Say something nice.

"Good morning!" I'll say it at work, and sincerely mean it, but that's as far as it goes. I'd really rather not have a ten-minute conversation about your weekend or mine. Your spawn had a play-date with the neighbor's kids? You binge-watched The Sopranos? That's nice, but I don't give a damn. And let's be honest, you also don't give a damn what I did over the weekend, so let's just say "Good morning" and get on with the day.

Due to my perfectly reasonable disdain for dumb chit-chat, some people mistakenly think I'm a grump, or that I despise them. Actually, though, I'm usually in a good spirits because I avoid the chit-chat, and I like my co-workers because I know so little about who they really are.

To battle the misconception that I'm a rat-bastard, I'll sometimes try — not try hard, but try — to say something nice. "Oh, you got a haircut, it looks nice." Turns out she had her hair restyled last October. Saying something nice is difficult, but I keep trying. Last week I told a co-worker that he's smart, which is way, way out of my ordinary emotional wheelhouse.

See, I'm inward, not outward. I've embraced my introversion. All invitations will be cordially declined. I have nothing to say unless I have something to say, which doesn't happen often. Social situations, or anything remotely akin to social situations, leave me scratching my head, unsure what to do, usually doing nothing or apologizing after doing the wrong thing.

Now the coronavirus is attacking Libby, someone I know and like from the office. She's a borderline-friend, one of very few people in the building I've had non-work-related conversations with, without regretting every word spoken and heard. I'd prefer that she doesn't die. Do they make a Hallmark card for that?

Wanted to say something, but I don’t know her cell number or email address or social media handle or which hospital she's in, or much of anything else. All I know is, her sister works in a different department at the same company, so I sent this email to her sister:

Privacy is almost always my policy, especially at work, so it’s none of my business and I don't want to know. All I ask is, if you speak with your sister Libby, please tell her that she is liked, respected, missed, and worried about, by me at least. Can’t speak for anyone else in the office.

That’s all. Over and out.

This sister, a stranger to me, replied via email half an hour later, telling me all the myriad disgusting health details I’d specifically asked not to know. Sigh. They're not sure whether Libby will survive.

At least my message has been relayed to Libby, and her sister said it was appreciated, and that Libby sends me “a big fat e-hug,” so I guess it did both of us some good.

You know the clichés: You get one life to live, one chance to make a first impression, blah blah blah. In a pandemic, you get one chance to make a last impression. If I never see Libby again, I’m glad I said something kind to her as she was leaving this damned life.



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