I stopped on the corner to buy a newspaper. A distinguished-looking gentleman next to me was doing the same.
“Good day, sir,” he said, and just like that, he walked away.
I stared after him in astonishment. Good day! Good day! echoed through my head. What the hell could possibly be “good” about his day?! In this crazy mixed-up world, the fact that someone could be having a good day was mind-boggling.
I had a good mind to track the old chap down and give him a sound thrashing. But I was late for work as it was.
When I arrived at work, my coworker, “Steve,” approached me and shook my hand. I was a bit taken aback, but managed to keep my composure.
“Nice to see you!” he enthused, pumping my hand up and down like a wild animal.
Nice to see you!
It was all I could do to stifle the sobs of rage that throbbed in my chest and threatened to burst out of my mouth. How could he manage to extract even a kernel of “nice” from the sight of me? I am an ugly, miserable, boring, middle-aged man!
I resolved to avoid Steve around the office at all costs from then on. If, for some reason, I were forced to pass him in a hallway, or were confronted by him in the bathroom, I would pretend to be extraordinarily interested in whatever scrap of paper I happened to be carrying around. In the event that I was not carrying any sort of document, I would stare relentlessly at the floor.
Nice to see you, indeed.
Around one o’clock, my accursed human biology began to get the better of me, and I skulked downstairs to the cafeteria. On the way, a young woman joined me in the elevator. As if it were her life’s mission to fill me with a sense of abject horror, she looked at me, smiled, and even held eye contact for a full second before turning away. I pressed myself into the corner even more firmly, and for the remaining 12 seconds of the ride, glanced around furtively with quickened breath.
Thankfully, I advanced to the front of the line at the sandwich counter without incident. I received my sandwich, paid, and gratefully turned to go, when I heard the grating, obsequious cry of the vendor: “Enjoy!”
I cringed in despair. Why, after an orderly business transaction, would he ruin the moment with such a mawkish, misplaced display of emotion? Remarkably, I was able to refrain from plunging a plastic fork into his eyeball.
I managed to avoid any further blatant insincerity for the rest of the day by hiding under my desk and plugging my ears with wax. I spent most of that time clutching my knees in wide-eyed terror and humming, silently and tunelessly, to myself.
When I arrived home my wife greeted me with a lilting, “Hi, honey! How was your day?”