The Handshake – Part 1

Adulthood and its ferociousness, until now, practically killed me.  I wasn’t about to be taken down by bad wiring, an apathetic coworker, and a major household appliance.

“Honestly, I would rather repair it myself than wait for the landlord to hire someone, but since I am not an electrician, I don’t have a lot of options.”  I wasn’t entirely sure Bonnie was even listening.

After two weeks in my new apartment, I avoided giving in and visiting the laundromat, already putting me at odds with the owner; plus I hated to go to a bank, feeling as if I were begging for a roll of quarters.  I’ve never been particularly prone to conflicts, having lost way more than I’ve won, but I don’t avoid them for the sake of eliminating all hassles, instead tackling just the ones that involve business associates.  Or at least the business associates that I’m not dating, and my very-nice-otherwise, twice-my-age landlord definitely did not fit that category.

Here’s what my minorly technical skillset assured me: if I plug the dryer into the wall, it ought to run, and the basic concept ranked as obvious enough that the topic warranted debating with the landlord to my advantageous resolution.  Were the dryer not less than six months old, the question could arise as to the fault of the device, or the apartment, or perhaps even user error.  But in this particular case, I safely narrowed it down to the magic not happening inside the wall.  The sooner the landlord sent someone to restore the electrical brilliance of my apartment, the sooner I wouldn’t have to leave my clothes draped around the apartment on the partially unloaded boxes still awaiting their opportunity to be unpacked completely.

“Did he say when he’d be able to get someone to your place?”  Bonnie made polite conversation, but she still hadn’t embraced my presence in her quiet, moderately secluded corner of the world.  Don’t get me wrong, Bonnie appeared to be a lovely person, just introverted and less forthcoming than the boisterous gang I left in Texas.  The United States Forest Service local office lacked the chaos and exhaustion of a high school teacher’s lounge, for which I was grateful, and to which I continued to adjust.

“Well, his voice mail didn’t offer me a lot of details, but I’m sure he’ll be in touch anytime in the next week or three.”  Subtly wasn’t my strength, one of many, and sadly the landlord’s voicemail received the brunt of my frustration.  I know this is one of those areas where I have room for growth and the opportunity to improve as a human being, as my performance reviews  in my younger years may have identified, but for now, I just wanted dry clothes.

“And you think this will work?”  Her skeptisism rivaled her disinterest.

“It always works.”

“How many times have you tried this technique?”

“Well, just the once, but the results were outstanding.”  My enthusiasm betrayed my stats.

Bonnie’s visual reaction confirmed the pessimism of her voice.

“It will work,” I confirmed, “assuming, of course, I can get him in the same room.  I think that’s a far greater challenge at the moment.”

Bonnie’s attention to her computer screen implied she returned to her responsibilities, although she could have been pseudo-ignoring me, so I let her work in silence.  When she glanced my way nearly twenty minutes later, she returned to the topic as if only moments had passed.  The guidebook I received from the humanities council in the first few days after I arrived described the style of conversations in Wyoming as often taking a slower pace, but this delay amazed me.  When contemplating the skills I could develop here, I may have to hone a patience for waiting, even if it eluded me over thirty-eight years.

“So if you go to his store, why are you so certain this will work?  What happened last time?”  Bonnie resumed her questioning with only feigned interest.

“Well, I tried it on our head of IT.  I wanted to learn how to activate the LAN connections that had been wired in our building, and since he was based at the district office and not our school, I thought if I ever had the chance, I would ask him.

“When I attended in-service training one day, I sought him out and when he went to introduce himself, I pretended to be more enthusiastic than you’d traditionally express to the IT guy, and I extended my hand.  Once he shook back, I had him in my clutches.  Ten minutes later when I let go of his hand, he was leading me into the LAN room and providing me with a personal, system set-up tutorial.”  I could still visualize his face as he tried to figure out how to extricate himself from my grip.  “I’m telling you, it works.”

“It’s not that I doubt its initial success, but how do you know it will work on the landlord?”

“I’d wager it would work on anyone.  No one wants to shake hands longer than a couple of moments.  It’s bizarrely awkward and uncomfortable, and they will do whatever it takes to get me to let go.  Trust me, I am a master of awkward.”  This fact was unequivocally true.  “It’s also humorous to watch, unless of course, you are my target.”

Bonnie’s perspective remained unaltered and cloaked in doubt.  “Try it on someone here.”

“Like who?”

“Our boss.”

“No, it won’t work on him.”

“I thought you said it works on anyone.”

“Yes, if I’m meeting them for the first time.  I’ve been here long enough that a handshake won’t work.  It needs to be someone I’m meeting for the first time.”

“Perhaps you should try the next visitor to wander through the door.”

“Maybe I will,” I strategically considered.  Of course, it could be hours before someone wandered inside the Forest Service office.  Thankfully, within thirty minutes, midway through a mundane stack of copies, I heard the jingle of the office’s cow bell against the glass door frame and some poor soul stepped into our little experimental web.  This might be my chance to convince Bonnie at his or her expense.

NEXT: The Handshake – Part 2

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