This Just Got Awkward

My power suit is on. The elevator doors open wide, as my petite frame steps out. The sound as my 3 inch heel hits the ground, breaks the uncomfortable silence in the long, brick exposed, modern looking hallway. As I take each step, there is one consistent thought running through my head, ‘I hope I don’t see anyone.’

I am a people person, so this silent wish may come as a surprise, but after struggling with the we-are-the-only-two-people-passing-each-other-in-this-overly-long-hall debate as to whether to smile, nod, say hello, look away and pretend to act distracted, I go through more anxiety then one should endure, just to get back into her office from a washroom break. I work in a four story building which is comprised of a number of offices.

It all began on Friday morning. I walked past the other person who was making their way back to their office. I smiled politely (if you were to see my smile and label it, you’d for sure label it ‘polite’) and the person smiled back at me. As I continued my on-going walk, I smiled to myself and thought ‘that went well.’ But later that afternoon, when I was faced in another hall run-in, I decided to do the same. I smiled as the person and I got close, and the person just continued on. I felt foolish. As I continued walking to my office door (was it always this far?) the sound of my black 3 inch heels had never seemed so loud.

Whether you are at an office, at school, or at an appointment, chances are at some point, you’ve passed someone by and at that moment you’ve had to decide how you are going to handle it. The classic and typical awkward situation is when you are riding in an elevator with someone. Have you ever gotten into the elevator, relieved no one else was inside, when all of a sudden you see someone heading towards it? Consider me guilty of pressing the ‘close’ button in elevators when that situation occurs. Oh, by the way, I don’t just press the close button once. I’m a naughty little elevator close button clicker, all to avoid the trials and tribulations of stranger-on-stranger action. But, when the person manages to catch the elevator door in the knick of time, I shake my head at myself for being such a jackass, and guilt clicks in. It’s only the two of us, and…why is this elevator ride going in slow motion? Some people get nervous so they break the silence with a wisecrack, while others may pull out their Blackberry’s and bbm for dear life. I’ve always been a smiler – I do the closed mouth, polite smile with a subtle head nod.

I decided to not let the hallway passerby-er get me down, or from throwing me in a pattern of unfriendliness. Today I did it. As I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked down the never-ending narrow hall, my heels hit the hardwood floor. I realized that since I’m trying to test my theory, then of course I’m not going to see anyone – so just when I thought it was a safe bet to look right and catch myself in the reflection of the overly clean office window, a woman (not in heels) turned the corner. I said ‘Hey,’ and you know what she did? Nothing. No hello. No smile. So what gives? Is there a hallway etiquete book I should be reading? Am I too friendly?

I remember when Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) just started at Harvard in Legally Blonde, she walked around campus helloing and whats uping everyone who passed by. I remember watching extras on the set give her weird/perplexed looks, almost shocked at her friendliness. I felt embarrassed for her, but then as the movie went on, I admired that she’d say hi to everyone and befriend those around her. There is nothing like a girl with confidence. When I head to the office tomorrow, although I’d like to avoid any awkward hall situations with other people who work in the same building, I’d like to pull an Elle Woods and let the ones who don’t respond just roll down my back. Perhaps they gave her those looks because of her pink ensemble. And I’m not going to be wearing a pink ensemble. I’m going to be wearing a black studded one!

– Jenny Jen


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