Monday, March 23, 2009

My friend at work and our weird Wal-Mart connection

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?


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?


  1. Okay, that is why I run from anyone I might remotely know when I go the store...I have turned into the introvert of the year when it comes to seeing someone I might know in the grocery store..the small talk you have is very uncomfortable and so I just avoid it whenever possible..what does that say about me? I enjoy the people I have chosen to be in my circle and I just don't deviate from that plan..thus, no awkward conversations and I slip under the radar and go home....uh, that's natural, right?

  2. Phil, can you post something everyday? I would appreciate the daily entertainment--hilarious! Oh and Walmart sucks! (my dad made me write that)

  3. I agree with Jackie about avoiding people but how else do you have these kind of life conundrums if you don't welcome the awkwardness of human interactions? Don't go to the dark side just yet sister.
    Annie, I will try to post as much as possible for your entertainment. I know Wal Mart sucks and so does each minute of my life that I am there.

  4. Costanza,
    I would avoid talking to you in any store...


  5. If I was in your office, and had a new friend, I would certainly ask her about her family, and how she learned to cook. who knows, you may get invited over for dinner.
    I had many experiences wtih youg girls when I was working. some of these young woman were really interesting, but i had a difficult time relating, as they were all newly wed, or not yet wed, or new mothers. The one thing I did notice though, they seemed to seek me out with mundan questions, so in that respect, it was a boost to my ego. One thing, they were all much better on the computer than I was. Youth trumps old every time!
    Making a new friend is a good thing, and I think Kristin needs you.