Whistle While You Lurk

I’ve had an increasing number of encounters with the “lurkers” in my office lately. What’s a lurker you ask? A lurker is someone who knowingly bypasses electronic methods of communication for topics which shouldn’t happen aloud around our clients, and pays you a visit with some unnecessary face-to-face interaction. While these conversations are almost always casual and work-appropriate, they never really seem to end. And it’s rarely because of me, it’s more so them and their inability to grasp the non verbal cues (long periods of silence, death stares) which signify disinterest and/or the end of a conversation. Exhibit A: Gerald Fenster; an excessively smiley man who stopped by my desk last Monday morning as I was sipping on my coffee and booting up my PC.

Gerald: Hey Beatwood, Happy Monday! (I cringe a little) How was your weekend?

Me: Oh hey Gerald, I actually had a fantastic weekend. I went up to New York City to reunite with a bunch of old college buddies, and we had a lot of fun. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m really excited to be back here sitting at my desk, heh heh (blending my chuckle with my words for effect). How about you? (don’t really care)

Gerald: Oh that sounds awesome! My wife and I took the kids over to the County Fair, it was a pretty good time – rode the tilt-a-whirl, won ’em some stuffed animals… it was great, yeah (note the unnecessary ‘yeah’) .

Me: Oh that’s cool……(the dots are the non verbal cue known as ‘long period of silence’)

Gerald: (side elbow, head tilt) Yeah, you know, Mondays are usually pretty packed with stuff that piled up over the weekend…

Me: Definitely. Well I’d best get started, we’ve got user tests coming up and I should make sure everything is ready. Talk to you later… (divert my eyes to the computer screen)

I start clicking around and working on some stuff, but something doesn’t feel right… something is…. well… I can hear…. breathing!  I turn back around, only to find Gerald is still there leaning against my cube wall!

Gerald, leaning up against my cube wall

Note Ramesh sitting there quietly in the background across the hall, chuckling at a scene he is all too familiar with. Payback for when I covered his entire desk in Justin Bieber wrapping paper the other day.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I definitely understand the heart of the visit. it can be pretty soul-crushing as a keyboard-warrior to have only a cubicle wall and a computer screen to stare at all day, and I definitely get up from time-to-time to stretch my legs, walk around, and say hi to my fellow cube-dwellers. It’s nice to talk to a real person once in a while. But I also recognize those real people sometimes have real work to do, and let’s be honest – they don’t really care what you did over the weekend.

Gerald: So what did you guys do up there in New York?

ARE YOU POOPING ME GERALD?! Now, things are awkward. Firstly, I no longer want Gerald to leave, I need him to leave. I’ve got work to do. But secondly, and most importantly, my and my friends’ debauchery in New York is not appropriate office conversation, and I don’t need Gerald trying to live vicariously through my experiences. So I pulled out one of the most bush league moves in the book…

Me: We uh….(looks at Ramesh who is doing the ‘suck it’ gesture from middle school) we.. OH man… I’ve actually got to run to the restroom, I’ll be right back.

That’s right, I faked a bathroom emergency to get away from Gerald. I didnt really have to go though, so I looked up NBA scores on my phone in the stall for exactly 15 minutes, and then washed the guilt off my hands. Came back out and Gerald was gone, I avoided him for the rest of the day.

Lesson of this story: Don’t be annoying, and if you’re being annoyed, fake diarrhea.

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