Monthly Archives: April 2013

Your coworkers are not your friends (unless they are).

I woke up late and realized that I didn’t have a gift. Today was the company Christmas party and we were doing a White Elephant gift exchange. From what I understood, it means that everyone brings in something they have around the house that they don’t want and we exchange with each other at random.

As I rushed to get out the door I grabbed the only thing in my house that I really didn’t want. Plus, I thought to myself, this gift is going to be hilarious.

I barely made it to the party on time. My six coworkers and I piled food onto our plates and discussed Christmas vacation plans. After eating and chatting for a while, it was gift-giving time. We all grabbed a random gift and sat back down. The woman a few seats away grabbed my soon-to-be-hilarious present.

“That one’s from me. You’re gonna love it” I said with a hint of sarcasm.

“Oh weird, you grabbed mine too.” I examined the bag as if I could tell what was in it by its weight and ribbon on top.

“Nice! We should have just exchanged gifts when we got here – ha!” She feigned a smile at my sad attempt of a joke. Dejected, I turned to the first gift opener.

He tore the paper off his rectangular gift to reveal a DVD of I Am Legend.

“Oh sweet!” he said.

That’s way better than my gift.

“That’s from me!” announced another coworker.

“Thanks! Well I guess you should open yours now,” responded the newest owner of I Am Legend.

The next coworker reached into his bag. He pulled out a bottle opener and two beers. “Thanks!”

Hmm, that’s not too bad either.

I started to get nervous about my gift. The presents that my coworkers were opening all seemed pretty good. At least mine will make them laugh…

The opening continued – one person got three candles. Another got a digital picture frame and batteries. Oh shit, this isn’t a gag gift exchange. People brought real things. It was my turn to open my gift. I reached in my bag to find a set of three bookmarks and a cherry almond chocolate bar.

“Thanks. Um, I guess it’s your turn,” I said to the holder of my gift. She was the only one left.

This is not going to end well. I already felt like an asshole and she hadn’t even opened it.

If there’s one thing I learned quickly from being in the real world it’s that your coworkers are not your friends. I don’t mean that in the sense that they’re your enemies – I get along fine with my coworkers and like to think we enjoy each other’s company – but that your relationship with your coworkers is not equivalent to your relationship with your friends.

Sure, you ask them about their plans for the weekend. You help them out when they have a problem. But there’s a difference between being friends and being work friends. Being work friends means holding the door when you see a coworker approaching. It means saying hello when you get to work and goodbye when you leave.

Being friends, however, means going out together on Friday night. Being friends means texting each other about Game of Thrones and what you just ate.

There’s a boundary between being work friends and being friends that is hard to define but easily overstepped. “One time we laughed really hard together watching a video on YouTube, but he still sends me really formal emails.” This area between being work friends and friends – friendship purgatory – can cause a lot of stress. Nothing is worse than overstepping that boundary and thinking it’s OK while your work friend files a complaint to HR.

You see, you and your friends have a very specific sense of humor – one that 98% of people are completely unable to translate. Your friends will complain with you about why grapes and grape flavored things taste completely different while work friends will stare at you and go back to their desk.

Your coworkers are not on the inside of you and your friend’s slightly racist joke. They will not find it funny.

Your coworkers do not want to hear about how you face planted on Saturday night but managed to hold on to your bacon wrapped chili dog. They will not congratulate you. They will call you a drunk.

Your coworkers will not laugh when they find out you’re the one that created a “Missed Connections” post on Craigslist in their name. They will never trust you again.

And, although we all know it’s hilarious, your work friends will not think it’s funny that you tapped the top of their open bottle and had beer erupt on their suit and tie at Ethel’s retirement party.

While these things are learned with time, one more thing also becomes apparent. Sometimes you find someone in that special 2%. The person who laughs in your face when you trip over nothing or applauses when you accidentally call your boss “Mom”. Inevitably, a work friend will turn into a friend. At which point it is perfectly appropriate to do the above mentioned actions at your own risk.

Until then, though, don’t tell them about how you went skinny-dipping in that fountain at 3AM on Friday night.

“Um, you’re not going to like my gift at all.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she responded.

“No really, it’s honestly the worst gift I’ve ever given anyone. Ever.” I wanted to grab it out of her hands and run out of the room before anyone could see it.

“Stop that, I’m sure it’s fine.” She started taking the tissue paper out of the bag. I clenched my teeth and held my breath as she tilted the bag towards her face.

“Be careful,” I warned.


“Just be careful. You’ll understand.”

She reached down in and pulled out my gift.

“…what is it?” She asked.

“It’s a dead cactus.” Three of the longest seconds of my life passed by.

“…thanks.” A few coworkers forced a laugh.

“I’m so sorry.” This is awful. My friends would have thought it was funny.

“No… it’s ok… maybe I can revive it.” There’s no way she could revive it.

“Yea, maybe,” I responded. A few more seconds went by without a word.

