OK Jokes Are Not OK At This Time

by admin on May 29, 2013

I am from the town of Moore, Oklahoma. I was born and raised there, and moved away when I was 21 years old. My entire family and most of my childhood friends still reside there. I visit multiple times per year, as I am very close to my parents and will sometimes spend close to 4 weeks per year there. In other words – my hometown is still very dear to my heart.

I live in Texas now. For those that do not know, there is a rivalry going back many, many years between Oklahoma and Texas. This applies mostly to college sports, but it also extends to just general hostility towards one another.

I’ve always thought this was all a bit odd and have never gotten into the rivalry that much – although if forced to choose, it would definitely be my home state. All throughout football season, the jokes around my office are endless and I’ll admit, it get a little old. I take it in stride and just secretly relish the Oklahoma victories in sports.

As most of you know, a massive tornado – the worst tornado in recorded history – hit my hometown of Moore, Oklahoma this week. The devastation is beyond anything I can even describe. I personally know of 3 dozen people from my home church that have lost their homes. The tornado came within just yards of my parent’s house. And these are just the people that I personally know! All in all, 13,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or severely damaged. The worst part of course were those that perished in the storm. This included 10 children that lost their lives. This community has been devastated by this storm.

A girl that I work with is an avid University of Texas football fan. I’ve never quite understood this, since she has never attended college and don’t know why she would have such a loyalty to the school. Her jokes about Oklahoma are constant. I choose to play along during the year with her jokes. I just smile and nod and continue working (I don’t have any Texas jokes to reciprocate and honestly even if I did, I wouldn’t want to egg her on).

Since this terrible tragedy, her jokes have not only continued, but escalated. They are extremely inappropriate and offensive. She is kind of a cut-up at work and wants to make everyone laugh and have an atmosphere of fun. Maybe to my other co-workers, these jokes ARE fun. However, to someone that has just seen the closest people in the world to me barely miss being killed by a massive tornado, these just aren’t funny.

In my opinion, it’s disrespectful.

Jeanne, what do you think? Do you think that her joking is inappropriate at a time like this? Should I ask her to please stop?   0524-13

The next joke, you fix her with a serious, mournful look and say, “Co-worker, people died in Oklahoma. There is a time and place for joviality but now is not that time.”   Turn and go back to work.  Ignore her and if another co-worker facilitates her jokes with, “HAHAHAHA! Did you hear that?”, you reply, “Hmmm? What?  Did she say something?  I wasn’t paying attention.  Do you have the reports I requested last week done yet?”

I’m sorry your friends and family have had to endure such a tragedy.   Ehell has made a donation to the American Red Cross for Oklahoma disaster relief.

 

Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Mojo May 29, 2013 at 3:40 am

Now is the time to quietly but firmly speak out. She’s being thoughtless, and you have the opportunity to make her stop and think. Whether she listens and learns is up to her, but it should at least stop her telling these jokes around you.

Personally, I find jokes about the Titanic really tasteless. Partly because so many people lost their lives, and partly because my great-grandfather bought tickets for him and all his sons to sail on the maiden voyage. They were due to attend a large Methodist conference in America. About a month before sailing, he decided they couldn’t really afford it, and sold the tickets on. It was a lucky escape for my family, but still, hundreds dead is not really a joking matter.

Reply

Puzzled May 29, 2013 at 5:30 am

First of all, let me begin with giving you my deepest sympathy. I know you must have been extremely worried about your loved ones, and the wait to find out how they were must have been devastating. I cannot imagine your terror, and I am horrified that someone you work with would take this as a joke.

See, I think there must be something seriously wrong with people like this. No one else has said anything to her to stop this? There isn’t one person you work with willing to step up and save you the trouble of saying anything to her? Admin’s suggestion is a good one, but I wonder why no one else has had the gumption to save you the trouble. She would have already gotten a lecture from me about how it is inappropriate to joke about something like this.

