Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Awkward Moments

I currently work in a building that has really long hallways. I often have to walk up and down these hallways throughout the day. The shape of these hallways creates one of the most awkward moments possible.

The thing about most awkward moments is that they get less awkward the more they happen. For instance, a first date can be pretty awkward. But the more dates you go on, the more comfortable you get. Or if it's awkward for you to poop in front of your wife, that usually goes away after about two weeks. Unfortunately, this awkward moment seems to get worse every time.

The hallways at work are extremely long and narrow (insert immature phallic joke here). And I work near the end of the hallway, which means I have to travel its entirety to get to my office. The problem is that I often cross paths with my coworkers many times during the day.

The awkwardness comes when I am aware of a coworker at the end of the hall and I know that he is aware of me. I'm faced with quite the dilemma:

a) Yell down the hall, "Hey buddy, how's it going?" and hope he can hear me.
b) Stare intently at the walls on either side as if there's something interesting going on there.
c) Duck into the nearest office and hope it's empty.

The problem with choosing "a" is that usually when people say, "Hey, how are you?" or "How was your weekend," or "Is your dad still on chemo?" they don't really care how you feel. I'm one of those people. I'm just being polite. These hallways offer way too much time for a coworker to answer that question and then go into detail about how they spent their weekend trying to sober up from that crazy Friday night they had Tiki Bob's. So there's no way I'm choosing "a." That just leads to more awkwardness.

The problem with "b" is that it's way too obvious that I'm trying to ignore my coworker. Usually if I start with "b," I end up realizing how ridiculous it is, then I'll raise a finger in the air and pretend I just remembered something and turn around to go back to my office, waiting for the coworker to pass. Option "b" never works.

The problem with "c" is that even if you have a 50/50 chance of an office being empty, it can create an enormously awkward moment during the times that you do rush into someone else's office and they stare up at you, waiting to see why you're in there.

So far the best thing I've come up with is to always travel the halls with a folder full of important papers. I can pretend to be absorbed by the folder's contents, until I practically bump into my coworker, give him a quick "Hey, how's it going?" and move on without listening to his response.

The only problem I'm finding is that it's pretty awkward to have to take a folder full of important documents with you to the men's room.


Luke Beecham said...

I'm glad to work on the top floor of our beloved building...and sit at my desk most of the day...and be less than 50 feet to the nearest loo. But I do know exactly what you're talking about. Generally my usual response is to just stare the approaching party down, thus making it awkward for them (insert "You" here), until we get close and then I say, "Hey!" So, I'd be the coworker you'd be avoiding - most likely. The best defense is a good offense? Right. Good luck with that. ;-)

B said...

You know what's even worse? Have you gone down that hallway from the ET building to the SL building, the one that goes underground? It's literally the length of a football field and it's all echo-y. The only hope you have there is that there are other people in the hallway, because the addition of just one more person completely takes away all the awkwardness. Why is that? Very Seinfeldian.

For some reason "awkwardness" reminded me of Phil, and I got to thinking: is it just me, or has Phil not posted a response since he dated Suzi? Just kidding Phil - if you're out there.

Arthur said...

Luke- That is sheer genius. I don't think I'll ever be able to pull that one off though. If the other person ever made eye contact while I was staring them down, I'd be back to feeling awkward and not knowing how to respond. You do your thang though.

BriBri- Dude, I know exactly what tunnel you're talking about. And it is a freaking tunnel. I seriously remember being scared one time because I had a night class and was walking through there to avoid the snow one day. Then some scary looking dude was at the other end of the hall and my boots kept squeaking annoyingly on the floor and I got this weird feeling that the noise was driving the other guy insane and that he was about to attack me just to get it to shut up.

And I'm thinking Phil spends all his free time emailing and text messaging now. I'd be surprised if he ever reads this.

B said...

Man I wish there was one of those tunnels from my desk to Starbucks.

That's hilarious, I bet your boots squeaked like 100 times straight. Every time they squeaked his eye muscles twitched a little bit more to the point that he was experiencing a whole-body cringe for each point of contact between your stupid big wet boots and the glossy floor tiles.

