It was half past noon when I got back to my desk from my quick lunch. Before settling in, a call from our receptionist came informing me that someone from “X Company” was looking for me. Thinking it was a business visit from the said organization, I headed to reception area, introduced myself to the visitor and asked how I could help him. The guy looked younger than myself (maybe two or three years) bearded, about my height and obviously nervous. He introduced himself, extended his hand and casually asked, “Do you want to have lunch?” to which I answered, “Ah no. I just finished mine”. He immediately added, “Coffee?”. Our receptionist was trying to hide a smile. I suddenly felt awkward so I invited him to one of our meeting rooms to talk.
It turned out the guy and myself shared the same building. He got my name by asking one of the building staff who knew everyone. At the spur of the moment, I agreed with condition to be back by 1:00 p.m or in less than thirty minutes. Over coffee, he told me snippets of his family background, hobbies and in the course of our conversation, it dawned on me that he was an introvert, just like me. When I returned to my office, our receptionist informed me that my “visitor” went three times earlier, hoping to catch me. A hair-raising moment. To make it worse, the guy persistently called my office phone later that afternoon. I skillfully dodged all of his phone calls which would always lead him to appear to our office and ask for me. It continued on for several days until I could not take it anymore. I felt the whole world was closing in on me and acted like a real lunatic looking behind my back, in case he was following me.
The hiding did not last very long. He “caught” me at the building lobby. I ran away the moment I saw him but he kept up. The guy was confrontational and asked if I was avoiding him and if I was seeing another person. I was taken aback by these questions but offered my apologies and said I did not feel comfortable with the situation (or him calling and following me around but I did not verbalize it). He walked away, hurt.
What could have I done better? In hindsight, I wish I did not join him for coffee because it clearly gave him wrong signals. Although he seemed to be harmless and shy, he sure felt I was somehow interested in him. Admittedly, I am lonely too and I welcome good, platonic company. That was what on my mind when I said yes to coffee. Instead, we could have stayed in our meeting room and chatted until 1:00p.m.
Instead of avoiding him, I wish I had invited him to have sandwich and explained to him why he could not continue to be that persistent. That I prefer predictability and it is not common for people to obsess over another person’s routine. That slowly, we could get to know each other and let friendship blossom the natural way.
The other day, I saw him coming out of the elevator and we avoided each other’s gazes. There goes another “could-have-been friendship”.