Tag Archives: awkward moments

Day 1.

I have to be there at 9:15. I’ll shoot for 9:10 to be safe. It takes 30 minutes to get to the office according to Google Maps. Factor in 15 minutes of going the wrong way. I’ll need 45 minutes to get showered and ready. So I should get up at… uhhhhhhh… 7:40. I’ll set my alarm for 7:10, 7:20, 7:27, 7:32, and 7:38.

Just in case.

At 6:00 AM I was up and getting ready. I need to make a good first impression. Clothes: Jeans or chinos? Dark or light? What matches with grey? Is this too wrinkly? What color shoes? Where’s my belt?

Chinos. Light. Orange. No. Black. Hanging in the closet, where I put it yesterday.

The walk was longer than expected. The humidity of New York City took no prisoners this morning, and I was born with sweat glands similar in strength and size to Old Faithful. I felt sweat beading on my forehead and the center of my back. No no no, not today. Don’t get sweaty.

Thirty minutes and one shirt soaked through on both sides later, I made it to my building. Right on time. I called up.

“Hi, it’s Dan Whitman.”

“Hi Dan. I’ll be right down.”

“Ok! Great! See you soo-”

The phone hung up before I could get out my last exclamation point. I fanned myself frantically, hoping to cool myself down to the point that when I entered the office my new coworkers would think that I got sprayed with a hose rather than caught in an isolated thunderstorm.

My escort arrived to take me up to the office. In the elevator, my new coworker and I struck up conversation.

“Where are you from?” he asked me.

“Originally right outside Harrisburg but I lived in Pittsburgh for the last five years,” I spoke with excitement, entirely too quickly. “I went to school at Pitt and then worked there for one year before moving here. Well, actually, I lived in LA for two months after school interning and then went back to Pittsburgh and then here.”

“Nice.”

“Yeah!” Two quiet seconds. “What about you?”

“The DC area. Virginia. We used to drive to Philly and back for a cheesesteak and see who could make it there faster.”

“HAHA NO WAY that’s really funny haha did it take long to get there?” What am I doing? That’s not funny. That wasn’t even a joke.

“Like four hours or so.” We exited the elevator. “Here, this is our office.”

He showed me to my desk, then took me around to meet everyone else. I remembered every third name. Those that I couldn’t remember, I made up. I later found out that there is no Shelly, Brian, or Alyssa in my office, nor was there ever.

I walked around the office in a way that can be only described as snake-like, contorting my body into completely unnatural positions so that my new coworkers weren’t able to see the Great Salt Lake continuing to form on my back.

“There should be some paperwork for you to fill out sitting on your desk, and I think HR will reach out to you for orientation sometime soon.”

“Ok! Awesome! Thanks!!” Why am I still talking like this?

I took my seat and thumbed mindlessly through the paperwork sitting on my desk. Looking up, I glanced around at everyone else in the office, working hard on this or that. It was then that I came to the realization that I had no idea what I was doing.

The first day of a new job can be brutal. Especially the first day of your first real, salaried, I-don’t-know-anyone-or-what-I’m-doing-is-it-hot-in-here-where’s-the-bathroom-I-NEED-TO-PEE-RIGHT-NOW job. You’re aware of everything you do, from the way you talk and shake hands down to the way you sit in a meeting or walk to the copier.

While everyone seems to be doing important work, you’re setting up your voicemail and hoping that no one can hear you record and rerecord your greeting seven times. While your neighbor has three computer screens with different Excel sheets open, you’re deciding on the non-alphanumeric character to end your password with (the dollar sign, obviously, because you’re there to make money). And while your coworker is typing frantic emails about things that need to be done “ASAP BECAUSE IT WAS NEEDED YESTERDAY” you’re figuring out which height is just right on your desk chair.

Note: You are never able to actually get it at that height and settle for just a little too low.

You’ll need to learn a whole new language that is spoken in your office and your office only. “The Q3 BSRs are done except our major markets don’t include TRPs.” You’re lucky to catch an entire sentence without an acronym. In high school we’re told that learning a foreign language makes us more marketable to employers. In reality they should be teaching us how to rattle off arbitrary combinations of letters and numbers that sound like they could have significance.

Show excitement about your newfound employment, but don’t overdo it. The right amount of excitement shows that you’re ambitious and eager to learn. Too much excitement shows that you’re really, really annoying.

You have a weird side. Everyone does. Do not let yours loose on day 1. Keep the joke about the shape of that person’s mole in your head. Don’t share your story about catching a squirrel and keeping it as a pet right now. Unlike at a bar, the first impression you make in the office matters. Similarly, your coworkers are not your friends (unless they are).

Most importantly, though, remember that the first day normally kind of sucks. It’s slow, awkward, and uncomfortable. You’ll remember every minute of it – every interaction, every question, every moment you’re aware of yourself – until the next time you have a first day. But don’t worry; no one else will remember a thing.

Unless you’re really sweaty.

After finishing my pile of Human Resources documents, I uncomfortably dove into sexual harassment orientation training. I went to the website and hit start.

Oh good, it’s a video. This won’t be weird.

“Welcome to sexual harassment orientation,” the voice stated over my headphones. “This one hour interactive video will guide you through the policies and procedures your company has in place to prevent and punish sexual harassment in the workplace.”

HOLD THE PHONE. One hour? Interactive? I’m quitting this job.

One hour later I was afraid to even look at my female coworkers. I realized the day was nearing its end. I wasn’t sure what to do, so after rearranging my desk three more times and refreshing my inbox, I packed up my things to leave.

“Bye Alyssa!” I said to not-Alyssa as I headed out the door.

I reflected on my day in the elevator. Not bad. I met a lot of people, got my ducks in a row, and, most importantly, started a job I think I’m going to be happy in. I’m going to do well here. I’m excited – I feel like I there’s a promising horizon ahead of me, and this is the ship to get me there. Things are going to be great.

Feeling like a million dollars, I exited the elevator, strolled through the lobby, and headed towards the doors. When I stepped out into the sunlight, I turned right and walked towards my subway stop. Which, as it turns out, is not to the right, but to the left, turning my thirty-minute commute into and hour and fifteen minutes.

Happy Day 1.

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.

BOOM.

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.