Reply

Angela May 29, 2013 at 5:55 am

Good advice. You can also just look at her sorrowfully and ask quietly “Do you really think that’s funny?”

Reply

Ripple May 29, 2013 at 6:22 am

I would be even more specific than Admin. I would look her in the face and say, “I’m from Moore. I know many of the people who were affected by the tornado, including my parents. Please don’t make OK jokes in front of me just now.”

Reply

Lo May 29, 2013 at 6:50 am

Her exploitation of a tragedy to get laughs is shameful.

I enjoy black humor but I cannot imagine someone finding any humor in this tragedy. She probably supposes she is being “edgy” instead of offensive, although I doubt there’s any cleverness involved or much of any thought at all except for a desire to shock. If she’s getting positive reactions from others she has no incentive to stop. I would ignore her as much as possible. As in, pretend she doesn’t exist except when there’s something job related going on.

I have a feeling if you confront her she’ll go on the defensive and accuse you of having no sense of humor. I know exactly the type.

Reply

The Elf May 29, 2013 at 6:57 am

Most people understand the concept of “too soon”. Where tragedy has struck, you need to allow some breathing room before you can bring back the jokes. The exception is a sort of gallows humor, but that only works with the right joke to the right audience. Clearly, this person doesn’t get “too soon”. I like admin’s tactic and chosen words – if the first doesn’t work, the second should.

Maryland and Northern Virginia also have a rivalry. I don’t think it’s quite the same – college sports not being as big of a deal – but it still comes up a lot. You see it most frequently here in politics. I, being Maryland born and bred, love to tease my Virginian best friend. If something awful happened in Fairfax or Alexandria, I’d stop my Virginia jokes for a good while. Human tragedy is more binding.

Reply

A May 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

The nicest thing about a friendly rivalry is the ability to put it aside and come together during times of need. If that’s not possible, then someone is acting as a boor.

Reply

Erin May 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’ve had to unfollow people on Twitter for thinking this tragedy is a great time for politics. Some people can be so insensitive.

Reply

Hannahbobama May 29, 2013 at 8:22 am

Are these “jokes” still just sports- related? They surely aren’t about the tornado etc? Not sure OP was clear about that cause if it is just sports I’d just put it down to a sorry person and forget it– if it’s tornado related, then I’d raise some heck over it!

Reply

NostalgicGal May 29, 2013 at 8:25 am

I grew up in Tornado Alley, I have lots of stories of ‘little ones’ from when I grew up.

EF5 tornados are no laughing matter, they are hell-on-earth. For the Moore area to be hit twice by the top of the chart twice in a generation, is horrid. If you look at those pictures… I was thankful during the reporting, they were saying 51, then 91, then they lowered it to 24. I wish it was 0.

Maybe the woman is trying to cope with it by running more jokes. If I was the OP I’d have a word quietly with HR and or the supervisor; to have a talk with the woman to back it off.

While I’m writing this, that area is going through another 2-3 days right now of possibly a repeat. The Weather Channel online has mentioned a 6 of 10 factor number for them. That means that the dryline and the two masses of air that feed and spawn supercells are expected to be lined up to cause more havoc. I am not in that area, but I am an Okie too… Tuesday the 21st I was in a nearby BIG TOWN to where I am to shop, and the local Big Box Store had set up tables past the checkout of donations, and listed things like diapers and bottled water needed for Moore, and bless ‘em there were donations on those tables. People could buy and donate.

I lived in the Twin Cities for awhile and there was a Minnesota/Iowa ‘feud’ that was similar. It is fun and games as long as nobody’s hurt. In this case, Ms Texas Joker needs to lay off. Admin has part of the solution, the other should be to have a word where needed to get someone to just tone that gal down period, as posted it seems like she’s been at it for some time. She may not realize she’s over the line and if it was bugging OP before this, it is probably bothering others as well.

