I work in an office that looks very similar to The Office, only slightly bigger. We have a break room with fridges, microwaves, tables, chairs, etc. Around my fourth month of working at my office, I notice that every morning around 8am, a smallish, 40 something Asian woman is standing right in front of the coffee pot. She is either making coffee or getting coffee or cleaning up coffee spills. Her coffee cup is a Christmas coffee cup, green with red stripes. This cup does not change even though the holiday comes and goes. I find out her name is Kristin and she is an accountant in our office. She is really nice and she makes great lunches, like today when she made a homemade meatball sandwich in the breakroom and it smelled like any one of the restaurants in The Sopranos, because if you watch that show, you get hungry and imagine the wonderful smells coming from all the restaurants Tony and his crew visit. Also, she does make a decent cup of coffee so her cooking skills are unquestioned.
But I digress.
I started saying hello to her and she said hello to me and we quickly fell into that smooth rut of all office relationships: the "hi, how are you (smile, act pleasant)? You're nice but I don't want to spend any of my valuable time talking to you because what could we possibly talk about?" This is the type of relationship that keeps all offices well oiled. Lots of superficial, polite banter that doesn't jack up your day.
So, one weekend about a month ago, I am at Wal-Mart and I run into Kristin. I have my grocery cart half full and she has a carry basket, kind of half full. She acts very surprised, like, holy dogshit, what are YOU doing here? Which is weird because it's a store, I need food for my family, we're in a recession, where else are you gonna shop? We talk for a few moments and the one honest, true sentiment that both of us reveal is...we both like to shop at Wal-Mart on Sunday mornings because it's not very busy. This one kernal of no bullshit, straight up, human-to-human truthful behavior is now the absolute building block for my budding relationship with Kristin. Because now, whenever I see her, what do you think she asks? Anyone?
"DID YOU GO TO WAL-MART ON SUNDAY? HOW WAS IT? WAS IT BUSY?"
Oh my gawd, our level of communication just went from nice and polite to completely effing awkward. What way can one respond to this other than, "Uh, yeah, I did go and it was ok." Or maybe a slight variation on this, like, "Um, no, didn't make it, I will have to go on Monday." And then after this, after we have BROKEN THE RULE OF THE OFFICE RELATIONSHIP BY BEING HONEST, we have nowhere else to go. We just look at each other, smile, glance away, shuffle our feet, and then try to move on to our desks with a minimum of effort and activity, so as not exacerbate the whole bizarre encounter by gesticulating or adding any other conversational nuggets. It is so brutal. And she is SO nice. What now? Where do Kristin and I go from here?
Sunday's at Sundance
9 months ago