Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I must walk the long hallway down past cubicles on either side to get coffee or to go to the bathroom. To go to meetings, notepad in hand for no good reason. Along the way I’m sure to cross paths with a colleague. Probably someone I know. Maybe someone I don’t. If it’s the former, a salutation is required upon first encounter. It can be curt. No one likes to elaborate much. Today, I found myself saying Hello.

“Hey Pat!”





Sometimes I’d take the initiative:


“Hi Pat!”

I wondered why I said Hello. Not Hi. Not Hey, what’s up? Did anyone notice? Did it strike them as odd—perhaps a little formal—that I chose to say Hello?

When you pass the same person again, you don’t say a word. What’s expected then is a sour little smile, just over a trace, not wide by any means but unmistakable, at least. It says this: We passed each other by before, and we said hello. We don’t have to now. Isn’t that kind of funny? Or, alternatively: Work is funny, isn’t it? Here we are again. Walking past each other. At the place of work.

This subsequent, wordless smirk exchanged with an acquaintance is related to the expression one must provide in each instance to a work stranger. But this smile is feebler, more labored. It says: We share the intimacy of the workspace, day after day. Yet we’ve never met and maybe never will. That’s a little funny, too. Or: I hope to God I never have to speak to you.

Certain roles are exempt from the protocol. Support staff. IT. Not giving a fuck is among their few privileges, so they indulge in it as deeply as they can. Today I passed by a man who carried two disemboweled hard drives in his right hand like a gruff, old butcher might hoist a liver to the scale.