I’m sorry, co-worker
I said hi to a co-worker of mine today who I don’t know that well and for some reason, instead of just seeing her (literally at the office water cooler) and walking past her to say a quick hello, I stopped to chat despite never chatting with her before. I don’t know why, I guess I figured I’d appear rude if I did a fast “hello” walk-by. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about appearing rude, crazy was more like it. After making small talk about what a busy week she was having, she told me she was from Midland, Texas, to which I replied without even thinking “That’s where Baby Jessica is from!”
Why I know that, I don’t know, but it came from the same brain cells that lie dormant 99.9% of the time and suddenly spring alive so that I can correctly yell out “What is the Pompidou Center?” during Jeopardy! despite having zero education about the Pompidou Center but I know I read something somewhere at some point in my life about it.
Like everyone in America in 1987, I knew the story of Baby Jessica and watched the made for TV movie about her too but if you asked me out of nowhere “Where is Baby Jessica from?” I wouldn’t know. But when I heard “Midland”, brain cells that were happily not firing all of a sudden exploded in a frenzy and forced me to blurt out to a near-total stranger “BABY JESSICA” so that I would appear to have a Tourette’s like problem where instead of swearing, I shock people with my irrelevant, tv-news-magazine-loving references.
“Oh, yeah…I guess so,” she replied politely. And you’d think I would have ended it right there. She was clearly not going to elaborate on Baby J. What normal person would? Who would continue to talk about a baby stuck in a well 20 years ago and admit that it’s something worth getting into? Well, I would. Because uncontrollably, even though my heart was saying “What are you doing? You should just WALK. AWAY. Get out while you can!” my mouth said “Ok, good luck this week and have fun with Baby Jessica!”
Why? Why?! What does that even mean? Why are some people blessed with the ability to perform miracle surgery or hit high notes and my only skill is social ineptitude with a touch of confounding those around me? Have fun with Baby Jessica? More like “I’m sorry I subjected you to my pop-culture-diarrhea-of-the-mouth, I hope this doesn’t make things awkward the next time we have to work together on a Powerpoint presentation.”
This kind of thing happens to me a lot, this “Why did I just say that?” feeling and it makes me think of a saying (that Google attributes to Abe Lincoln but who knows): “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.
In other words, if I act more mime-like, my worries will be less about people’s opinions about me and my “thinking outside the box”, and more about actually getting out of the box.