There’s a guy I work with who asks a lot of questions – some are work related, some are of a personal nature. He has told me that he feels comfortable around me so he asks for parenting and relationship advice, as well as suggestions on how to properly fill out documents. He also shares too much about his wife and kids
It can get exhausting.
He’s a nice enough fellow. You know the type – earnest, polite, inquisitive, lacking in self-confidence and completely unaware of personal space, but basically harmless.
We share a large, open office area. I know when he’s about to ask me something personal because I’ll hear him wheeling his chair across the expanse of industrial grey carpet between us, and park at the side of my desk. This particular day I heard the squeaking wheels and turned around in time to see him plant his can of Mountain Dew on my desk, next to the forms I was attempting to complete. He was rubbing some sort of ointment on his shoulder as he told me of his injury. He then placed the tube of smelly, greasy ointment on my stack of forms.
Some people are tragically unaware.
He says, “Jesse, I’ve a question for you.” I extracted my forms from under his shoulder potion and said, “What’s up?”
He took a loud swig from his can of pop and said, “You know how you mentioned that you are a single mom and that’s why you’re only in the office in the mornings?”
“Mm hm,” as I tried to keep working.
“Well, it’s like this,” he stammered and continued. “I notice that you wear rings on that finger,” he said while pointing to the ring finger on my left hand. “So, are you single or what?”
At first, I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. I glanced at the motivational calendar showing a picture of a hot air balloon, and checked the date.
Then I looked up at him to see if his expression would tell me that he was kidding. I stifled a laugh when I saw the serious look on his face.
I composed myself, smiled and talked to him like a third grade teacher might address the boy in class, who can’t get his point across without hitting. That teacher is frustrated and has to keep from yelling. She looks the kid straight in the eye and calmly explains why he needs to keep his hands to himself.
Like that teacher, I wanted to yell. “Are you kidding me!? This is 2018! Get your ointment and your sticky pop out of my space! Wake up and look around you!”
Instead I took a breath and said, “Dan, I have some rings I like to wear, and they fit this finger. I think of these rings as a promise I made to myself to stay single.”
He looked from my finger to my face and said, “Oh …” He picked up his can of Dew and started to wheel back to his desk.
“Hey, Dan,” I tossed his tube of ointment to him, “you forgot something.”