Sunday, March 24, 2013

Awkward work encounters (Part 1): Running into the same person several times in 1 day

Long office hallways are hot spots for awkward encounters. If you’re walking from one end of the hall to the other and spot someone you know at the other end walking toward you in the opposite direction, at what distance should you acknowledge/greet one another? For how long must you awkwardly stare at each other? Do you do that oh-I-didn’t-see-you-until-you-were-3-yards-away lie? Look down and away until you’re within 5 yards or so?

I by chance ran into the same person -- with whom I can almost always count on to have an awkward rencontre -- four times: the first two encounters within 5 minutes of each other in the morning, and the last two within 10 minutes in the afternoon. The fourth and last encounter that day was the most awkward. We’d both turned a corner at the same time at opposite ends of a short 10-yard-long hallway, and were headed toward the same turn -- the only available exit in the 10-yard distance. He did that ‘Uhhhhh-I’m-in-an-awkward-situation-and-wait,-am-I-still-staring?’ nail bite, and I, of course, resembled a lost deer in the headlights. Needless to say, there was no way to rescue the situation. And I stayed put at my desk the rest of the day.

A week or so later, we again found each other in a similar situation, but this time he had an ingenius solution: wave! Hardly anyone was in the office on this particular early, snowy morning, and I was walking from one wing of the building to the other -- where my seat is -- through yet another long corridor. And as I made the long trek over to my desk, I saw said employee walking from the opposite end of the otherwise-empty hall. From still far away, he recognized me and waved, and I waved back. Problem solved.

We’ve done the hallway wave multiple times since, although that is not to say awkward encounters have ceased altogether; for every normal run-in, there is -- without fail -- always an incredibly awkward one to follow. But that's OK because those situations remind me that even the most seemingly confident, put-together person can have those moments.

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