Sunday, November 14, 2010

Everyone Avoids Me Like a Cyclone Ranger

I was trying to explain to a colleague at work the other day that everyone, everywhere serves a purpose even when they don't think so. He'd had a rough week and I think his self-esteem was at a low ebb. I'm never sure how people such as this always seem to find me. There must be some kind of an invisible mark on my door lintel. People stop in all the time, usually while waiting to talk to one of the important people down the hall from my office, so in a way I'm like a TV in the lounge.

I'm on but not loud enough to really follow and not tuned to anything especially interesting. The funny part (not necessarily hilariously funny, though thanks for that thought) is that I try to be as supportive as I can which, since I have 'issues' (shall we say) with most other people on the planet, is more challenging than it needs to be.

I lack social grace and/or the ability to make small talk (what exactly is small talk and is there an opposite and what is that called? Tall Talk? Big Talk?). I have enough trouble making eye contact, much less remembering names and or spousal and family relationships. I've been known to ask women who've recently given birth if they're expecting a baby (and have been assured by my loving wife you do not recover from a gaffe such as that, ever) or to inquire after the welfare of a spouse to learn he/she have gone their separate ways on the matrimonial highway (usually I've been more fond of the one who's done the Great Escape but I don't think I've ever actually said that aloud), which certainly leaves all of us in Downtown Awkward Moment.

I once worked, temporarily, in another building, where some of my near-colleagues complained about my lack of sociability to one of the people in the charge. He proceeded, I think, from the assumption I had Asperger Syndrome or something (I have the brains to have something, but certainly not enough for Asperger). When I'd pass people in the hallway they'd ask 'how are you doing"' and I always said, 'thank for asking' and kept walking.

His suggestion was the proper response was 'you should ask them how they how are.' I was flummoxed and carefully explained I didn't care how they were. I didn't know their names, I had no idea what they did in the building; it wasn't like we were going bowling after work. They were people I passed in the hallway endless numbers of times everyday. We were filling up about 1.8 seconds of time as we closed the two and half meters of space separating us as we walked towards, and then past, one another.

It was his turn to be flummoxed, I guess, as our meeting ended somewhat abruptly shortly afterwards and slowly I noticed more and more often fewer and fewer people in the hallway as I walked from one office to another. I was tempted to get a button that read 'Ask Me about Raising Wombats for Pleasure and Profit' (though I suspect there's precious little of either) sort of as an icebreaker. I had even gone so far, should someone, indeed, ask, to be prepared to pounce on them, shouting 'and how are you?' over and over again. No wonder everyone around me is a total stranger. Hey! How are your wife and kids? Can I interest you in a wombat? How about a line of bowling? I've got my own shoes, seriously.
-bill kenny

No comments: