioned about him that supposedly defines him. You will try, but you’ll never succeed – because unlike that first particular defect, if you choose to see it as one, the other is something only Leonard and myself know about.

I think sometimes we share something with someone, especially when we consider it vile or strange, only in the hopes that by doing so we can wash our souls a touch by having other people in on it. I know for me, the more disturbing the image or story, the more I want to release it so that I’ve not sole ownership of something that turns my stomach so. Perhaps that is why I’ve decided to out Leonard in this particular fashion, maybe I believe the more people who know about it, the less likely what he does will inhabit the forefront of my brain so very many times a day.

Twice a month, on the first and fifteenth, like most people, Leonard is paid for performing his job. Unlike most people, at least most people in today’s modern world, he does not use direct deposit. When I asked him why, he quickly replied, “I’ve tired it, but it simply doesn’t work for me.” I surmised it must relate to a distrust of banks or even our own HR department – I’m sure there are plenty of folks who don’t use direct deposit, having never really been able to completely turn over their banking and bill paying lives to computers and all the ones and zeros required for successful convenience.

Two weeks passed after this very short conversation in which I learned about Leonard’s dislike of direct deposit. I hadn’t given it another thought, but I guess he had. “I need you to know, to understand, why I don’t use direct deposit.” He said to me on what otherwise might have been another boring day crunching numbers. I found his desire to educate me about it only slightly odd, since I was already privy to his refusal to dine places that served Pepsi’s portfolio of beverages. He invited me to join him privately in a conference room – even offered to spring for afternoon snacks from the vending machine – and I followed him without hesitation, I like snacks.

I left that conference room about fifteen minutes later, with the following knowledge: This man I call Leonard meant what he said – direct deposit does not work for him. He confided to me that some years ago – decades i guess – he noticed that when he received his paycheck those two days of the month, he immediately became aroused, and consequently, quite erect. His words, not mine. And over time, like Pavlov’s Dogs, the presentation of that bi-monthly check became the only thing that could or would ever get him off. And, over that same time, as he went from one job to another, he realized it was all about the check, and he couldn’t even tag the happening of it all to the original HR cutie who first delivered the check to him when and where it all begun.

Simply seeing money appear in his bank account didn’t work, and so after trying direct deposit at the behest of an overzealous human resources manager who had practically begged him to give it a shot, he went right back to live paper checks. And twice a month, almost immediately after someone puts that check in his hand, he heads straight to the men’s bathroom here at the office. Not the one in the front, too many folks coming in and out, so he walks steadfast with the paycheck in its sealed envelope to the smaller, far less frequently used bathroom in the way back of the office. He locks himself inside the stall, slowly opens that envelope, stares at the numbers and the buying power it represents, and then proceeds with the unseemly business he so predictably refers to as ‘rubbing one out.’

Sensing my unease, he informed me that he had tried taking his paycheck home at the end of the day to perform this act, but with zero success. If he didn’t take care of business within the first ten minutes of receiving it, all was lost – his words, not mine. Since our discussion, I do my best to completely avoid this man I call Leonard on those two days of the month. And until now I’d not told a soul – mostly because I have what I believe to be a true sense of empathy for the man. The days in between payday have always seemed incredibly long to me, and given Leonard’s predicament, I can only surmise those nearly two week dry spells in between visits to the office bathroom in the way back are infinitely more tortoise-like in their passing.

As I said, I’ve only decided to share it here in the hopes that the reader’s knowing of the situation alleviates the shame I have for just knowing about it. Oh, and I do suggest, that despite these two odd quirks, that should you ever determine who this man I call Leonard is, you’ll still consider dining out with him. He isn’t a bad man, and I’ve seen him take care of the entire bill on more than one occasion – even a party of six. One might try, as i have, to connect these large acts of generosity to the aforementioned situation – brand them as acts that only serve in shedding some guilt he might possess related to his dirty little secret. But, I’m sure you have your own. Don’t we all?

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