Close Encounters of the Awkward Kind

2 May

photo by jake.hester on Flickr

Today has pushed my human contact meter to the point of explosion.  I went out, I saw humans, they were unimpressive, and so I am back indoors.


I haven’t always been a homebody.   I used to go places.  I  used to have lots of friends.  I was the kid who was in so many clubs that I had to attach an extra sheet on my college and scholarship applications.   In fact, in one of my college interviews I was asked “how did you do all the things you listed?”  Because I drank awesome sauce for breakfast, that’s how.

Actually I just never slept.  I got mono my senior year and awesome sauce couldn’t cure it.

But now things have changed.  I was pushed into the workforce in the context of cubes and pointless meetings and forced elevator conversation.  By the time 5pm rolls around, I’m so over humankind that I just want to go home and pull down all the blinds. Sometimes I walk there  instead of taking the bus because if I’m afraid that if have to endure one more forced encounter, I’ll commit a crime of passion.

A lot of times my distaste for the outside world has to do with people themselves. Their loudness, their ignorance,  their blatant lack of respect for others, etc.  But just as often my aversion is tied to my own incapability.  

You see, I lack basic social skills.

People sometimes disagree with me on this.   They’ll cite a specific night or a particular encounter in which I was engaging and mildly entertaining in a public place.  But those moments are usually flukes or the result of pumping myself up the entire day so that I can get through the marathon.

Eye of the Tiger isn’t just for sports training, my friends.

My main problem isn’t conversation.  I can do conversation if I have to; it’s just that I’m not very good at it – sometimes I’ll say ridiculous things or I’ll just make things up without thinking about what I’m saying because I get ahead of myself and I’m too nervous.   But I can live with those.  After a good amount of kicking myself and rehashing conversations once people leave, I’m ready to put those encounters to rest.  The real problem is forced conversation.  Like elevators.

I have a particularly hard time in elevators.  A little steel box that stops on every floor with the possibility of someone entering that will force me into conversation.  It’s just awful.  You see the same people a lot but you don’t know their names or where they work or what they do for the company.  You could try to get to know them but with other people constantly coming and going and all the beeping and the abrupt exit, it’s just one big panic attack waiting to happen.  I could be asked how I am and not know how to respond because I know that deep down they don’t care about the real answer but I don’t want to lie.  I could have to endure a joke about how it’s Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Summer or Spring or how it’s raining or WHY DO OFFICE PEOPLE ONLY TALK ABOUT THESE DAY OF THE WEEK AND THE WEATHER!?

Today I tried to be charming when someone was in the lobby already and the elevator got there just as I did.  It dinged right at the moment I stepped up.  I said something to the effect of thanking her for calling the elevator for me and she said something about how sometimes it takes so long to get to the top floor.  It seemed like she genuinely wanted to connect with me in the post-5pm cooldown so I tried to keep going.  But then all the stupid fell out of my mouth.

I agreed that it can take a long time and started saying something about how it can be particularly awkward to wait for it when there are high-level folk waiting there with you and you have to try to make conversation but I realized I was talking to one of the highest level people in the organization.  So instead I stuttered a lot and stared and the number on the elevator and prayed to baby Jesus that the elevator would go faster while my brain exchanged ‘ higher level people’ with ‘people you have to, you know, hold your posture a little straighter for…it can…be…you know, awkward to talk to them and wait and….OHTHANKGODTHERE’SMYFLOOR.”

Her look was a mix of confusion and that face you make when you think you just smelled a fart.   

I picked apart the encounter until I reached my front door, where I found a delivery guy struggling to reach a tenant from the call box outside.  After giving him a while to make his own life decisions, I asked him if he wanted let in.  The answer was no, he’s a general manager, and he doesn’t break the rules by piggybacking into apartment complexes.  I told him I just didn’t want to seem like a jerkface and I don’t really care if he wants in or not; I was just offering.

But then I realized he said he was a general manager and he was out delivering food so I asked him what that was all about.  It led to a discussion on his workload, the region he oversees, the bad economy, and his ridiculous rent.  And his mother’s ridiculous rent.  And how he’s “not a racist, but his black &%*@# of a landlord needs to go away”. 

I was opening my mouth to suggest that perhaps he’s actually a little bit racist and that someone’s &%*@#ness is not tied to their blackness anymore than his &%*@#ness is tied to his whiteness.

But in the amount of time it took to formulate the thought, he had somehow fastforwarded to the 5 stores he had to get to this week and the people who stay behind to oversee the team in his absence and how it’s a rough world out there right now and that’s why he’s delivering food when he’s a general manager.  Then he walked back to his car.

Video footage of the encounter would reveal that I spent the entire ten minutes looking a bit confused and a bit like I had just smelled a fart.

I finally entered my apartment, weary of the world and thankful to be rid of it.  I also pondered whether one could take a day off work due to weariness from human interaction.  Then I remembered I have to go to a bachelorette party this weekend.  Someone somewhere even mentioned karaoke.  