Reply

Jessica May 29, 2013 at 8:25 am

Texan here. I’ve never really understood rivalries, especially when this situation clearly has NOTHING to do with college sports. Your co-worker is making jokes in very poor taste. I would honestly just ignore her or file a complaint to HR.

Reply

Wendy B. May 29, 2013 at 8:30 am

I would add, if that doesn’t seem to have an affect, speak to your supervisor. Couch it in terms of the fact that most of the time you don’t care, but right now you and many others are traumatized and grieving and perhaps he/she could ask that the jokes be toned down for a while. Maybe in addition to that, you could make an announcement that you are collecting funds to send to a local charity in Moore to help with recovery and if anyone wants more information on how the people are coping, they can come talk with you…you might be surprised at the response.

Reply

InNM May 29, 2013 at 8:35 am

I agree with the admin’s advice. It is perfectly okay to stare at her icily, and increase the awkwardness until she goes away and I would repeat that behavior until she doesn’t do it again. If she is of working age, she is certainly old enough to know that jokes about natural disasters and the death of innocent people are never okay. I would also go to HR, and suggest that this woman is creating an uncomfortable and hostile working environment, noting every incident that occurred on paper. At that point, HR is obligated to talk to her, and the onus is on her to adjust her behavior.

Reply

Phoebe161 May 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

Oh, did that hit a nerve! Being a fellow Okie, I understand her frustrations. I wish I could give her as good as advice as Admin gave. The only thing I would add is to keep the emotions out (pleasant to neutral) when she does say something to that UT fan. I have met many “fans” who of that ilk (and not just UT fans), and, believe me, they aren’t worth the effort.

Admin: Thanks for the donation. The out-pouring of love, donations, & help have been overwhelming and deeply appreciated.

Reply

sv May 29, 2013 at 8:45 am

Miss Jeanne hit the nail on the head. A simple statement will go far.

Reply

Clux44 May 29, 2013 at 9:11 am

I sympathise with you greatly. If people did this sort of thing after the twin towers fell; there would have been outrage. We all need to be able to take a joke – but as they say in the world of comedy; “Timing is Everything.”

Sometimes we laugh at our predicaments and that’s ok; but this should be shared between those who have been through the terrible experience and not driven by others whose life was not affected in the least by the catastrophe. When I worked as a paramedic; the time on the job was serious but no matter how horrible the world can be, we always found something to laugh about at the end of a long day. If we didn’t, I think we would all have cracked up. However, never would we do this in front of a seriously injured patient or their relative.

I remember getting awful giggles during a funeral once. It was so tragic because a student from my class died suddenly at only 14 years old. It was terribly upsetting but my best friend and myself (also 14) did something by accident (I think that we stood up too early and the rest of the congregation were still sitting.) Nothing to laugh about at all, but for some reason my friend and I erupted into a burst of nervous giggles. It was a horrible moment and we tried to compose ourselves but couldn’t and so we had to leave out of respect to the family of the deceased.

My teachers knew we were both well behaved students and didn’t mention it. I think they knew that no-one felt worse than the two of us did. I shall never forget it though because of the horror I felt at not being able to regain composure.

May I finish by wishing you, your family and all those involved in the OK catastrophe, all the very best for the future.

Reply

michelle May 29, 2013 at 9:14 am

I have no words for the “jokester” – she’s beneath contempt on this point – but I do want to extend my sincere sympathy to you and your hometown neighbors, OP. What happened was truly horrific. I only hope and pray that, with help bestowed from all around and with that famous pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps Oklahoman determinisim, things will come back as quickly as possible.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones. I do remember seeing, though, a little story of hope – that elderly lady who thought her dog had perished in the storm, but then found him on live t.v. That was beautiful; I cried, I was so happy for her.

Reply

NV May 29, 2013 at 9:31 am

“There is absolutely nothing funny to be found in something as horrific as this. Please stop making jokes about my hometown, the disaster that befell it and my home state, you are only presenting yourself as tasteless and tawdry and you are actively sabotaging our working relationship by making these jokes.”

