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May 4, 2006

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Office

(I had a story that I wanted to tell last weekend, but it just didn’t fit in well with the other posts, so I saved writing about it until this week. Apologies to Pearl Jam for the title...)

About 5 weeks ago I hinted at the fact that I was working in a new office, sharing a room with two other people. I only slightly exaggerated my concern about being able to listen to Green Day and Fall Out Boy on my computer like I was accustomed to in my previous work space. (Sure, I'm learning new job duties and taking on increased responsibilities, but I can still find time to fret about these things. I’m gifted that way.)

I soon discovered that my fears were somewhat unfounded. One of the women in my office spends a lot of time off site, frequently vacating her desk for a half-day at a time.

And the other woman is as deaf as a post.

She’s one of those ladies who looks about 70 years old, dresses in outdated fashions, and takes about five full minutes to rise from her desk and shuffle over to the printer. And it took me a while to understand that her failure to respond to my questions wasn’t just her way of giving me the cold shoulder.

I’ve since learned that she pretty much relies on lip reading, and unless I raise my voice to a near yell, she’s pretty much oblivious to noises around her. Her desk sits behind the front counter of our office, and I pass back and forth in front her several times per day, yet she barely notices.

So we settled into a pattern where we each go about our own business – her typing and printing whatever unknown tasks she is responsible for, and me plugging away at my computer with my head bouncing happily to Yellowcard. Honestly, it’s an ideal arrangement (Believe it or not, I’m more of a keep-to-myself type in the workplace. Blogging is like channeling some alter ego.).

Then one day last week she startled me by tapping me on the shoulder while I was sitting at my desk with my back turned. After my initial jump, I saw she was holding a small white bag out to me, and said “I stopped at the bakery on my way in.”

I peeked inside the bag, and saw that she brought me a dozen donut holes.

This was on Friday morning. Less than 48 hours before the Big Sur Marathon. There was no way in heck I was eating those donut holes.

But I put on a happy face, thanked her about ten times, and made a big fuss over how nice she was to think of me. I placed the bag beside me until a bit later in the morning, when I opened my desk drawer and dropped it inside.

About 30 minutes later she tapped me on the shoulder again. Again, I jumped. When I turned, she was holding another white bag, and said “It looks like [our office mate] isn’t coming in, so you can have her bag, too.”

It took me a few seconds to return my jaw to its upright position before I could manage going through the same routine of thanking her again, then waiting a while before hiding this other bag in my desk next to the first one.

On my way home that night, I dropped the bags in a trash can in our parking garage. I knew I wouldn’t be eating them that weekend, and they were getting a little stale to bring home for somebody else to eat.

I felt kind of bad, though. I think I played the situation off well enough to avoid hurting the old lady’s feelings, but I still felt like it was almost disrespectful to be so dismissive of her goodwill offering.

Perhaps my actions say something about the importance I placed on last weekend’s race. More likely, they just demonstrate my overriding neuroses about anything I perceive to be a threat to my running. Either way, I wanted to make some sort of amends this week, now that the race is over and I’ll pretty much eat whatever the heck I feel like for several days.

So this morning I brought her a donut, and told her to have a nice day. She smiled and seemed happy. Then I went back to my desk and cranked up the Foo Fighters.

Just like that, all was well in the office again.


Kim 5/4/06, 12:46 PM  

You are soooo good. I have to admit. We only get them on special occasions...but I had a donut on Saturday morning. I was carb loading. :)

backofpack 5/4/06, 12:53 PM  

Sounds to me like you handled it with tact and grace. Donuts and cake are two things I find it easy to pass on. I have had the same problem when someone brings me a donut and I really, really don't want to eat it. If I have to (because we are in a meeting together) I kind of pick at it. Or I offer to split it. I feel like I work too hard on my runs to waste those calories on something I don't like. Now, Dove dark chocolate...that's another story.

angie's pink fuzzy 5/4/06, 12:53 PM  

aww, i'm so glad you bought her a donut!

but...stale? after one day? no way! my husband would have killed me for not bringing the donut holes home :)h

Anne 5/4/06, 1:52 PM  

I probably would have brought them home, stale though they may be, for someone else to enjoy. I'm not nearly as neurotic about pre-race nutrition as you, but I'm also not nearly as fast as you. Donut indulgences may be one (of many) reasons why. You handled the situation well.

stronger 5/4/06, 2:23 PM  

I think I would have been more afraid that she'd find the bags of donut holes in the trash. I'm sure you made her day by returning the favor- obviously she likes donuts so good call. Well, unless you set yourself up for weekly donut exchanges.

susie 5/4/06, 2:56 PM  

Food, and particularly sugar/high calorie food, seems to be the relationship builder in offices. After bringing in chocolate kisses (everyone loved them), I tried hummus and carrots. (I ended up with all of it for lunch!)

matt 5/4/06, 7:01 PM  

come on, donald! haven't you been reading the latest reasearch on crumb vs. powdered donettes as race fuel? i would have expected more from you :)

way to make the kind gesture! clearly, this type of social interaction is important to her in the office. you are a real gent!

Darrell 5/4/06, 11:25 PM  

The mental picture of it all just makes me smile. How you didn't bust out laughing when she brought you the 2nd bag I don't know. I would have to agree that donuts are basically without any redeeming nutritional value. Way to stay strong.

Cliff 5/5/06, 7:45 AM  

My coworkers always get me coffee. A few times I will pour it down in the bathroom sink b/c durign trainign i lay low on caffiene. I insist on them not getting me any coffee. They still do.

I don't tell them..and it keeps everyone working happily.

olga 5/5/06, 9:19 AM  

Good call on not consuming that sugary stuff (I am indifferent to all sweets). Next time may be you can find a homeless on the street? And nice of you to pay back.

robtherunner 5/5/06, 5:04 PM  

If you are ever going to switch over to ultra running you can't be tossing perfectly good donut holes before races. You just stuff some in your pockets and your on your way.

I think there must be something inherently wrong with throwing away perfectly good junk food.

Steve 5/6/06, 11:45 AM  

Great site! Great posts, especially liked your "Scenes From a Marathon". Thanks for stopping by ChristianRunner.com

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