Last week marked my three-year anniversary at work. Crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was power-washing homes and hunting squirrels for rent. But for better or for worse, I’ve now been a bonafide businessman for three years. And though I still look like a science fair entrant in business pants (or “trousers,” as my fancy friend calls them), I’ll concede that I’ve slowly matured in other ways, some of which both puzzle and frighten me.
Hot for per.
I knew I was in trouble the day “per” cropped up in my everyday dialect. I don’t remember our first encounter, but I do – embarrassingly enough – remember thinking “My God, where have you been?” It didn’t take long for me to develop a sick sort of satisfaction in its abuse. It felt so easy. So natural. So trousery. For example, rather than send my friends an email about “that cat video we talked about at lunch,” I found myself saying things like, “Per our discussion over sandwiches,” or “Per our conversation re: cats.” (More to come on re:) I was totally out of control. The only time I can remember obsessing in such a way was when I was eight and discovered the word “bastard.” To be sure, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of bastard, so I used it interchangeably with “friend(s)” or “guy(s).” E.g.: “Come on, you bastards! Let’s get some snacks!”
Re: the ridiculousness of re:
After readily adopting “per,” it was only a matter of time before I began exploring the darker, more formal morsels of jargon at my disposal. Though I experimented with several options – most notably the notion of signing my emails with “Best,” – I eventually landed on re:. Re:, as in, “I got your voicemail re: the peanut butter.” Or “Your email re: the trouser sale was well received by all.” I knew it was terrible sentence structure. I knew it was pretentious. But I didn’t care. It felt good to be bad. And if I’m being totally honest here, it made me feel a hair grayer (in a well-respected wizard sort of way, that is).
The Hello Whisper.
I find something very uncomfortable about passing people in hallways. They’re at one end, you’re at the other, and you have no choice but to surmount a full-frontal approach before meeting your respective destinations.
To handle these situations, I’ve developed two coping strategies: The Hello Whisper and the Captain’s Wave. Certainly, each has become somewhat irrelevant as I’ve grown more comfortable in my company, but they’ve both served me well.
The Hello Whisper came to me in the first year of my career, presumably born out of shyness and insecurity. It happens like this: upon noticing an approaching coworker, I tuck my pelvis under, focus intently on the carpet and quicken my pace, as if I’m late to a very important meeting. Once I feel that my coworker and I have reached an appropriate distance from each other, I look up, smile, and silently mouth “Hi” Like I’m very excited to see them, but also quietly respectful of the hardworking businessmen around me.
The Captain’s Wave.
As seasons changed, I began to replace my meek Hello Whisper with something a little bolder, a little more dramatic — the Captain’s Wave. It came to me when I realized that what I hated most about hallway encounters was the anticipation. Do I say hi? When should I say hi? How do I say hi? Where should I look until I say hi? What if I have chocolate on my face? What if it’s my boss and I have chocolate on my face?
So, I decided to avoid said discomfort by asserting myself from the get-go. If I notice a coworker at the opposite end of the hallway, I throw up my hand and give them a big, slow half-circular wave, like I’m saluting them from the helm of my ship. It seems to work quite nicely. After a few months testing it in the market, I’ve found that it gets about a 55 percent response rate, depending on how backlit I am.
So there you have it. A small taste of my more unfortunate work quirks. Also, for my own vanity, I must note that I’ve weaned myself off “per” and “re:,” though you have every right to judge our brief affair.