“It seemed like a great idea at the time!” – the battle cry of the chronically impulsive person.
It is no secret to anyone who knows me even a little that I am incredibly impulsive. And those who have even a tiny speck of sense know that impulsiveness is good only in very small doses. I have enough sense to recognise this; but apparently not enough to control my deeds every time.
This tendency is further exacerbated by extreme emotion, like anger. Or joy. Or sadness. In most cases, I can reason myself down a few notches, but the “what-the-heck” element really kicks in when I’m annoyed. Which brings me neatly to the following incident. I am by no means proud of my behaviour, because even if the stimulus was obnoxious, my handling of the situation was equally if not more obnoxious. Sigh.
So, back during my first year at ParserPile, hardly any of the boys spoke to me. Therefore, my interactions were limited to the guy who I was sort of reporting to, the other members of his team, and the one other girl in the office. Although I was initially happy to interact with, keeping in mind the extreme paucity of other interaction I had overall, over time I started to dislike her.
It wasn’t that she was annoying – which she was, and thus starred prominently on my Twitter feed as the Office Idiot – but more that she had strongly held opinions about everything. Again, strongly held opinions in of themselves are not bad, but 1) don’t shove them down someone’s throat; 2) when you aren’t actually part of a conversation, neither are your opinions; and 3) when they are horribly mean opinions, do yourself a favour and keep them to yourself.
Because I am chronically incapable of being sustainably unkind to someone without feeling horribly guilty, I continued to interact with her, keeping my dislike hidden the best I could, and mostly listening. I learned a lot about her life, and to a great extent her history was sad enough to excuse her somewhat in my opinion. But since I am not a saint, nor a judge, I couldn’t help recoiling at her obnoxiousness every so often.
One fine day, we were being taken out for an office party to the nearby Hard Rock Cafe. The founders said we were welcome to bring guests, the understanding being that family [like a spouse or children; someone brought their parents] or a significant other were welcome to come with. Mostly people invited their wives along, Office Idiot asked her husband to join in the festivities, but I was solo, as the French Student was sailing at the time.
We were, of course, sitting together at one of the tables, when one of engineers [RN] came to say Hi. To me. Because I interacted with him somewhat, and the engineers were just starting to get comfortable around this unmarried girl [an explosive factor, I guess] in their immediate precincts. We chatted, and I asked who he was bringing to the party. He replied that his girlfriend would join us after she finished with work. I responded, as one does, saying that I was looking forward to meeting her. Ordinary, commonplace small talk, absolutely pedestrian and socially apropos of the situation.
And then the Office Idiot strikes. Remember I said that she butted into conversations with all of her opinions? Yeah.
She expressed her immense surprise that he was bringing his girlfriend. Now I don’t recollect the exact nature of this exchange, but I remember turning to her in some astonishment at the sheer scale of her surprise – and also at the fact that she actually expressed it out loud. To him.
Credit to RN, he shrugged lightly and walked off. I, on the other hand, continued to gape at her. She continued on her mountingly obnoxious train of thought, where she JUST COULDN’T BELIEVE that RN had a girlfriend. UNBELIEVABLE. Could I wrap my head around the fact that he had a girlfriend?! Oh. I didn’t think it was shocking? Or weird?
After grinding out, between clenched teeth, that I didn’t think it was weird at all, I beat a retreat. I found more congenial coworkers to hang out with, and proceeded to box myself into the group, so that even if she joined us, I was safely tucked away from her negativity.
I gather there are many reasons people find engineers socially awkward, and find it mildly surprising that such an individual could have found love easily. I am not of that ilk, simply because I have mostly fallen in love with engineers myself. The fact that RN has a mild disability also may have factored into her surprise is something that struck me much later. Anyway. I legged it from her immediate vicinity is what the point is.
Till, RN brought his girlfriend over to me to say hi. Because that’s when Impulse Brain took over completely. I greeted her warmly, and said how pleased I was to meet her. And it was a pleasant few seconds before I did this:
Me: “Please wait right here a moment; I want you to meet someone.”
She, understandably confused: “Sure.”
RN: *grinning broadly, probably having guessed what I was up to*
Me: *frogmarched Office Idiot to her* “This is <Office Idiot name>. She thought you were a fictional character, like a fairy or unicorn.”
She, even more confused: “What?”
Office Idiot: *trying to laugh and butt in*
Me: “Oh she didn’t think you existed! Therefore you are like a fictional character, no?”
RN: *quietly fist bumps me out of everyone’s sight*
Office Idiot: “Oh! I meant that RN looks so young and innocent. I didn’t think he would have a girlfriend. So I was surprised. Nice to meet you.” *beats hasty retreat*
I’m the first to admit that it was awful for me to put both of them in that position. I could have handled it much better, by having a conversation with Office Idiot about how her attitude was judgemental and discriminatory. But no, I chose to go up in flames, making RN’s significant other supremely confused in the bargain.
Last month, I was invited to and attended RN’s wedding to the same girl. And a week later, the newly married pair attended the next wedding together in Delhi. I had an opportunity to explain myself finally to her, and apologise for our first meeting.
Her response was a hug, so I’m guessing all is forgiven on that front.