Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Failure of the Day: Mad Skills

As I think is plain to everyone by now, my social skills are what might kindly be described as “sub-par.” I am not an outgoing person. I’m a loud mouth and I have no sense of personal privacy so I’ve yet to find a subject too embarrassing to discuss with complete strangers, but that’s not quite the same as being able to relate to other people and think up things to say outside the scope of my own gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrinal goings-on.

There’s a guy in my general work area—the manager of a nearby department—who I could not have less in common with if he were a moon rock. His main interest as near as I can figure is hockey, and he is the purveyor of some of the finest malapropisms I have ever encountered (“preaching to the wrong choir,” “breathing down my throat”). I have never, in the nine months I’ve worked here, had a conversation with him in which he didn’t use air quotes.

I watch this co-worker in undisguised awe every day. He is so unabashedly warm and friendly, and the effort he makes to ensure that every single person who enters his field of vision is welcomed is so genuine and enthusiastic that I am dumbstruck every day by the simple skill of it, and by what he does on other people’s behalf. Not least of all, mine.

Over the months, he’s sent little trial balloons my way, trying to draw me out of my asocial focused silence. He tried getting me to join the It’s Friday, lets all wear Hawaiian shirts club (not bloody likely), he offers me candy and cookies almost hourly despite knowing that I have eschewed sugar for lo, these six months now, to ensure that I don’t feel left out, and he even solicited my opinion about the Heartbreak of the Cancelled Hockey Season, in case I happened to be sitting on some enlightening opinion.

Finally, about 2 months ago, he greeted my arrival with a boisterous “Nance! What’s the word?” I replied with a stoic, “Specificity. Specificity is the word today.” And we were off to the races. I became the vocabulary girl, delivering crepuscular and sophistry and defenestration to the other early morning arrivers on a daily basis. Before long, people from departments clear on the other side of the building were stopping by to find out what the day’s word was.

It’s just so clever! To have taken something that usually makes people perceive me as snooty and use it to make people think I am friendly! I can’t even conceive of social genius on that level. Today’s word, by the way, is adumbrate.

1 Comments:

  • At May 03, 2005 6:59 PM, Anonymous office drone said…

    A recent malapropism from my office:

    "I don't have an axe to bone."

     

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