I’m good at making strangers uncomfortable.
When you don’t go into a traditional office everyday, sometimes the most basic human interactions become something of a novelty. Chatting casually with acquaintances about the weather is something I only get to do the one day each week when I work out of a coworking space in Crystal City.
The other four days of the work week mean a whole lot of alone time, broken up only by occasional snuggles with our new foster kitty.
With so many hours spent solo, it’s no wonder that some social skills have started to deteriorate. I’ve joked about this in the past, but it’s true! As they say — ya gotta “use it or lose it”. Our brains fire a gazillion neurons every nanosecond that ultimately either strengthen a behavior or weaken it. After more than three years spent working remotely, I think it’s fair to say that some of those people skills one naturally develops in the workplace start to go…
So it’s really my company’s fault that I seem to have lost the social grace that prevents most people from making accidental death threats.
Here’s what happened:
I recently hit up my local CVS to satisfy some random junk food cravings. I set out with the goal to buy a bunch of childhood comfort foods that the grocery stores in my neighborhood (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) would never deign to carry. I stocked up on Reese’s peanut butter cups, some JIF chunky peanut butter, and a bag of those old-school Ritz peanut butter crackers. Yum! As I moved to the check out line, the friendly girl behind the counter commented on my stash.
“Wow, you must really love peanut butter!” she exclaimed cheerfully as she rang up the items.
Sarcastically, I responded, “Yeah, that, or I’m about to murder someone with a nut allergy.”
Silence. She looked up at me, alarmed.
I grinned. “Ha ha ha ha” I chortled, grinning maniacally. Hoping if I somehow over-emphasized the fact that it was a joke she might get it.
Still no reaction.
Not yet chastened, I looked behind me in line for a laugh, a smile — even a nod of social support would have been sufficient — but all eyes were trained on the floor avoiding my gaze.
The cashier quickly ran my last item through the scanner and bagged everything up.
“Have a nice day,” she mumbled, furiously avoiding eye-contact.
I left, sweating, confused, embarrassed that my joke had not only publicly flopped but possibly landed me on “DC’s Most Wanted” list of serial killers.
Okay, so it’s NOT alright to joke about killing immunocompromised individuals. Lesson learned.
I’m hoping that particular cashier wasn’t actually concerned enough to report me, the socially-inept peanut butter monster, for terrorizing her CVS branch. But even if I’m not in trouble with the law, I may have to find another convenience store for my odd food cravings…