Today I caused an Awkward Moment on the telephone. You see, a colleague of mine phoned me at work, and the usual pleasantries ensued: “Hello, cenobyte, this is so-and-so”, the colleague opened with.
“Oh hi, so-and-so! How are you?” <– standard opening. Unlike most folks, I actually care what the answer is.
“I’m well!” The colleague replied.
So I didn’t say anything. Because I’d asked a question, and my colleague had answered it entirely. Usually, this is followed up with How are you? or Goodness, your children are fantastically brilliant, aren’t they? or Please, will you remove the chains today? However, my colleague did not choose to follow up his reply with any of these.
An Awkward Moment ensued. I had no idea why my colleague was telephoning me, and I have learned over the years that asking “what the hell do you want?” is rude. Particularly at the office. So I chose to say nothing. Not as in, I then said to my colleague “Nothing”, which is terribly funny, but not at all what I meant. Rather, I did not say anything.
You can usually tell an Awkward Moment by its ensuing Awkward Silence. Now, this silence was really only awkward from my colleague’s point of view, as I had already elicited all the information from my colleague that was required. However, I can tell an Awkward Silence a mile away, and could tell that my colleague was, quite literally, at a loss for words.
“Um,” he began, which is the proper way to end an Awkward Silence, “how…was…your…summer?” he asked, as if he was entirely unsure if this was the proper way to proceed.
It was. I commented that my summer, all five days of it, was wonderful, and that I am looking forward to a long, warm, and protracted autumn. At which point, I again did not say, “now what the hell do you want?” But the good news is, I didn’t have to. That first Awkward Moment, followed by the requisite Awkward Silence, had jarred my colleague to his senses. He got Right To The Point after that.
Thus endeth the lesson.