Feeding the Sloth

Everyone has that one co-worker. That guy (or gal) who is just too weird for words, who you try to tell your relatives about but they just don’t get it unless they work there, too. At the three jobs I’ve had in my adult life, none stand out as much as Jim.

Words that could describe Jim: cantankerous, crotchety, bipolar, sensitive, clumsy, caring, intelligent, old-school. He did PR at my first job, and he was well in his 40s when I joined the team fresh out of dropping out of law school. He initially saw me (and anyone under the age of 35 who knew how to use a computer) as a threat, but he and I grew to be allies when the going got weird at our company.

There are so many stories I could tell about Jim, and someday I will tell them all. Like the two times he got stuck in the elevator. When he got locked in the men’s restroom. When he broke my boss’ kid’s clay sculpture. When he went on-air on our local news channel and the anchor got his name wrong.

But today, I want to talk about the time when he got to feed a sloth.

There’s a movie coming out soon, or maybe it’s out already, I don’t know, but I saw a preview for it when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s an animated film and the preview featured these sloths working at the DMV and working uber slow. Which is funny because it’s the DMV and it’s slow there. #amIright

I wasn’t there to personally witness Jim feeding the sloths, but my former boss was, and hopefully I can do it just a little bit of justice.

My company had forged some kind of corporate deal with the city zoo where we sponsored the daily animal show or something like that. So a few of the hot shots in my company got to go to the zoo and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the place. My boss went, and brought Jim along because he was the PR guy.

One of the cool, behind-the-scenes things they did was have a close encounter with a tree sloth. The thing was just hanging out in a tree and being slothlike, which is to say, not really moving. The zookeeper or whoever asked if they all wanted to try feeding it. They provided a demonstration of how to feed it by slowly holding your hand out to the sloth, containing the yam or carrot or whatever the hell they fed it. The sloth would then slowly reach out and gingerly remove the yam or carrot from your hand, bring it slowly to its mouth, and slowly eat it. Boom. Easy.

A VP does it. Hand held out, sloth hand slowly came, took food, slowly ate.

My boss does it. Hand held out, sloth hand slowly came, took food, slowly ate.

Jim’s turn. I don’t know if he just freaked out or wasn’t paying attention, but they hand him the yam and he just basically tosses it on the floor in the sloth’s enclosure.¬†Everybody stands there in awkward silence, like, WTF just happened. Even the sloth is like, dude, whaaaaaat???

But that was Jim … awkward AF. He’s still around. He’s retired now, playing golf and probably doing other odd things. I see him once in a while when a group of us get together for dinner and we usually recount some of these moments once we’ve had a few drinks. I don’t know if I’ll ever work with someone as eccentric as him, or someone who could provide as many stories as Jim has.


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