Before I write any more, it is important for the reader to properly understand and appreciate how I have a little ritual of torture that I go through every morning. This ritual of torture (which far surpasses the drive in to the office) involves my coworker in the neighboring cube immediately to the East of me. See, the gal who currently sits there is a very cheerful little woman (Seriously, she's like five-three if that!) and she is one of those people whom people like me love to hate. She's always cheerful in the morning when everyone else around her is groggy, tired or pissed off, and she never hesitates to inflict that burbling "Life is great," attitude upon you. She always has some up-beat thing to say and she always says "God bless you" when you sneeze -- no matter how you may choose to stifle it or amplify the event. I'm fine with being polite but this lady takes it to an extreme that is simply unnatural. Oh, and best of all I found out through first-hand experience that she is particularly fond of playing the role of Office Vocabulary Police, lest you say something that might make Tinkerbell cry.
Our little ritual goes something like this: I'll walk onto the floor, sometimes trying to be quiet because I'd like to avoid interacting with her but usually not really caring. I get to my cube, put down my bag, hang up my coat and slap the laptop into the docking station. At some point she'll hear this activity and say "Good morning!" in this chirpy, overly-energetic way that would make me flat my ears if I actually had ears that could do that. I'm not big on the chirpy, bouncy, I-had-a-latte-enema type of morning greetings. I'm usually pretty subdued. To be polite I'll usually mumble some sort of response like "Morning." This is where the trouble begins. If I don't say it loudly enough or with the level of enthusiasm she thinks the day warrants she'll go to Level Two Chirpiness and in a louder, more emphatic voice say "Good morning!" It's still overly happy-bouncy, but there's a new inflection in her tone that makes it clear she's expecting a response and you've already disappointed her once. Things will progress like this until I acknowledge her greeting in a way that satisfies her. I've learned to try and say something in the first volley in order to prevent escalations.
Today was no different than any other day. I hung up my coat, unpacked my bag, put the laptop on its docking station and got my morning dosage of enthusiasm from over the cube wall. When I responded with a tired "Morning," something different happened: She asked if I was growling at her. I was momentarily stunned. A change in the pattern? Could I somehow leverage this to my advantage? In an attempt to break the cycle I responded and said, "No... I'm just not a cheerful person in the morning." There was a long pause, and then a disappointed-sounding "Oh."
If she hadn't figured it out in two years I've been sitting at this cube, how is it that today she possibly came to understand?