Reply

PhDeath May 29, 2013 at 9:32 am

“The nicest thing about a friendly rivalry is the ability to put it aside and come together during times of need. If that’s not possible, then someone is acting as a boor.”

Perfectly stated! First, OP, I am so sorry for the losses your town and people have sustained.

Second, I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment quoted above. For instance, it was so nice to see the Red Sox/Yankee “truce” following the Boston Marathon tragedy. I adore sports, and a good-natured ribbing of opponents can be fun. So many take it too far, though.

Reply

Not Amused May 29, 2013 at 9:42 am

I agree with Ripple. Let her know that this tragedy is personal for you and not a laughing matter.

Reply

abf May 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

My fellow Okie, my heart is with you and your family and friends. And if I may say, everyone please keep Tornado alley in your thoughts and prayers as we brace for more severe weather in the next few days.

Reply

AMC May 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

OP, I am so sorry for how this tragedy has affected you and your loved ones. It is perfectly okay for you to gently but clearly tell your coworker that you don’t find her “jokes” funny, just hurtful, especially knowing the tremendous pain and loss your loved ones are going through.

Some people enjoy ribbing one another for laughs, which I guess is acceptable in some circles. But I’ve never enjoyed it. I’m admittedly a little sensitive, so I try brush it off, but it can be hurtful sometimes, especially when done over and over again. I finally learned that I had to speak up and let people know when they were crossing the line.

Reply

LonelyHound May 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

An avid football fan of the Sooners and married to an Okie who is a Sooner graduate I get the Red River Rivalry. I really do. The Sooners are big around my in-laws house and ours so I get it. But NEVER have I heard my family crack jokes about an injured player let alone a tragedy like the tornado. DH has family in Edmond and friends in Moore and Norman. He was also in the F5 tornado that blew through the same area a few years back. Knowing the scale of what his friends and family were going through he was frantic until he heard from every one. He was up late worrying because one friend had not checked in on Facebook. It turns out that his friend had her family over for a visit which was very lucky indeed. All survived without injury but had her parents not been at her house they would have been caught in the tornado as their house was flattened!

Listen to the admin. Tell your co-worker that this is a very personal tragedy and not a joking matter. I would even say that if she does not refrain from these hurtful jokes in your presence then you will lodge a complaint with HR.

I hope your family and friends are doing alright. Lots of prayers for them!!

Reply

Stacey Frith-Smith May 29, 2013 at 9:59 am

The fact that a tragedy occurred that moved the Maginot line for you in terms of sensitivity is just part of the background to the basic issue. She’s a person who cannot distinguish between humor and harm. The fact that she would escalate now is much more of a comment on who she is than anything else. She knows it’s wrong and is an attention hound who doesn’t care. When someone vomits on you literally or figuratively, don’t stick around- just leave her presence.

Reply

BarensMom May 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

The next time she starts in, remind her that you are from Moore and happen to personally know some of the victims. Then go to your supervisor and let him/her know that coworker is creating a hostile work environment with her “jokes.”

My sympathy and best wishes at this difficult time for you and your family. I hope they stay safe.

Reply

Donna May 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

I am so sorry that this is happening to you. There is nothing “OK” about it. I am, however, completely perplexed. Having lived in Texas my entire life, and having plenty of friends who attended UT, I have never heard of a rivalry between our state and yours, on the field or otherwise. I don’t know if it is of any comfort, but apparently this bit of weirdness is not state-wide.

Reply

Jay May 29, 2013 at 10:44 am

In a place where people constantly make OK jokes, I’m not surprised that they would continue to make OK jokes. That there was a tragedy in the state wouldn’t really impinge upon “Sooners stink!” or whatever. You don’t say that this person was making tasteless jokes *about* the tragedy.. I think that would certainly cross a line, but if it’s “How many Okies does it take to screw in a lightbulb”, then I think you’re not being fair. You just had a very personal tragedy, and I wouldn’t expect you to have much humor about ANYTHING any time soon, but I don’t see where your description says that these co-workers crossed any line they hadn’t crossed years ago.

