I like my coworkers. I really do! Once I even became close enough with a coworker that she made me a bridesmaid in her wedding. But in every job I’ve ever had, I find myself going to great lengths to avoid certain office situations.
The issue is mostly that I dread small talk because I’m an awkward human being. (For hilarious proof that there are other weirdos like me, check out this genius comic on social entrapment.)
So for those of you who wonder whether I’d miss the social aspect of the office if I become a freelancer, I have documented my neurotic thoughts from a typical day at work.
I pull into the parking garage at 7:30am, still waiting for the coffee to kick in. I check carefully to see if anyone else’s taillights are on. No? I throw the car in park and dash to the stairwell before anyone else appears. Yes? I check my makeup or arrange my purse or fiddle with my cellphone until they’ve shut off their car and headed inside. If I fail at evasive moves, I must a) follow them up the stairs to the office while discussing that day’s commute and trying not to think about how I’m talking to their butt, or b) get trapped into waiting with them for the rickety elevator while holding my tongue about how the two-story climb is much more pleasant.
It’s 10am, and the coffee has definitely kicked in. But I don’t want others to overhear the, ahem, results. And I definitely don’t want to end up in the stall next to one of the ladies who like to chat while doing their business. (Eew! Can’t we at least pretend we can’t hear each other??) So I keep an eye on the hallway until nobody has gone toward the bathroom recently. It’s time to make my move. I grab my water bottle and head to the door. Why the water bottle? Because if I run into someone else who’s on the way to the bathroom, I can seamlessly change course for the water fountain! Isn’t it genius? Then I can return to my desk for a few minutes before trying again.
My stomach starts growling at 11:40am. Is it too early for lunch? Well, I won’t get anything done until I’ve got some fuel in me. I bring my lunch bag over to the microwave, add leftovers, and set the timer. Now I have two minutes to burn. First I turn to my regular standby: filling my water bottle. Did you know this only takes 20 seconds? That still leaves 100 seconds for me to stand around awkwardly. So I resort to staring out the window as if I have something really important to contemplate. Unfailingly, someone else comes into the kitchen and asks, “Couldn’t wait for noon, eh?” or “Smells good, whatcha got?” I babble that hunger is justified when it’s already been five hours since breakfast, or that I’m eating quinoa which is kind of like rice and yes there’s no meat in my lunch today but it’s not because I’m vegetarian or on a diet.
The afternoon BS session
Around 3pm, people tend to gather at one of the nearby desks to shake off the afternoon blues with some chatter. I’m all for taking a break from work! But their conversation usually centers around clothes shopping, dieting and body issues, or complaints about men. I am not fashionable, I am content with my weight, and I love and respect my boyfriend, so these conversations don’t draw me in. Unfortunately though, because I don’t join in I’m perceived as “too quiet,” a concern that one coworker has actually brought up with me in a friendly but accusatory manner.
I could go on…
…but this is already 700 words! So I’ll just ask you: have you ever noticed yourself taking a weird approach to everyday interactions? I suspect that nobody likes public restrooms, but not everybody experiences quite this level of mental discomfort.