The worst is yet to come.  I can’t give in now.

But until then, I’ll be in my cocoon.  With my cats.  And Eye of the Tiger. 


22 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Awkward Kind”

  1. knotrune May 3, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    You need to move to Norway, they never talk in elevators there. 🙂


    • sanetes May 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

      Or you move to Germany. As long as you don’t look straight at somebody and smile, you are politely left alone. Anything else would be considered obtrusive.


      • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

        !!! Why did I never consider these things


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      Is it possible to be in love with a country you’ve never seen? Because everything I hear about Norway sounds lovely. Particularly this.


      • knotrune May 10, 2012 at 4:35 am #

        Norway is lovely. I’m totally in love with Norway 🙂 If you ever get the chance to go, grab it!


  2. The Awkward List May 3, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    You are not alone, my friend 🙂

    I loved the mental image of footage of a confused person looking like they just smelled a fart! Haha!



    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      I’m so flattered when The Awkward List likes my awkward notes. Thanks for the compliment (and of course, for stopping by)


  3. ML May 3, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I wonder if I’m just completely unapproachable. Maybe I just look way too confident (or way too much like a bitch) that people never tried to talk to me in elevators at Westinghouse. I just purposely didn’t acknowledge their existence. Not because I think they’re below me, but because of all that stuff you wrote in this blog post. Of course, they don’t know that. So it’s most likely that they just thought I was a bitch.

    Of course that may not work for you if you already have a running theme of talking to them in elevators.

    The other day I saw this guy in the grocery store who really comes across as a total douche bag when I frequent his place of employment. He’s nice to me but treats all my friends like shit. The opposite of above? Or maybe he likes bitches? Or maybe I come across as someone you JUST. DON’T. F***. WITH. 🙂 That would rock. Either way, I saw him but he hadn’t seen me. And I tried with all my might to “not notice him” as we waited for the elevator. But after a while, I realized it was going to be unavoidable so I casually looked in his direction and “noticed him” so as to start that inevitably awkward conversation.

    Point is, I understand why you stay inside. I’m with you 100%. There are days I completely flake out of a commitment because the idea of going outside exhausts me.


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      It’s the glasses. That’s my guess. Adorable blondes typically get people to speak up rather quickly so my only guess is that the glasses insinuate intelligence and intelligence is unapproachable.

      Or maybe you really just exude some sort of “eff off” ambiance. Now I shall study you.


  4. Ro May 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    For what it’s worth, I never thought you were charming. Thus I have not been misled into disappointment. Also, at least it’s not a bridal or baby shower, which often lacks the possibility of consuming alcohol and/or pretending that the bar is just too loud to hold a conversation.


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      Ro. Always keepin’ it real. Thanks for always making me feel like a loser.


      • Ro May 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

        Lies. You know I’m part of your fan club!


  5. Lori May 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Oh boy can I relate. I used to work in a call center. For eight hours a day I would pick up phone either #1 know the person on the other end wished me a slow, painful death or #2 realize I was talking to quite possibly the dumbest person on earth. Hang up and repeat. It is because of this job my friends now say I’m dead inside. I’m slowly trying to regain my humanity. Thank you for making me realize that that is overrated.

    p.s. “smell of a fart” face was genius. well done.


    • Lori May 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      sorry!!! I didn’t mean to post twice. Touche’ huh?


      • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

        No worries – I took the second one and trashed the first. I figured second drafts are usually preferred. 😉


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      a call center job sounds just terrible. I’m depressed just hearing about it. What do you do now? What *can* one do after losing one’s soul so quickly and certainly?

      and thanks 🙂


  6. pegoleg May 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    You could probably get 1 sick day off of “weary of human contact”, but I doubt it would rise to the level required for the Family Medical Leave Act.


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Which is why I should become a politician. People aren’t lobbying for the important things anymore.


  7. Jules May 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    “Her look was a mix of confusion and that face you make when you think you just smelled a fart.”


    Oh god oh god oh god! This imagery is spot on. I laughed so hard my sides hurt and my eyes teared up.

    You should listen to knotrune, Jackie. They really don’t talk inside elevators in Norway. In fact, I’ve read that they don’t do small talk with strangers in general. Also, I heard they really, truly observe keeping personal space in public. Sounds like your kind of town! 🙂


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      Hurting sides are flattery in the highest form. And I think I’ll take the advice here. A more repressed group of citizens sounds like the stuff of my dreams.


  8. kitchenmudge May 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    I feel like I really oughta say something here. Jackie is one of the best bloggers I know of, definitely a higher-level inhabitant of the blogosphere than I, but after a couple of lines it will be time to quit or it’ll look like I’m trying too hard. This is just soooo awkward.


    • Jackie May 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

      Oh, oh my. A half-committed, super-flattering compliment. Why thank you, Mudge.

      Now let’s pretend this never happened.


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