Genuine friendships bloom in the right conditions

Karen Madej

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To start with the most exciting part — as all good stories do — this is a retelling of a ‘she said she said’ incident. Two female workers fell out over an initial rebuffing of one by the other. Then, weeks later, a near-miss in the car park.

It’s six in the evening. Office workers are pouring out of the building where they work. Making beelines for their fancy steel chariots.

A boxy red number cruises along to the junction where a worker is about to cross. The worker looks and decides to cross. The Red Car Driver swerves to miss her and continues on her drive home. They left the pedestrian shaky and fuming.

Later in the evening, the pedestrian wrote about her experience in a messenger group with her three colleagues/friends. She declared she intended to report the incident to the director the next morning.

One of the colleagues/friends is also a friend of the driver. She knows the pedestrian believes the driver disrespected her in the past and hasn’t spoken to the driver since.

Groups form in offices. What might appear to be a natural banding together of like-minded people isn’t necessarily so.

This is a tale of getting to know people who have invited you to sit at their table and while relieved and grateful at first, power plays and gossip soon turn the experience sour.

This is not character assassination, and I have no worries about them ever reading and identifying with their exaggerated characters. We all see ourselves differently from the ways others see us. I’m certainly not an angel.

This could be fake news or it could be real. This is one writer’s view of a workspace. I wish these characters well in their endeavours, I simply don’t want to spend time with them and their soap opera lives. That’s my choice. They can like me or lump me, I have no preference one way or another.

When I don’t like someone and or a situation I find myself in, I give people the benefit of the doubt, (or enough rope to hang themselves with if I were a half-empty glass kind of person) and then move as far away as possible. It works for me.

One such friend has been disappointed by my actions twice now. The first time was because I didn’t tell her that I was moving desks before it actually happened. My previous desk position had been perfect with the exception of the people surrounding me.

I left it up to her as to how she wanted to proceed. I’m relieved to say she chose to ignore me. Call me a coward, but I’m happy to be cordial to everyone. Good friends with behaviours, habits and outlooks in common tend to stay friends, in my experience.

Let’s introduce the characters.

Gobby, a treacherous gossip from London, has an opinion and experience on everything. Appears smart and knowledgeable.

Lady Talk A Lot (LTAL, you can tell she is a typical matriarch controlling her family with sweetness and her almost pleading need to always be right. She enjoys inflicting her opinion on a person, declares that person rude and doesn’t speak to her again, ever. Except to hiss, “I’m not speaking to you.”

Little Miss Tuffet, sat on her tuffet and looked at you in a way that begged you to ask her how she was. After the first week, in order to not wish yourself a million miles away, it was vital to not feel sorry for this young woman who has everything wrong with her body and apparently, has tried everything but nothing will solve her problems. There is never a happy ending. Better still, do not ask her how she is doing.

Off Her Trolley Often (OHTO), which sounds harsh and you really feel for this young woman who blurts out whatever is on her mind before editing it, often with a sarcastic twist — reminds me of my younger self. Thought to be having an intimate relationship with Gobby. Her mother is cruel and causes her to cry often.

Hypno (and also Red Car Driver) is a stimulating conversationalist who can, not only have a two-way conversation but also speak on interesting subjects. She has a son but doesn’t focus on the minutiae of his life. She is not a morning person. She doesn’t deal well with constant idle gossip or chatter.

There are other, lesser characters, who spend hours gossiping about OHTO and anyone else interesting. Other topics include what they want to buy, what they bought and in-depth exchanges on what the item does, smells like, tastes like. Another popular topic for the gossips was childbirth.

When Gobby inserted himself in the conversation it was often to say how brilliant he was at his HR job in a hotel chain and to rave about Marks & Spencer Yumnuts — a cross between a yum yum and a doughnut. To be fair he also bragged a lot about how he helped less manipulative people defend themselves to management.

I prefer to observe people. At work I was treated, if you can call it a treat, to unavoidable gossip about people’s outside of work activities, including sex, dates, furniture — ugly and gorgeous, eyebrows — quite interesting, the names and detailed descriptions of the relatives of Lady Talk A Lot and what each individual had going on in their lives currently. Also, dipping back into the past whenever necessary to explain something.

People arrive in our paths for a reason. To teach us about ourselves or to help or guide us. I’ve wondered if this was to teach me humility, patience and the joy of other people’s relatives, furniture, sex habits etc. Eyebrows are useful to know about and I’ve recently found a wonderful lady who did a wonderful job of threading and dying mine to make them pretty instead of straggly wayward caterpillars.

There’s something about being told by someone that they are disappointed by you or your actions which rankles. Were their expectations too high or yours too blasé?

Should Lady Talk A Lot have made it clear her comments about another person were in confidence? Should the author, because she had sat with LTAL for a few months, have respected the woman’s vendetta/personal reaction against the other woman whose story was equally believable?

On reflection, the author could have been more upfront with Lady Talk A Lot. However, part of the author didn’t respect the matriarch’s stance on the matter and believed if it weren’t for the initial misunderstanding there wouldn’t have been an escalation of the car park incident. It could simply have been resolved with a few embarrassed words from both parties.

Sitting at the same table doesn’t mean we are going to be friends. The deciding factor, for me to betray someone who considered me a friend, was when Lady Talk A Lot talked at me, about her family, without pause for a full fifteen minutes on our break. This was on top of being constantly interrupted while trying to read or write, most days. I changed break times.

Yes, I didn’t tell her I was moving because I didn’t want her to follow me. Yes, I told Hypno to even the playing field and give her a fighting chance because I liked Hypno and enjoyed our conversations about everything and anything. And yes, part of me knew what I was doing and justified it. To oust LTAL from my sphere.

LTAL made the right decision to not speak with me anymore. I am happy to be ignored. I am delighted to not be boxed in by a sentence of judges who share common topics and people’s lives between them like delectable morsels.

I try really hard not to judge people as I believe in live and let live, each to their own, and I don’t think anyone should change because someone else thinks they should.

This author has judged them, though, and found them lacking. I am a snob. My time is to be spent on activities and conversation that are stimulating and educational. Also, anything that will enhance my writing. So I thank these characters for their unwitting participation in this story. Not that they’ll ever know.

Are you dying to know the outcome?

Nothing else happened. Something may have, but I’ve seen nobody to ask … Mind you I haven’t gone looking.

I did, however, make two super friends while in that call centre.

Genuine friendships bloom in the right conditions.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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