Meeting room nine was our room. It was identical to all of the other meeting rooms in every single way, yes, but it was our favorite. Every day at around 11:25 I’d walk past Violet’s cubicle with a quick, “9 at 12?” and she’d inattentively nod and go back to typing or stapling, and I’d continue my brisk walk back to my work station. Why I felt the need to confirm our usual habit was anyone’s guess, my insecurities would be on the top of that guess list though.
Of course it wasn’t just Violet and I. Ryan and Jennifer were there, too. I didn’t like them as much as Violet. Regardless, it was us four in room 9 at 12 noon everyday for lunch for the past four months. That was how it was, at least, until March 29th.
On March 29th, at 11:57 I sat in room nine with my lunch bag already open, its contents meticulously placed in front of me, my $1.50 bottled mountain dew to my right, my napkin to my left, and my sandwich and bag of pretzels in between. I was usually the first. In fact, I tried to be, so I could get in a little extra conversation with the second and third people to enter the room.
Ryan was first. “Hey, Ryan,” I said.
“Hey, man.” Ryan said.
I hated how he didn’t say my name. He knew my name. I gave him my expense reports all the time and my name was on each of those in three different places. He definitely knew my name, but he never said it. When I was in high school, one of my teachers told us that people really appreciate it when you use their name in conversations, and I remember thinking ‘Yes I do like that,’ so it bothered me greatly when Ryan didn’t say my name.
I was waiting to pick up my sandwich until the other two arrived. It was polite. In contrast, Ryan plopped down his white syrofoam box of Chinese and began chowing away. He used chopsticks and I hated him for it. The bag from the Chinese place came with little plastic white forks and knives. He was a show-off and always had been. He only ate with us because he was in Jennifer’s department and they knew each other well. If it was up to me, he wouldn’t be there.
The entry of Jennifer was a refreshing event. “Hey Jennifer,” I said.
Jennifer smiled and said hi to me. She used my name. Jennifer had a packed lunch, like me, and a really cute laugh. It was tough to make her laugh, so I tried to prepare a good joke or at least something humorous to say for when I was with her. We engaged in some light conversation.
It was 12:04 according to the very plain clock above the door, and I was worried Violet wouldn’t show. I was running out of conversation with Jennifer and didn’t want Ryan to steal the floor from me.
I had been preparing this line for a couple days, having thought of it a couple days ago. So, over the past couple days I had been refining it and practicing it, and I decided that it was the time to use it. I had prepared this thing for two days, keep in mind.
“You guys ever notice how there’s never any markers on the dry-erase board in here? How would you even use that thing if you wanted to?” I said, as best as I could, in a way that a comedian would say it.
My eyes darted to Jennifer’s face. After gazing over at the board, her face turned towards mine and she laughed! I was really happy about that. Ryan laughed too but I didn’t care.
“Where’s Violet?” I said, transitioning, trying to keep up the flow of conversation in the room. It was 12:05 now.
“Did you remind her?” Jennifer asked me.
Just then Violet walked into the room with her purple hair on her head (she had purple hair). Her name was Violet and she had purple hair. Probably not a coincidence.
“Sorry everyone, I had to print off copies for my meeting later.”
“That’s okay. No problem,” I said, speaking for everyone in the room.
“So… what did I miss?” she said, slapping her bag of McDonalds down on the table. I could only assume there was breakfast food in there. McDonalds didn’t start serving lunch food until lunch time, and I doubted she had time to make a run there during work hours. Still, though, she could have done it. Or it could have been day old lunch food.
“He tried to make a joke about how there’s never any markers by the dry-erase board,” responded Ryan before I had a chance to speak.
“What do you mean tried,” I said, my eyebrows scrunching up in an emotion in between annoyance and anger. “Both you and Jennifer laughed.”
Ryan chuckled, “We were laughing at you, man. You talk about the dumbest stuff.”
Jennifer laughed. But now I hated her laugh. Violet had a blank expression, like she probably agreed with him but cared enough about my feelings not to join in. I couldn’t handle this. I quickly packed up my lunch, and in my hurry accidentally dropped my opened but untouched bag of pretzels onto the carpet. I left them there, like I was a common litterer, and ran out of the room. I didn’t cry, but I really wanted to. After asking my boss for permission, I went home early and watched TV until dinner time, but I felt too sick to eat anything.
The worst part about the whole thing–the thing that still bugs me to this day–is I never found out if Violet’s McDonalds was lunch or breakfast food. When I finally mustered up the courage to ask her about it six days later, she claimed she had no idea what I was talking about at all.