I have noticed today that people are more likely to make certain comments on a Monday at work, in particular a Monday morning. There’s the normal, friendly how-are-you greeting which somehow wears a little thin as the week progresses. You can’t really ask how someone is if you’ve just seen them that morning, or the day before and the day before that. It falls a little flat – how were they the last time you made eye contact on your way to the bathroom?
But on Monday morning, everything is fair game. You’ve had the whole weekend to build up possible angst or joy without the knowledge of your coworkers. You may, in fact, have won the lottery or discovered you’re dying of cancer. Quite a bit can happen in a 48+ period. Still, I find myself almost angry at the questioners. How do you answer, anyway? It’s foolish small talk designed to keep people from awkward silences or noticing the hum of the HVAC.
Previously I’d had a few ready-made actions to stave off conversation, in particular awkward and dumb small talk questions. The first one is easy and not too freakish – the hall wave. Once you see someone coming towards you, give them a friendly-looking wave. Then duck immediately around the next available corner. If you’re in certain buildings, you may have to duck into an office, bathroom, or broom closet and pretend you were going there for … something. Even knocking on a closed door while someone passes is enough to keep you from being drawn into conversation. That way, you’ve satisfied the ‘communication’ obligation without having the hear someone else talk. I like to change up the wave with finger-pointing, winks, and distance high-fives, just to spice things up.
Another solution is the preemptive question. Ask about something completely not mundane (Do you know the chemical formula for Chap Stick? What’s the capital of Tadjikistan?), or if you’re really at a loss, ask about some specific work-related question. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re addressing knows the answer, if they work in the same department as you, or if they even know who you are. It’s more likely to be effective if they don’t know the answer. If you’re bilingual or fluent, asking in another language might be best.
Personally I prefer to take more direct and aggressive action. My personal favorite is to look at the questioner as if they had two heads and then answer in a nonsensical fashion, a la Time Bandits:
Robin Hood: And you’re a robber, are you? Jolly good! How long have you been robbing?
Figit: Four foot one.
Robin Hood: Four foot one? That is a long time!
My new response to the how are you question is going to be ‘slightly more than average’. That way, I almost sound reasonable enough for the work place. It’s not as obvious as saying ‘slightly larger than average’ or ‘twopence’, but still discernible to people who are really listening. All in all, it’s a good way to get rid of the Mondays without violence. Your annoying fax machine thanks you.