‘Antagony LLC.’ by Edward Raso

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I have been ignored, avoided, cursed, berated, insulted, threatened with bodily harm, chased, spat upon, and assaulted. Sometimes all in the same week. But I don’t mind. Quite to the contrary, this is the kind of week to which I aspire. The kind that typically nets me a nice little bonus. You see, it’s what I do. Professionally. I annoy. I agitate and antagonize. I drive people right to the edge and if I can, over. I am a Professional Nuisance.

I even have a business card: Scott Stempowicz * Professional Nuisance * Antagony LLC.

A Professional Nuisance (PN as we refer to it in the trade) is kind of a hitman for the meek and passive aggressive. We don’t make people dead; we make them miserable. Do you have an awful neighbor? A cheating boyfriend? A coworker from hell? A tyrannical in-law? I can get you satisfaction. I will, for a fee pre-negotiated by Antagony LLC, make your despised one the target of my considerable antagonistic talent. And for your viewing pleasure, many of the interactions with the target will be recorded with my vintage Google Glasses, that, let’s face it, annoy everyone a great deal right off the bat.

I have been with Antagony LLC for eight years and I’ve won Nuisance of the Year four times. I was all but assured the Senior Professional Nuisance (SPN) position opening up next month. But unfortunately for me, a public nuisance is only as good as his last case. And as I sit here with my jaw wired shut, sipping coffee through a straw, I now have serious doubts about my chances of promotion. You see, my last case was such a shit show-dumpster fire-spectacular-hot mess, that even these idioms invoking feces and flames fall short as descriptors.

It did not go well.

I didn’t even want the stupid case in the first place, but then when the original PN became incapacitated, it was assigned to me. That original PN would be one Freddie Spangle, my longtime rival and now probable lock for the SPN position. Don’t get me started on Spangle. He is a great and terrible asshole.

There’s a lot of competition among us nuisances. It begins early on. Antagony LLC is always looking for new talent and there is no shortage of annoying people out there who would like nothing better than to transform being their anathema into a prosperous career. Most get weeded out during the applicant interview process–clueless aspirants who all think they’re Machiavelli when really they’re just Elmer Fudd. Only the very top of the talent pool makes it through for a probational try. As these hopefuls quickly find out, talent alone doesn’t cut it. Nor does enthusiasm. We’re always getting these young hotshots, fresh out of college and full of promise, talented enough to make even Fred Rodgers go red in the face and scream “FUCKKKKK!” through clenched teeth.

Your typical probie hot-shot starts out gung-ho but no matter how much he’s warned, his enthusiasm will usually get the better of him. He’ll cross the line from clever, covert nuisancing to legal harassment. He’ll go too far, too soon, and blow his cover on the first or second day. This ruins any chance of continuing the case for the week or so it takes to truly antagonize someone. When they fail, Antagony LLC ends up having to refund the money. At best. But sometimes the target goes to the authorities and the whole big mess leads back to Antagony and creates legal headaches the company does not need. Had it not been for the Trump Freedom of Business Act of 2019, capping liability suits against corporations by individuals to $1,000, Antagony LLC would surely be out of business. Nevertheless, a new hire who catches a harassment suit or even a restraining order during his probationary period is automatically shit-canned.

Any seasoned PN will tell you that a successful case takes more than just a full frontal assault. It takes research into the target’s habits. It takes planning. You must be sagacious. The first thing I do when I’m assigned a case is study the target’s routines. I slog through the research so I can map out my nuisancing ahead of time. The company encourages this. They recommend one week for research, one week for nuisancing.

Once my research is done, I begin. If the target is a motorist, Day One will typically begin with one of my favorite and most effective techniques: I engage him in a rented car. I start by weaving recklessly around him so that he gets very nervous and slows down. Then I pull right in front of him and drive very S-L-O-W-L-Y. Think of the speed you’d need to go in order to get a large knuckled, eleven-and-one-steering-wheel-clutching, elderly person to pass you across a double yellow line, shaking their heads in pity while doing so. Now half that velocity and you have an idea of what I mean. The target becomes upset, blowing his horn, flashing his lights, screaming out the window, etc., until he can finally get around and away from me. Except: Aha! He hasn’t gotten away at all. I already know where he’s going. And I, armed with my research into his routines, can take my time like Pepé Le Pew gently and relentlessly pursuing his feline love interest. On a good day, if the target has lots of driving to do, I will switch rental cars several times to preserve my cover and make his day a vehicular living hell.

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