During my first week working for the Company, I met this guy in the parking lot. I was walking out to my car at the end of the day and I noticed him sauntering along right in front of me. He was tall and kind of awkward with spiky blond hair and glasses. I thought he was cute so I said something to strike up a conversation. I don't recall exactly what I told him, but apparently it was enough to grab his attention.
At that time, I was somewhere in between the end of Round 1 and the start of Round 2 with the Boy. And after only a few days at the Company, I had not yet realized what a nightmare my job was going to be. I mostly viewed it as an opportunity to expand my horizons and meet a bunch of single guys in my target age demographic. And believe me they were everywhere.
When he turned around to say hello, the first thing I noticed was his accent. It was distinctly Eastern European and I quickly discovered that he was Polish, just like me. Except for the fact that he was actually from Poland. He explained that his family was still over there and he was leaving in a few days for a three-week trip to visit them.
We chatted for a few more minutes and then we experienced one of those awkward pauses that arise when you realize that you may be crossing the line between friendly workplace banter and out and out flirtation with a virtual stranger.
"So," he concluded. "What floor do you work on?"
"I am on six," I replied. "You should stop by when you get back into town. I would love to hear more about your trip."
"Sure," he said. "I'll see you around sometime." And then he smiled and headed off in the direction of his car.
For the next few weeks, I thought a lot about my little Polish friend. For some reason I was in a phase where I romanticized every encounter. Maybe it was because I found myself single and in my mid-thirties, with no potential for a relationship in sight. So I started to believe that I was just one chance meeting away from finding Mr. Right.
It's not that I had abandoned my beliefs about not getting married or having kids. I just wanted to be with someone.
During that same period, I also thought I was in love with the guy who runs the Cafe downstairs in my building. Every day I would make sure to put on lipstick before heading down to buy my Diet Coke. That imaginary relationship was pretty hot and heavy. We would have long conversations when there was no one in line behind me, talking about music, college football games or our upcoming weekend plans.
I later found out that his Dad actually owned the Cafe and my imaginary boyfriend just ran the cash register. But his Dad and Stepmom both seemed to like me too. His Dad would always greet me with a friendly hello and his Stepmom would compliment my outfits. Sometimes they would even sneak a free brownie in with my order. I was convinced that someday I would quit my job and after his Dad retired, the two of us would run that Cafe together.
But then the Boy came back into my life. And my Cafe Guy started to date another girl. He even got her a job in the Cafe. She is cute, blond and perky. When I stopped by this morning she made me a breakfast burrito.
I started working at the Company on May 11, 2009. Almost exactly two years ago. When I think back on those first few weeks, it seems like my life is different in so many ways. But today it felt like nothing had changed.
This afternoon I was walking through the parking lot on the way back from lunch and I ran into my little Polish friend. He was strolling ahead of me and I approached briskly from behind to get out of the cold. As I passed him by, I recognized the spiky blond hair and the tortoise framed glasses.
"Hi there," I began. He looked puzzled for a moment before finally acknowledging me with a sheepish grin. "So, how's your job?" I asked.
"I don't know," he shrugged. "Maybe I quit soon." I had to admit that those words sounded even better with his thick accent.
"Me too," I said. "I hate this place more than anything in the world." He nodded and smiled knowingly. We were like kindred spirits with our secret bond of disdain for the Company.
"The last time I saw you I was leaving for Europe," he stopped and waited for confirmation. I nodded for him to continue. "Well, I am leaving again on Friday. Back to Poland to visit my family."
"Seems like every time we meet in the parking lot, you are heading off to Europe," I observed. "I guess it's our thing..."
In that moment, we both felt the familiar awkward pause as we walked through the doors and headed toward the elevators.
"So, are you ever coming back?" I teased him, in an attempt to alleviate the tension.
"I think so," He smiled back at me. "Are you still on the 6th floor?"
"Yes, I'm still here." I said as we reached his destination.
"Well, maybe I will see you around sometime," he said. I nodded and waved as he disappeared behind the elevator doors.
Talk about coming full circle. Hopefully the next time I run into my little Polish friend in the parking lot, I will be the one leaving. And not just for a European vacation.