If like me you are a computer bound office drone you’ll no doubt have suffered the lows of excruciating small talk, the awkward silences that fall in between the excruciating small talk and the gnawing anxiety that comes from wondering when the torturous deed will end.
And then there are the moments when you realize the company you are suffering is self-inflicted and the misery you are experiencing self-induced. Why I thought it was high time I got to know everyone who works in my department is surely beyond me.
In fairness most of my encounters were a strait one on the awkwardness richter scale. Characterised by overly long and tuneless talk about how long colleagues had worked at the company.
But nothing could have prepared me for the horror show that was to be my run in with, let me think of a suitable pseudonym, ‘Barry’.
Barry, as you might well have guessed from the title of this article was black, delusional and male- a triple wammy if ever there was one.
This being the case I had decided long ago that my approach to him should be a cautionary one.
Black women the world over can attest, that trying to be friendly towards our black, delusional, male counterparts – (hereinafter referred to as BDMs) can be a perilous endeavour for the following reasons:
Make conversation with a BDM – he think’s you’re attracted to him
Make eye contact with a BDM – he think’s you’re asking him out on a date
Offer a BDM a biscuit- he thinks your wedding dress is waiting in the car
I hope reader, you can see the difficulty of my situation, one wrong word to Barry and he would think I had already picked out matching his and hers bathrobes.
After bottling the encounter approximately a million times, I took my chance to break the proverbial ice- catching Barry on route to the kitchen.
My memory tells me I began our chit chat with a gabbled comment that resembled ‘I always see you around, but I’ve never known your name.’
Barry introduced himself, as well, Barry. And after hearing his surname I asked what part of the world it was from.
I learned the name hailed from an exotic West African state, and Barry asked me the origins of my own surname.
As any black person, with lineage in the new world knows, our surnames are the remnants of a painful and difficult legacy. They are not really a subject for light conversation.
Barry didn’t seem to pick up on the fact I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to open the can of worms that is the transatlantic slave trade.
And so I was forced to spell out how I came to be given the name of Elliott- in black and white terms if you will.
Armed with the knowledge my heritage lay in the sun soaked island of Barbados, Barry proceeded to tell me that he had traveled all over the Caribbean.
At last, I thought to myself, we were finally on the hallowed turf of common ground! I suggested Baz visit Barbados. He said he already had, and couldn’t understand why Rihanna was so keen on it.
Yes, I did have to tell him Rihanna was from Barbados- and yes,he did seem genuinely shocked.
But worst of all he proceeded to tell me that as far as Caribbean islands went- Barbados was a pretty dull offering.
I believe this was Baza attempting to make sure I called off the wedding he assumed was taking place in my head immediately.
I saw the fear in Barry’s eyes. He had been seen by his colleagues talking to me, a black woman for full two minutes.
Poor B seemed to be wracked with terror- after all casual conversation is very much akin to introducing a serious love interest to close family and friends.
And then it happened, the beta male stood before me put in a call for back up. It was a strange act, a primal scream, perhaps.
An unknown white male, lets call him ‘Jim’ walked past us and Barry shouted towards him ‘have you met Jim?’ Poor old Jimbo was thrown for a Saturn sized loop but heeded Barry’s plea for help.
So there we stood the three of us in a situation more uncomfortable than a headful of day one cornrow. What we talked about, and how long the ordeal lasted I can not say for certain.
But when I did finally manage to slink away, I started to get angrier and angrier. I couldn’t understand how my ‘getting to know you’ exercise had gone completely askew.
It seemed ridiculous to me that what was meant to be a friendly conversation had been taken as a full blown declaration of love.
Not to mention the fact that B wouldn’t even hit a seven on the looksometer. Barry was in a catargory of his own just below zero called, troll.
And he’s not the only BDM I’ve met recently kids. Apparently a smile is the ultimate come on, as I literally saw the coffee-making-fool at my local Proteinhaus grappling with the idea of returning the gesture. Obviously women are just lining up to settle down with barristas.
Don’t even get me started on the worn-out, bus-waiting-for idiot I see each morning, who thought I was following him because I too was walking the well worn path to the train station.
Yes, you’re right, I want to take care of you and your three children!
So there you have it, another fine mess I’ve got myself into. Now I have to hide behind the photocopier every time I pass a Barry shaped object.
Though there is the option of completely screwing with him; perhaps I should sign off my next email to him with a PS expressing a desire to get in touch with my African heritage…