Saturday, April 10, 2010

Silence is Golden

Example #1
After removing a cancerous mole from my head several years ago, my doctor suggested that I begin seeing a dermatologist as a preventative measure. I agreed, and a few months later I found myself in the office of Dr. Holly where I was asked to remove everything but my value brand underwear and place a ridiculously large napkin over my lap for the sake of modesty.
Since there were no magazines in the exam room and I was reticent to disturb the position of my man-cape, I began studying the artwork on the walls to pass the time. I immediately noticed the office’s decorator had somewhat eclectic taste as most of the photos were dramatic portraits of aborigines in tribal masks. To make matters worse, the individual who was the focal point of the picture beside me appeared to follow me with his eyes.
I tried to occupy myself with my cell phone but try as I might I was unable to shake the feeling that I was being watched by this masked voyeur. When Dr. Holly came in I figured that the unique and unnerving choice of artwork would be a good icebreaker, since meeting someone for the first time while wearing nothing but a paper towel and a smile can be disconcerting.
After we exchanged pleasantries, I nervously began attacking the pretentious and frightening artwork that adorned the walls. I made some joke about how I did not mind being forced to stare at canned artwork that looked as though it had been lifted from a guest room at a Motel 6, but intentionally frightening the patients seemed absurd. I believe I ended this soliloquy with some remark about how these pictures must have been on sale at a flea market.
Having patiently endured my rant with a look of bemusement, Dr. Holly proceeded to tell me that she herself had selected the photos because they were memories from her recent trip to abroad. I sat in semi-nude horror as she further explained that photography was a hobby of hers and she had personally taken each of the photos in question and that was the reason for their presence.
Having once again proven myself to be an unrivaled moron, I weighed my options:
1.       Play the entire conversation off as a joke and offer to purchase some of the artwork so that I could enjoy it at home.
2.       Distract her by throwing a stack of “Why Does My Mole Look Funny?” brochures into the air and running out of the office.
3.       Take my comeuppance like a man.
Although I was unaccustomed to option three, I finally accepted it after convincing myself that the first two were implausible. To her credit, Dr. Holly reassured me that no offense was taken and she proceeded with the exam as a consummate professional. We continue our medical relationship to this day but I consciously refrain from commenting on any decoration choices in her office.

Example #2
Several years ago a co-worker and I were setting up the computer of a new employee. She seemed personable enough, and the three of us made small talk as the components of the PC were being assembled. As a matter of unhappy coincidence, her office shared a wall with the men’s restroom on that particular floor. This meant that she was uniquely privy to the myriad of terrifying noises that emanated from that area.
During the course of the setup, we clearly heard evidence that someone had consumed a meal that was somewhat hostile to their intestines. Always the portrait of professionalism, my colleague and I pretended not to notice the sounds and she did the same. Finally, after the third courtesy flush in as many minutes, I could contain myself no longer and said, “Sounds like someone had lunch at the Old Country Store.”
For those of you who are not familiar with the establishment, the Old Country Store is a local landmark that combines kitschy frontier-themed souvenirs with a gut-busting gravy-swamped buffet. Due to the caloric fortitude of the previously mentioned buffet, those who ate there would often find themselves in search of a restroom within the hour. It was for this reason that my coworkers and I would often invoke its name as a catch all for digestive maladies.
At any rate, my friend and I chuckled for several minutes at our private joke before the new employee asked what we found so funny. Still wiping the tears from my eyes, I informed her that the food there was so covered in gravy and grease that the type of reaction we were hearing was not uncommon.
Even after my explanation, she did not seem to share our comical view of the restaurant but I simply attributed that to her lack of a sense of humor. Ten minutes later, as we were packing up, I asked what she had done prior to being hired here. In a deadpan monotone voice she informed me that she was previously the Kitchen Manager at the Old Country Store.
I believe it was at this point we faked an emergency page and wished her a pleasant afternoon.

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