It was of supreme importance to my infectious band of determination that I elicit laughter from each new coworker on their first day of work. This was accomplished one hundred percent of the time through my own brand of contrived cuteness.
Contrived cuteness ensured that any coworker of any age would laugh. If they were older than me, they would laugh because I was like some innocent child or grandchild. If they were my age, they would laugh either because I was making a fool of myself or because they understood. If they were younger than me, they would laugh because they were embarrassed.
It didn't matter if they were laughing at me or if they genuinely found me adorable. With laughter, it's all the same. It is impossible to laugh from the belly and not feel good. Try it.
Ensuring each coworker felt good was positively essential to stretching my band of determination.
When I walked in on the first day of the time period that would, indeed, change everything, panic flickered before my eyes in the form of an apathetic, unkempt man about my age. His face was blank in a way I had never seen. Most of my new coworkers possessed at least some level of artificial cordiality that made them amenable to cuteness. This man stared at me with dark eyes that studied nothing and said less.
As I walked past him to my side of the room, opposite the funnel from him, I focused all the energy I had to putting a twinkle in my eye. When I reached my destination, I spun around to face him with a closed-lipped grin of amusement and eyes that giggled.
With absolutely no acknowledgement, he walked to the rock pile and began rather slowly and softly tossing the rocks, one by one, into the hole in the floor. In order to be cute, it was imperative that I keep my knees and elbows locked, like a robot. I'm sure you understand.
That in mind, I shuffled, straight-legged to meet him by the pile of rocks gripping steadily the look of amusement I imagined he would see in my eyes, if only his eyes were the studying kind. I took each rock in my hand and rolled it into the funnel with locked arms, just as if I were bowling. Each time it disappeared down the center, I would nod my head enthusiastically.
Repeat as necessary.
He looked at me plenty. He saw nothing. No appreciation for my attempts to make nice. Instead, he did something no other coworker had ever done.
In a most unreserved, cold manner, he mocked me.
He copied my every movement, less the close-lipped grin and twinkling eyes. Because my band of determination wouldn't allow me to back off, throughout the day, I made my movements more outlandish and intentional.
And he met me without fail
When the closing bell rang, he abruptly turned and walked away, never cracking a smile. Hoping the defeat wasn't apparent in my step, I followed.