There is a Tiny Lady who works in an office down the hall from mine. At least I think she works. As petite as a seventh grader, she is more often in motion than at her presumed desk. She pops up everywhere, her objective being to find conversation. A world-class hall-roamer, she makes frequent appearances in the ladies’ room and in the reception area, and especially at the water cooler, which is actually not a water cooler but a kitchen, enclosed on two sides by glass walls.
I’ve often seen her corner people in all these locations for meaningless exchanges.
The thing is, I love going to my office. I go there to leave behind two large dogs and the long list of other domestic concerns so I can focus on doing…whatever it is that I do. I like working in a populated area; it’s nice to be a part of the ebb and flow of a workplace. However, this does not mean I actually want to speak to anyone. If I were to get into chatting at the water cooler (which is actually a kitchen) I would never get anything done in the few precious hours I have. So, while I have nothing against the Tiny Lady—in fact I admire her social energy—I try to avoid her.
But it was bound to happen. I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water when she approached, so tiny she barely registered in my peripheral vision. In my haste to flee I crashed into the glass wall with such force that I saw stars and provided the T.L. with an easy ice-breaker.
“Jeez, are you okay?” she asked.
“Wow,” I said, rubbing the rapidly expanding bump on my forehead.
The T.L. marched right on to the next question, the one I’d heard her ask many other people. “So what do you do?”
“I spin in my desk chair, perfecting the art of procrastination,” is what I wanted to say but did not. This is actually true some days. But on this particular afternoon I needed to complete a compelling piece I was writing about grapefruit.
Too stunned by my encounter with the wall to prevaricate gracefully, I said, “Uh, I, uh, write.” My instincts told me the T.L. would not get it about the grapefruit thing, so I bounced the ball right back to her: “And you?”
“Oh, I’m an attorney,” she said dismissively, “But my daughter’s a writer, too. She has written a couple of screenplays and thinks she might have a producer interested in one of them…”
Fearing the great unfolding of a family story, I feigned a fit of vertigo and excused myself to get some ice from the fridge, retreat to my office, and apply the ice to the lump on my forehead in hopes it would not assume the proportions of a grapefruit.
I have seen the T.L. many times since our meeting but she has never again tried o engage me in conversation. She does not say hello or inquire about my skull injury. I’d feel nicer if I at least muttered a greeting in her direction, but I don’t.
I just don’t have the time. I’m too busy writing a compelling piece about, you know, her.