I like to think that saying hi to strangers is a nervous tic that I have. It’s not that I’m overly friendly, I’m just, for some reason, polite. Alisha loves this about me.
Physics play a big role though:
- If I’m walking alongside someone, I will pretend to be too distracted to notice their presence.
- If I’m sitting in a room, and another person is sitting in that same room, and there is an alarming sense of awkward silence in that room, I will not make eye contact.
These two scenarios are too tempting for a simple salutation to morph tragically into small talk. And small talk is cause for panic. (Unless it’s with the cute cashier at CVS who is always intent on asking me what my plans are for the night. I’m certain I’m at least 10 years older than him though.)
- If I pass someone going the opposite direction, or one of us is in motion while the other is stationary, then I will gladly open my big mouth for a hello and sometimes even toss a flimsy wave.
There are many more clauses and addenda and special cases I could add, but that’s something to save for the inevitable case study that some ambitious Psych major will be writing on me before I die.
The first two days at my current job, the guard at the front desk was very chatty with me. He had to take my photo for my ID badge and joked with me because I was being so dramatic and stubborn about it.
“I hate having my picture taken!” I stated, with faux-petulance.
“Aw, come on. You look beautiful!” he exclaimed, tilting the camera so I could see my frightened eyes and stroke-victim smile, all contained within one fat, scrunched up face. He was standing so close to me when he took the photo, that it looks like I’m trying to force my head to break through the wall behind me.
In a word, I look awkward.
“No, not you, Erin!”
Yes, me. It’s true.
As I filled out the information needed to park my car in the lot, he peered over me and deadpanned, “Erin Kelly! What are you, Polish?” He laughed, and I laughed too, but I actually am part Polish, and no Irish.
On my second day, I was greeted with a bombastic “Hello Erin!” as soon as I walked through the door. I thought, “Wow, this is nice. What a friendly man.” It made me feel like less of “the temp,” and more of someone who belonged there.
But that’s where it ended. I continued to say hello to him every time I walked in through the front door, and when I passed his desk on my way to the cafeteria or bathroom, but I noticed that his hellos were flatter now, and were only offered up if I said it first.
“Maybe he’s having a bad day,” I thought the first time this happened. But I noticed that it got progressively worse as the week went on, getting to the point where he would actually turn his head away from me as he mumbled, “Hi,” while simultaneously looking up at the ceiling rather than have the unpleasant experience of allowing his eyes to find my face, I guess.
Say it’s my bad breath, say it’s my pickled body odor, but the fact of the matter is I’m always at least fifteen feet away from him when this goes on. I’m not exactly shuffling past him with my hobo house wrapped around me, either. I’m well-dressed every night. I wear pretty shoes. My hair is brushed.
I don’t get it. What is wrong with me?
“He probably just hates his job,” Henry said. He sits at a big reception desk, in a mother-whompin’ leather chair, watching TV all night, for Christ’s sake. If that guy hates his job, I’ll trade him.
Meanwhile, I’d catch him having jovial discourse with other people, saying goodbye to the day shift people that happened to be leaving at the same time I was walking in.
I’m a great game player. In fact, some people might even say that I’m a little CHILDISH. So instead of just letting this whole thing go, I decided to give him the silent treatment, see how long this charade would last before he’d crack and start acknowledging me again. He might not have noticed yet, but this guard and me are embroiled in one hot and heavy imbroglio.
Monday night, I was so pissed about it that I sat in the cafeteria on my break, angrily texting Henry. I just can’t stand it when someone doesn’t like me and I have no idea why. I can’t stand not being liked in general, though after writing on the Internet for the last 10 years of my life, I’m pretty accustomed to it.
That doesn’t mean I like it!
“Don’t let it bother you,” Henry texted. (Imagine every word spelled wrong, though.)
“Oh don’t worry. Tonight, I showed him,” I replied with angry tap-tappings.
“What, your tits?” I’m sure he laughed out loud as he hit “send,” wrote about it in his diary. “Diary, tonight I thought of something funny for the 3rd time in my life!”
And I explained that during one of my jaunts to nowhere, one of the cleaning guys was standing near the guard. Now, I have a great rapport with this cleaning guy and we exchange pleasantries on a nightly basis. And no, I don’t mean oral sex.
With great exaggeration, a bounce in my step, and my biggest Pollyanna grin, I exclaimed, “Hello, how are you!?” to the cleaning guy.
RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE GUARD, TO WHOM I SAID NOTHING.
“Oh. Yeah. You…sure showed him,” Henry said. “Wow.”
Fuck that guard. He’ll be sorry when I have Henry bake cupcakes for everyone but him.