When you work in an office like mine, there's plenty of opportunity for awkward situations when you venture outside the three and a half walls of you cube.
Here's one that comes up often. In the building where I work, there's a corridor running long and straight (yeah, yeah, The D. I know. "That's what she said.") between blocks of cubes (or, as I call them, cell blocks).
Anyway, several times a week I'm faced with the situation of seeing a coworker coming down the corridor toward me. Maybe I'm on my way to the break room, or heading to a meeting room or whatever. But I'm walking one way and the coworker, who is probably someone I only marginally like it I even know their name, is walking toward me.
No remember, this is a very long corridor. Maybe fifty yards or even longer. So depending on where we both entered the corridor, we could be walking toward each other for a very long time.
That's where the awkwardness enters the equation. At some point, I like to at lease acknowledge the other person (whom I probably don't like, but I'm a nice guy, see), usually with a fake-friendly wave or a head nod. If they get close enough, I'll offer a polite "Good day, sir."
The problem is, if I wave too soon I've got another 30-seconds or more of walking toward the person. It's an awkward window of time because it's too short to strike up a superficial conversation, but it's too long to just stare at each other as you approach.
Anyway, I've come up with a couple of strategies for dealing with this phenomenon.
If it's in the morning and I'm just arriving, I usually have my computer bag in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. With my hands thus occupied, I don't have to wave. Then to fill the awkward window, I usually take a drink of coffee, pretend it's too hot and blow the cup to cool it off. Do that a couple of times until my coworker either turns out of the aisle or we pass each other.
But my preferred method is to use my cell phone as a prop. I have one of those so-called smart phones, so when I see someone open the corridor I can pick it up and pretend to be busy checking my email and text messages.
Depending on how long I'll be walking toward the oncoming person, I can also fake-check my voice mail messages. Usually I throw in a frustrated head shake, like someone just left a message with a really unreasonable request that is going waste a lot of my time today, you know, just to be convincing.
Then when I get up even with the oncoming coworker I can give one of those "What're you gonna do?" shoulder shrugs.
What do you guys do in this situation?
tagged: office, cubicle, awkward, corridor