“Thanks for the bookmarks.”

Awkward Moments

I went straight to the gym after work so that I could beat the evening rush. The locker room greeted me with its familiar smell – stale body odor combined with every Old Spice deodorant scent. I darted my way to an open space while averting my eyes from the same old men that consistently walk around naked.

After changing, I grabbed my iPod and headed for the door. Then I realized I had to poop. This wasn’t my first time doing so at the gym, but it would certainly be my most memorable.

I always use the handicapped stall because it’s the roomiest. And there’s a good amount of irony in the fact that there’s a handicapped stall at the gym. I lock the door behind me and put my headphones in. Like any sanitary person, I cover the seat in toilet paper to protect my butt from the unknown. The roll of toilet paper is sitting on top of the holder, which I find annoying. How hard is it to put it in the little box?

I sit down and hear the sound of footsteps. Anxiety wells up as I realize they’re heading my way, getting louder and louder. I picture the outsider busting in and seeing me with my pants around my ankles. The steps get closer and my breath quickens. Suddenly a hand grabs the top of the door and another pushes.


The lock catches and the stall stealer realizes it’s occupied. He backs away, enters the stall beside me, and sits down. I let out a sigh of relief and pick a song on my iPod.

Suddenly – thud.

I look up to see his of toilet paper on the ground, rolling into my stall, out of my reach.

Life brings us many types of special moments. Some are great, some are bad. Some make you jump for joy, some make you punch a wall. Some make you laugh until you cry, and some make you cry until you laugh. The best moments, though, are the ones that make you clench your teeth together, suck in air, and say “ahhhhhhhh shit.”

Life’s awkward moments.

We’ve all been there. Answering “Good” after being asked “What’s up?” Apologizing to someone in a store for bumping into them and then realizing it’s a mannequin.  It’s inevitable. Some people run from these situations, head down, embarrassed.

I embrace them.

The concept of awkward becomes apparent when we think back on everything that happened in grades 6, 7, and 8. When we enter high school, we fall into a false sense of security. Awkward moments don’t happen to us anymore, and we can’t believe the way we acted in middle school.

Then we go to college and the term takes on a whole new meaning. We walk of shame home on a Sunday and run into friends that are going to church. We meet someone whose name we immediately forget and then see them every time we leave the house.

We learn to expect a certain level of awkwardness in our daily lives. We begin to act awkward ourselves. We get too comfortable around our friends and our awkward tendencies turn into our normal tendencies.

Then we graduate. We meet people who have no idea who we are but can’t turn off our awkward characteristics because we’ve forgotten how. Now every interaction is awkward.

  • You wave to someone who is waving to someone else behind you.
  • You’re meeting someone important for the first time and you both reach out to shake hands. You miss – they shake your fingers.
  • You go in for the hug when saying goodbye to a new friend. They don’t.
  • Elevators.
  • The moment you realize the joke you’re telling isn’t going to be funny.
  • You’re hand grazes a stranger’s butt in a crowded space.
  • You and someone else do the weird dance that happens when you’re trying to get out of each other’s way.
  • You hit your shin on anything.
  • You make eye contact with an approaching acquaintance way too early and now have to force conversation until you pass each other.
  • You go in for the handshake while the other guy goes in for what I like to call the “bro shake” and it becomes a convoluted hand-bro shake hybrid where no one looks cool.

All of us suffer through these moments. However, next time you’re in an awkward situation and you’re feeling like an idiot, don’t fret. You’re not alone. We’ve all made these mistakes and will continue to until we’re too old to care. The sooner you learn to embrace them, to more hilarious your life will be.

“No no no no no,” is all I could think. “Crap. What do I do? I can’t reach that. Do I pretend I’m not here? Do I pretend I didn’t see it? Of course I saw it, how could I miss it? Do I lift my feet up so he thinks no one is in the stall? He tried to get in though. Crap crap crap.”

Frozen in terror, I stare at his feet in the stall next to me. He leans forward.

“Ok, he’s gonna grab it and that’s it.”

He reaches under the wall and into my stall. He grabs the trail of toilet paper left behind and slowly tugs it to bring it back to him.

But his tugging is too aggressive. The toilet paper rolls even farther away from both his reach and mine. I regret picking the roomy stall.

He realizes what’s happening and stops pulling. Still frozen and speechless, I watch as he stands up, pulls up his pants, and exits the stall.

“Thank God, he’s changing stalls.” I let out a sign of relief and begin to get the feeling back in my fingertips.

Suddenly he drops to the bathroom floor and his entire arm shoots into my stall. He’s extending with everything he’s got. Finally, I speak up.

“Oh crap uh sorry,” is all I can get out before he interrupts with “No problem!” Even though I know I can’t reach the roll, I lean forward as if that will help him find it and make me a better person for trying. Finally his flailing arm finds it and snatches it out of my stall. He stands up, toilet paper in hand, and returns to his stall to finish his business.

I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.