Back to Work: To look or not to look…


The Denier

What do you do with your eyes while at work? I’m serious. If you work in a large office building or a large plant, and I do both, what do you do with your eyes while passing people? Do you look right at them? How soon do you look at them once you acknowledge their presence? From all the way down the hall or wait till they get closer? Are there basic rules or etiquette for this particular situation?

This has been an issue with me for a while now. It really has become a bizarre situation. There appears to be no un-akward resolution either. So the questions is: To look or not to look, what to do when passing someone you don’t know in the hall or on the street at work.

It’s easy when you’re out and about in town or at the mall. There really is no obligation. But when you work at a place there is this implied teamwork thing; this Hey we’re all in this together vibe. So there is some obligation to acknowledge people as you pass them during the work day. Or at least I thought there was.

I have evolved through some stages of acknowledgement not unlike the stages of grief or hunger. During that evolution I’ve encountered several different species of Eye Contact Avoiders, or ECAs as I like to call them. Here are the five most prevalent ECAs I have encountered during my movement about the workplace.

Second Shooters



The most passive of the bunch, they might acknowledge you as you pass, but unlike Han Solo, they will always shoot second. Preferring to be sure there will be no snub on your part, they wait till they know you’re acknowledging them. Then and only then will they offer a quick greeting that sounds like high pressure air escaping a tire. For you aged like myself, think of Beaker from the weekly Muppet Show.



Much like the Second Shooters, Undeciders are a passive bunch. Their greeting is hit or miss. They wait and at the last second they’ll slide you a head nod or a Sup. No matter if you gave them the eye contact or not, they will sometimes look at you and sometimes not. There is no rhythm and no rhyme to their eye contact-ability.


These expend more energy finding ways not to look at you then if they simply made eye contact and said hello.  An overweight swiveler is as rare as Big Foot, the Jersey Devil, or the Ohio Grass Man. They may go as far as to take a different route or circle around just to avoid having to make eye contact. So much of their time and energy is spent trying to find ways not to make eye contact that doesn’t make it look like they aren’t trying to make eye contact the poor bastards can’t keep any weight on.


Now we’re to the more aggressive and less passive of the ECAs. They scan you and decide way before hand if they will grace you with their eye contact. Once decided they will either stare right at you and nod in some fashion or they will look away until safely by.  Scanners have a pretty obvious tell. The faster they walk at you the less likely there will be eye contact.


The most aggressive of the non eye contact crowd a Denier will simply refuse to believe you exist. I don’t mean they look away, although some will look at the ground through the entire encounter. No these crazy bastards will look right at you and refuse to acknowledge you’re there, even if you engage them. Their minds just won’t let them believe you’re walking by looking at them. It’s at the same time the most awkward and most hilarious situation of them all.


No, this mean Jack will ignore your very existence.

Well there you have it. The five known ECAs indigenous to the workplace. How you deal with them is really a personal choice. For my part it took almost a year of studying them in their natural habitat and experimenting with various methods. Not exactly on the level of Jane Goodall but there was an ape in the wild quality about the work.

I have evolved from a chameleon type method where I adapt to the ECA coming at me, to bull in the china shop method where I take all ECAs head on.  I now make eye contact and greet everyone I pass on the street of the plant or in the hallways of it’s buildings. I must say going right at a Denier, making eye contact, and then greeting them is the most fun out of the group.  There is a bit of an Alpha Dog empowerment to that method.

Quite honestly it’s mostly just good for a laugh. And who doesn’t need to laugh at work from time to time.

Back to work: The Grind

Not in the Grind.

I imagine this will be a fairly obvious statement, but being a stay at home dad spoiled me. Yes it was hard and yes it’s still work, just unpaid work and… blah blah blah. I get it. I’m not saying being a stay at home is any less demanding than going to a paid job might be. Trust me I did it for six years. No matter what I did in the military, no matter what I do now working in national security, none of that was or will ever be as important as what I did for the six years I was home with Frank and then Anne Marie.

Still, I never felt it for those six years. There wasn’t this pang hanging in the air. You know the feeling. It’s just faint white noise on Saturday morning. It becomes a bit of a buzz by nightfall. No not that kind of buzz. The kind that of buzz distracting you from enjoying Saturday because you know what’s coming. By Sunday it’s loud and unmistakable. You, my friend, are in The Grind.

Honestly I didn’t know what it was. But I knew it was there. As soon as I went back to work I could feel it. Maybe not right away, as the adrenaline of all the new things carried me through the grind unnoticed. But as soon as I got into a groove at work, as soon as I began to feel comfortable there, I could sense it. It was just this lurking feeling, again like a very light white noise playing in the background. It was annoying but not debilitating. It was this feeling. A feeling like I was running after something but could never catch up.

Then I mentioned it to my friend and neighbor JB. He tagged it immediately. You’re in the grind bro! For a dude 20 years younger than me he is wise beyond his years. The Grind. Yep. By Sunday morning it was this dread and angst all at the same time. Trying to get stuff done at the same time trying to enjoy the final moments of the weekend. The Grind.

Definitely in the Grind.

The funniest part, I love my job. I love the people I get to work with. Top it off with the mission. The mission is as close to what I did in uniform as I could ever get on the outside. I’m not sure I could have described what I thought the perfect follow on job for me would be once I retired from the military. This place is it for me. That’s what makes the grind so dastardly.

I don’t worry or fret going back to work on Monday’s, but I can tell you I’m grinding on Sunday. Hell I went to work this past Monday, July 3rd even though most of the place would be off and I would be off Tuesday July 4th. I like it there. I feel at home in my office and my building. I know JB loves what he does. I know he enjoys his work as much as I do mine. But still, the grind is there. It’s tangible. You can feel it. And then it’s gone.

When the alarm blows on Monday morning the grind is gone. It’s time to make the doughnuts and no time to be worried about the weekend cause it’s over. You would think the converse would be true as well. You would think there would be an equal and opposite reaction, an anxiousness waiting for the weekend to begin. Nope. The grind doesn’t work that way bro.

Now I can’t speak for JB here. All I know is I don’t sit around on Thursday watching the sweep hand and waiting on the plant whistle to blow. I work a 4/10 schedule with Fridays off. So Thursday is my Friday. Yeah I know, don’t hate me. The weeks disappear for me. When I hit the ground on Monday I’m going hard, jobbin, choppin wood, whatever. When I look up, it’s Thursday. The weeks happen that fast for me. Still come Friday night, after all the golf has been played, all the naps taken, the grind starts to approach.

The Grind

It’s a little like that green fog in the movie The Ten Commandments. You know, when Yule Brenner as Ramses II condemns all new born Hebrews to death but Moses beat him to the punch on what was to become the first Passover. That green fog held low to the ground. It was the representation of the angel of death and instead of Hebrews, every first born Egyptian literally eats the dust when it envelops them. The grind is just like that, minus the Hebrews and Egyptians and the death thing. But that fog man, that fog creepin along the ground… You’re in the grind bro!

Now I know all you junior psych majors are saying the same thing. Dude, it’s the job. You’re dreading going to the J.O.B. What’s the saying, All Knowledge, No Mileage. Try to explain the grind to a kid with all school and no work and that’s the answer you get. Not their fault. They will feel the grind one day in the near future and the light will go on for them as it did me.

Look I can’t explain it. All I can say is the work is good but the grind is real.