9 to 5 Culture

Office Small Talk (Part 1)

Tuesday Morning, 8:43 AM

You’ve just arrived at the office after almost dying on a major interstate highway when a semi pulled in front of you without looking. 34 minutes later, you are overtired, scared and barely awake. Fumbling for the “on” switch on your computer, you begin plotting how you’ll survive this day when a shrill, perky voice from three cubes away cuts into the papery office air.

“Fifi had a runny nose so we had to bring her to the vet yesterday. She was coughing up phlegm all night!”

“Oh that’s… terrible.”

As you struggle into your chair, you hear the perpetrator start coming your way. Thinking quickly, you grab a pile of papers from a random drawer and scatter them all over your desk, pretending to be engrossed. The last thing you want is to hear about Fifi’s runny nose, but it’s inevitable.

“Good morning!”

Your hair stands on end. The office sunshine, in the flesh.

“Hi, Peg,” you say with a tinge of pain, pretending to be engrossed in the papers you scattered in front of you earlier. They are all the same, these office beetles. Their name is either Peg, or Pat, or Meg, or Jon… three letters. About the same as their IQs.

“Heard you almost got in an accident earlier!”

How did she know? These gossips are the worst. You don’t even remember talking to anyone as you came in!

“Yeah, it was… scary.”

“Well last night I had to bring Fifi to the vet. She has the sniffles as you know, and she was looking real tired. Britney and Brock were playing with him and Madison was crying in the other room, so I says to Bruce, I’ll just grab the dog and….”

By this point your eyes have glazed over and you want to jump out of your chair and tackle Peg, screaming at her to leave you alone. But a grudging mixture of common sense and tiredness keep you glued to the chair, forced to feign interest as she rambles on and on about Fifi and her four children. And who can blame her, really? This is about as exciting as her life will ever get. Then again, every day is pretty much a ramble-fest for Peg.

“… and then Madison got in the car, but he had forgotten his homework! Can you believe that?”

“No. Amazing. Kids never do that!”

“Anyway… Madison forgot his homework so we had to turn around and go back to the house, which of course Fifi had totally commandeered…”

By now you want to run and hide. In no mood to deal with any more awful stories, you start searching for ways out. You could pretend that you had to go throw up. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch, after all. But Pam’s rotund frame blocks the only exit from your cube. There is always the “I am busy” option, but you’ve already made the mistake of responding to her first question, which is, of course, just a sucker question to lure you into her¬†exciting world.

Continued in Part 2: Learn how to deal with office small talk!

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