You say “is her joking inappropriate at a time like this”. I’d have to say no, if it was appropriate before.

Reply

Ann May 29, 2013 at 11:55 am

I get that gallows humor and awful jokes can get people through a tragedy or a stressful job, like the paramedic. But timing and audience is everything. It can take a long time for some events to become fodder for a joke (such as Hogan’s Heroes, set in a German POW camp), and I’ve heard even concentration camp survivors use jokes to deal with the horror. I think we get the giggles at funerals and use laughter to deal with things that frighten us, namely, death.

All that said, your coworker is being a donkey’s posterior. I would give her the icy stare of gloom just to make her very uncomfortable, and do consider going to HR with this. And I’m very sorry for this tragedy that your hometown is experiencing.

Reply

Lo May 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm

@ Clux44

I sympathize with you strongly. My first wake was at that age, 14. It was for the parent of a classmate. I collapsed into a giggling fit over some small mishap and everyone was gracious about it but it was the most awful betraying feeling I’ve ever had. I’ve always been a nervous laugher. It’s a curse.

Reply

Maargaret May 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Why not just bluntly come out with it? “Co-worker, I’ve tried to ignore your inappropriate, offensive jokes about people who DIED last week. This isn’t about football, this is real life. One more bad joke and I’m going to Supervisor / HR / whoever can slap her down.”

I am so sorry about Moore and this appalling disaster. I admire the spirit of that town.

Reply

Merrick May 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

If you have any old newspapers with headlines of the tragedy, particularly about the children killed at school and main page photographs of grief stricken people I would bring them in and leave them where people will see them. It would be a silent reminder that it is not at all a funny subject.

Reply

Cat May 29, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I have never understood why someone with no connections to an university shows interest in its athletics. Everytime she does, I think I’d say, “I didn’t know you went there? What did you study?” When she reminds you that she is not connected to that school, I’d ask, ” Really? And what is your interest in their programs? Have you applied to attend?” I’d repeat as needed.
The jocular remarks about a tragedy is a more serious matter. I think I’d pretend she did not understand what happened. “You probably don’t realize it, but many people lost their children in that terrible tornado. Families and their friends were devastated by it and so many people lost everything. It’s not a matter for humor. I’m sure you would not have said that if you had understood what happened. ”
If she continues, I’d be more blunt, “Please don’t make hateful remarks about other people’s suffering. People will think you are not well-bred.” Past that, a look of utter disapproval would suffice.

Reply

Nancy May 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I grew up in WI and now live in MN. I can promise you that when the I35W bridge collapsed, NO ONE in Wisconsin was telling jokes about how they were glad it happened to Vikings fans, ect. Mostly, they were putting the telecom services to the test checking on relatives to see if they were on that highly traveled span of bridge. I don’t know if your coworker is trying to be funny, but you’re not doing her any favors by letting her think for one hot minute that she’s funny. She needs to learn now, and learn quick that there is a time and a place for joking, and this is not one of those times.

Reply

Weaver May 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

It’s strange to think that there are people that are really that insensitive. How vile that you’ve had t0 listen to her stupid and inappropriate comments. My sympathies to you.

I agree with admin, but I’d replace ‘joviality’ with ‘joking’, because otherwise I think it sounds a bit too stilted. I also think that if another coworker facilitates her ridiculous comments, rather than saying anything else, I’d just fix them both with a meaningful look for as long as it takes. If you have to say anything, just say “that’s my hometown. I know these people”.

Best of luck to your community.

Reply

Mae May 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

My sympathy to the OP and her family, friends and neighbors affected by this terrible tragedy.

I agree with Ripple, comment #4. If she continues to make jokes after that, then it is time to speak to her supervisor and/or HR. Making jokes and comments about something that killed people and devastated a community is beyond comprehension. If the jokes are still sports-related, I would still say something, explaining that even sports jokes are hurtful now.

