I work in a very small office on the second floor of a medium sized, two-story office building. As a result, I often pass people in the hallway. I've always sucked at hallway passing etiquette, so I usually end up making a random choice either to ignore the person or smile and say something as I pass. Sometimes, if I ignore them, they'll say something, which gives me the easy way out since I just have to respond in kind. No problem. Unfortunately, a terrible, terrible thing has occurred.

I've become stuck in an infinite hello loop.

Early in my employment here, as I was walking down the hall, I passed a gentleman and made the random decision to speak to him as I passed. I smiled and said hello and he did the same (odd how a conversation can consist entirely of unanswered questions, isn't it?). I walked on, thinking nothing of it.

The next day, I passed him again. This presented me with quite a conundrum. Obviously, I've already said hello to him once before, so he thinks I'm the type of guy who says hello to people in the hallway. If I ignore him, the social results could be disastrous. So of course, I said hello again.

It turns out this man works in the office directly across the hall from mine, which means I run into him quite often. I can't not say hello to him, because I've already started the loop. What's worse, I can't not say hello to anyone who I happen to pass while this guy is within hearing range, because then he'll think I only say hello to him, and that would just be weird. And as if that's not enough, he apparently works with mentally disabled people, and is often pushing a wheelchair-bound retarded person through the hall. That means I have to say hello both to him and to the person in the wheelchair.

I don't mean to be insensitive, but saying hello to a retarded person is a terribly risky thing to do, because you never know whether they'll respond, and if they do respond, they might say something completely incomprehensible or inappropriate that you then have to tactfully pretend to have understood, all the while trying desperately to get away without seeming insulting.

All of this has culminated in me looking carefully both ways before stepping into the hall, for fear that I'll run into Hallway Man and a group of retards who will corner me and never allow me to escape.

I think maybe I'm just not the type of person who can safely be around other people.

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