When you finally actually passed him he had to listen to the entire thing all over again in reverse because now you were walking away from him, boots still squeaking.

He secretly rejoiced the very last time he heard the squeak, but deep inside he could still hear the squeak, getting quieter and quieter for eternity but still audible. To this day it still plagues him.

Now he haunts the halls of the abandoned Central State sanitarium over by Tibbs and Washington.

I guess somewhere in there he died.

Arthur said...

Man, you've totally got him pegged. The funny thing was that I kept trying to make them not squeak, which is impossible. Then I debated whether or not I should apologize as I passed him.

I felt so small and weak.

Phil said...

Great! I am "busy with work" and you guys automatically assume that I am texting or something silly like that. This is the first time I have been able to get on your blog all week. I apologize! Didn't I send a response to something last week...unfortunately I can't get on here every day, so I am a couple days behind on "Life in the Shadows: Current Events". No one will probably even get this...
I agree Brian; it usually does have something to do with me if it is a true awkward moment. I believe they say I have "no tact" or something of that sort. Then I think "Oh, I guess I can see how that could be awkward...I guess." I also tend to be much like Luke. I will stare down, but with a smile, as to not intimidate. Then, possibly offer a firm hand-shake. If offered hand-shake is returned, I may start a conversation and dig into their souls to see how they are really doing, what they are working on, or maybe something simple like find out where they are going. I find that this is where things can become really awkward. As you know, I don't mind awkward; I usually just push right through it. But, the expressions that the other person may make is the priceless part of this little experience with hallway friends. Is this enough guys?

Arthur said...

Phil- Thanks for commenting. You're like Kramer: situations that most humans find uncomfortable, you revel in.

And no, this isn't enough. All you've proven is that you are clearly capable of starting your own blog. I would enjoy hearing of your exploits and thoughts and so forth. I suggest you do so.

B said...

The only reason I thought of you, Phil, is because of that little awkward cough you do during that period of awkward silence. That's all.

And you have no tact.

lynne said...

I also work at the end of a long hall where forced to decide if I should talk and say hi or what. But my problem lies mostly in WHEN you decide to say hi. I mean, you've seen them now from the start of the hall. Do you just wait until you pass to say something? Or how close of an approach do you decide to acknowledge them?

Chris said...

Man... I used to work at IUPUI in the new IT building so I know exactly what you are talking about. Usually I just did like a little smile and nod of acknowledgment and then pretended to be immensely interested in the ceiling, floors and walls, or stared directly past them. Then did another smile, nod, and "hello" as I passed them. Even if they started talking I just kept on walking and talking over my shoulder.

The absolute WORST thing is when they say "Hi!" and then start talking like they are excited to see you and you start to respond right before someone who is behind you (who was the actual target of their conversation, who you didn't realize was there) starts talking.

Now I live in a cubicle ant-farm type place, so instead of having too long to see people coming, but because I learned to walk really fast when I worked in long hallways, I am constantly practically bowling people over as I zip around the office. If you have ever seen Terry Tate office linebacker you will know exactly what I am talking about. It's hilarious the looks of sheer terror that come over people as I come bounding around a tight corner and stop within and inch of plowing into them.

I felt kind of bad when I did this to my poor little boss and she screamed and I practically had to help her to a chair and calm her down...

Joeliver said...

Brilliant post Art. This happens to me at work all the time. I think most of my coworkers just think I'm an ass because most of the time I do tend to just look at the wall or the floor.

Another thing that's awkward for me down here is when another guy reaches out his hand to either:

1. Shake your hand
2. Grab your hand and pull you in for a crossed-arm chest bump
3. Do a cool handshake that could be any variation of slaps, interlocks, or finger snaps.

I just had a guy do that to me the other day and he ended up getting my finger tips in a handshake that was supposed to be an option 3 above. It was so awkward that I told him to come back and "let's try it again." At least now I know how to slap his hand every time he extends it. I guess you have to go through this with everyone.