Reply

yokozbornak May 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Some people just have no sense. I would just give her a cold stare, and say, “Nope, still not funny” and walk away.

BTW, I am an avid Alabama fan (Roll Tide!) and the Alabama/Auburn rivalry is the stuff of legend. When a tornado hit Tuscaloosa a couple of years ago including parts of the Alabama campus many Auburn fans and students came to help with disaster relief and clean-up. Rivalry is fun, but when a tragedy occurs all that needs to be put aside. Unfortunately, every team has idiots that root for them and always take things way too far.

Reply

Allie May 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I lived in Texas at the time of the Oklahoma City Bombing AND knew quite a few people who were Texas alums. I never heard ANY of them make OK jokes then. This is just as inappropriate. Although I find those jokes to be in poor taste the whole year. “Our football team is better than your team” is one thing but the “Everyone from my rival’s state is stupid” is not appropriate ever.

Reply

Lisa May 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm

“Are these “jokes” still just sports- related? They surely aren’t about the tornado etc? Not sure OP was clear about that cause if it is just sports I’d just put it down to a sorry person and forget it– if it’s tornado related, then I’d raise some heck over it!”

This is exactly what I was thinking. Please tell me she’s not actually joking about the tornado!

Reply

Anonymous May 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm

@Cat–I wouldn’t get on Co-Worker for being a fan of a football team from a university she didn’t attend, because not everyone goes to university. For some, it’s too expensive, and for others, it’s not logistically possible, and there are still others who just aren’t “school kind of people,” but they’re smart in other ways, like fixing cars and other hands-on jobs like that. For all we know, this woman could have had a friend, significant other, or family member attend the University of Texas, and possibly even play on the football team there. As for making jokes about Oklahoma, I agree that that needs to be politely shut down the first time (“Do you really think that’s funny right now?” works well), then firmly shut down the second time “That’s not cool; I know X, Y, and Z from church who lost their homes in the tornado, and they wouldn’t think it’s funny either,” and ignored thereafter, and documented if necessary, to report to Human Resources if it doesn’t stop. If Human Resources is more likely to discipline/fire the OP for complaining, then I’d still document the inappropriate jokes, just so the OP can say, “Co-Worker, I told you X number of times to stop making jokes about Oklahoma.”

Reply

Amanda H. May 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I want to start by saying that I second the Admin’s response. Also this:

“The nicest thing about a friendly rivalry is the ability to put it aside and come together during times of need. If that’s not possible, then someone is acting as a boor.”

is perfect.

Like Donna mentioned, I don’t think the OK/TX rivalry is statewide. My husband’s family is from Texas and I haven’t heard one single Oklahoma joke from them or any of their friends and extended acquaintances. In their neck of the woods, it’s mostly UT vs. Texas A&M, which is one of those perennial university rivalries. Hubby and I *will* rib each other for where we hail from (he’s from Texas, I’m from New York), but there’s a huge difference between friendly ribbing and gallows humor. You didn’t mention; are her jokes specific to the tornado, or just the same generic Oklahoma jokes she’s always been using? Tragedy-specific jokes are certainly inappropriate at this time, but generic Oklahoma jokes would still be (mostly) okay. The escalation of how often she cracks the jokes could be irritating, and you’re more than welcome to ask her to stop in your presence regardless.

Reply

The OP May 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

UPDATE FROM THE OP:

Thanks so much for everyone’s advice and thank you Ms. Jeanne for your wisdom and also for your donation and kind words. Throughout this tragedy, I have been so moved by the amount of generosity and love that complete strangers have showed my hometown and “my people”. My home church is in the middle of the tornado destruction (directly in front of the Plaza Towers neighborhood) and the gym is filled to the BRIM with supplies and volunteers. Semi-trucks that have been converted into barracks (bunk beds and kitchens inside) have been put on the church property by the dozen and will remain there throughout the summer as swarms of volunteers have already planned their trips to Moore to help rebuild.

