I’ve often been accused of not saying hello and completely ignoring acquaintances and even people I’ve known for years when I run into them. Or of looking unfriendly and distant while I walk. It’s quite embarrassing and I truly don’t do it on purpose. It’s just that I was raised in Saudi Arabia and picked up the habit of looking serious and not making eye contact with strange people. As a result, I only see what’s immediately in front of me. It doesn’t help that I’m near-sighted and faces look blurry from six meters onwards. And I walk very fast.
For a while I tried to fix the situation by being more aware of my surroundings and having a half-smile on my face so I wouldn’t seem standoffish. I walked more slowly. And when someone whose shape vaguely resembled a friend comes in view, I immediately smile, say hello, or wave. But it resulted in several problems.
- First, the smile. I felt like an idiot smiling with no reason to smile constantly about. I’m at work for *’s sakes! Who smiles all the time at work? Nobody. So unless I’m thinking of something evil that made me happy that day, it’s back to the comfortable poker face.
- The proactive greeting was more trouble than it was worth. I ended up smiling or waving at complete strangers who happened to have the same hair, height, or legs as people I know, leaving these people wondering who the hell I was and if they’re supposed to wave back. The worst was when I mistook a woman for a close friend. By the time I realized she wasn’t who I thought she was, I had already air-kissed her cheek and was in the process of chatting her up about her family. I spent the next 3 minutes pretending that I knew her because admitting my mistake would’ve been too embarrassing. The poor woman had a confuzzled look on her face the whole time and was probably thinking of where she met me, what my name was, and what the hell she was supposed to say. I said goodbye quickly and left red-faced.
The moral of the story is that you can’t please everyone or else you’ll end up air-kissing complete strangers at the risk of getting a flu virus. So be proud of your unintentional standoffishness and walking speed! If complaints continue, walk through a different floor and appreciate the glorious, empty corridors. After all, that’s what elevators were made for.