We have a new girl who has joined the company. This is how my conversation with her went the day after she joined office. Sometimes I take the initiative to introduce myself to lost-looking new entrants. This time The Girl chose to do the initial talking.
The Girl: Where do you live?
Me: In XYZ sector of XYZ.
The Girl: Do you own the house?
Me: (gaping open mouthed)
I don’t think I need to tell you, I haven’t exchanged a word with The Girl since that day. We sit together in the bus( for lack of another option, not out of choice), use the same bus stop in the morning and evening but I make a conscious effort to not talk to her. That one conversation with her has ticked me off so royally that I don’t think I want to get acquainted, leave alone make friends with her. If you are a little nosy, I will tolerate you. But if you are going to ask me if I own the house I live in in the second sentence you say to me, rest assured we won’t be talking much in the future.
The most annoying part of this episode is not the question she asked me, but the fact that as shocked and annoyed as I was, I answered her (naturally after a time lapse of about 5 seconds, which I took to recover from the initial shock). I don’t know why I did that,but I always react like this. I answer people even when they are being rude and impolite.Even when I would rather just tell them to take a hike. It’s almost as if I have been socialized into reply to everyone’s queries. As a kid it was drilled into my head that it was rude to not reply to people promptly when they had asked you a question. It was wrong to keep people waiting for a response. But there must be some practical boundaries to this rule. When people ask personal questions that are really none of their business, I shouldn’t be compelled to answer them. I should be able to come up with a prompt but polite “No, I don’t want to answer that” or a super smart answer that takes them by surprise and effectively shuts them up. In reality, I am capable of doing neither. I will first be utterly shocked and/or disgusted, then recover to answer the question , and fianlly proceed to remain upset for the rest of the day. Since I don’t think I will ever be able to point blank tell someone to mind his/her business, I think i need to go for option-2 and get smarter. And real soon. During a casual lunch table conversation with the boss I made an oblique referene to this incident( of course, with changed identities). She had this to say “She really said that?! Why didnt you tell her, nahi mera ghar nahi hai. Pehle log rehta tha. Unka murder kiya, body pheka, aur tab se us ghar main rehta hai hum log” (Please pardon the terrible Hindi but I am reproducing what she said verbatim.)
Now why couldn’t I think of that answer???!!