A great example of human generosity: The cemetery next to my church contains the graves of my grandparents, my uncle and many of my loved ones in the church I grew up in. The cemetery was hit directly and sustained major damage including headstones completely gone and huge amounts of debris strewn everywhere. Volunteers from Moore assembled a cemetery clean-up. They expected it would take 2-3 days for 100 volunteers to clean it up. Over 1,000 volunteers showed up and the cemetery was cleaned in 1 hour. Even though this was a cemetery, it meant so much to me that so many complete strangers – some from other states or countries – would come to this cemetery that contained the graves of people they never knew and respectfully clean up the place that my loved ones were laid to rest. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I have so many stories I could share of human kindness and generosity, but I will keep it brief. Even though I am devastated at what has happened, I am so thankful and proud of the community that I come from. Within hours of the tornado, my church had been set up as a relief center and volunteers and supplies began pouring in – not from the Federal Government, mind you – but from the community itself. Within just days, volunteers from all over the country began pouring in and bringing supplies with them. Though there have been crooks and moochers that have appeared, like they do in every tragedy, the goodness and kindness of people has overwhelmed any negativity they have brought.

As to the original reason for the post, I wanted to give you an update!

To be clear, the jokes were not related to sports. They were mean jokes about the state of Oklahoma and about Oklahomans themselves. Nothing was ever said directly about the tornado in these jokes although, she did make a joke that it was too bad that Arkansas had not been swept up in the tornado after it left Oklahoma.

I tried some of the things that were suggested.

I said something to the effect of, “Do you realize this is where I’m from? This is my hometown and people that I dearly love were affected in this storm”.

This was met with a response of, “Oh, you know I love y’all. I’m just playin.”

Later in the day she stated to someone else loudly that she would be refraining from Oklahoma jokes for a short time and it made it clear it was ONLY because of the tornado and that she would resume the jokes as soon as it was appropriate.

:-/

At least I will be getting some relief in the meantime.

When college football starts again, I think I will also take the suggestion from a poster that said that I should ask questions like, “When did you go to college at UT? I didn’t know you studied there?”. I love that this kind of implies that she shouldn’t have such a fierce hatred for a rival school when she didn’t even go to UT.

Thanks again everyone!

Reply

sweetonsno May 29, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Like Hannabobama, I wasn’t entirely clear whether the jokes were still sports-related or whether they have become tornado-themed.

If they are still just sports-related, I vote for a more tired smile (don’t move your eyes) and a quiet comment reminding her where you’re from. “I’m just not in the mood for Oklahoma jokes. I’m very worried about my friends and family back in Moore. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them.”

If, however, she has begun cracking tornado-related jokes, I think a stronger response is warranted. Depending on what your ultimate goal is, you have a number of options. (Though I wouldn’t go to HR unless she persists after you ask her to stop.)

If you think that a calm and rational conversation would work, I’d ask her to join you for coffee (even though you probably don’t want to) and basically tell her what you told us here. Remind her that you are from Moore. Tell her that people you know lost their homes and that your parents almost did. In short, remind her of the horrible reality that she seems to have forgotten, and ask her to cool it for awhile. (This is what I’d do if you think she’s just oblivious. If you suspect that she’s actually trying to get a rise out of you, I’d go for a more direct “Not funny. Stop it or I go to HR” approach.)

Reply

Rap May 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I want to ask for clarification. Is the coworker making jokes about the tragedy? Or is this OK vs TX sports jokes? I ask because jokes about the tornado are simply heinous, while the office back and forth about sports rubbing the OP the wrong way is definetely irritating but I would handle it differently.

Nasty remarks about the tragedy? Go to HR. Go to your own boss. Go to her boss. Thats just straight up offensive.

If the comments are sports team related and Texas vs Oklahoma and its hitting the OP because of the recent tragedy…. Then if it was me, I’d take the coworker aside and ask her to give it a rest out of respect for the situation. The coworker may have no awareness of the OP’s background in that area of Oklahoma.

Whether or not sport team rivalries are appropriate work topics… Its not my thing, but its not an inherently offensive conversation to have at work.

“I have never understood why someone with no connections to an university shows interest in its athletics. Everytime she does, I think I’d say, “I didn’t know you went there? What did you study?” When she reminds you that she is not connected to that school, I’d ask, ” Really? And what is your interest in their programs? Have you applied to attend?” I’d repeat as needed.”

You know, my first thought in reading this is wouldn’t it be funny if the person being interrogated responded with “How kind of you to take an interest and what about that bean dip at the office potluck?” to every question. :)

Reply

Redneck Gravy May 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I am from Texas and proud of it! I also understand rivalry – this is neither the time nor the place to be joking about loss of life and property.

What a stinker you are having to deal with. I agree with Admin’s advice and might also add “neighbors help neighbors” to your response to Miss Stinker. Then raise your eyebrows with a questioning look and see how quickly she scatters.

I cannot apologize enough for the insensitivity of a fellow Texan ( geez, I hope she’s an import) she is beyond rude! My thoughts and prayers are with all the recent tornado victims – Texas and Oklahoma.

Reply

Marozia May 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Unbelievably crass, vulgar and disgraceful are the words to describe this colleague.
You’ve tried everything to stop this person and her jokes, so now HR may be able to help. One of the ones I use is the intense concentration-look at my work when someone approaches and if they say something inappropriate, I just say, “That’s nice, dear” and go back to work. I suppose it’s easy for me being an audio-typist, I can just put my earphones, type and ignore!
Every country, state, county, shire, etc, have their little rivalries. But there is a time and a place for joking.

Reply

Library Diva May 29, 2013 at 3:48 pm

@Mojo, I know how you feel about Titanic jokes. I have a relative who did go through with her plans and sailed on that ship. She survived, and was put into the last lifeboat. The jokes don’t bother me…what did bother me much more was the “Titanic” craze of the late 1990s and early 200s, which has thankfully died out. I enjoyed the movie and appreciated it even more due to my family’s connection. But the t-shirts, the jewelry line, the party theme, the giant inflatable slide shaped like the ship snapped in half…I could have done without all of that.

OP’s co-worker needs to tone it down. I agree with coming out bluntly and telling her it’s inappropriate. If you don’t have an HR department to take it to, I would take it to your boss, and ask if (s)he could address the subject during the next department or all-staff meeting. But I don’t think you’re being oversensitive, nor do I think you’re out of line in taking action if she doesn’t back off. (I suspect she has seen how much this upsets you and has decided to deliberately ramp it up). I’m sorry, OP, for the devastation in your hometown.

Reply

AIP May 29, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I agree with Ripple, being general just won’t work with this one. I would recommend saying : I know you don’t mean to be nasty, but I’m from Moore and know loads of people whose lives were devastated and my parents home was almost destroyed. I don’t find your jokes funny”‘ and a well-placed “knock it off” if she carries on. The thing about gallows humour is that it’s only cathartic when it’s the people going through the tough times using it, and unless you’re a very skilled comedian it does come across as crass if you’re an outsider.

Reply

Rap May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Thanks for the clarification, OP.

Mean jokes about the state is not cool – I’d talk to whoever’s supervising if you don’t have an HR department because there’s school rivalries and then there’s just blasting about your state, made worse that ignorant coworker is aware that you’re from the affected area.

Reply

Catvickie May 29, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I moved to Nebraska for my last year of high school and out there it was always Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in football. I sure hope the Nebraskans are behaving themselves after this tragedy!

Reply

SJ May 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I know I might sound snobby in saying this, but here goes.

I’m a Texan, thought not one to get into the rivalry either. However, I have experienced people who are avid UT fans with absolutely no ties whatsoever to the school. I don’t get it.

Anyway, not the point of the story, but relating to the weirdness of your coworker.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: