In order to regulate my interactions with coworkers, I’ve developed a standardized set of tics. If I’m forced to interact with someone spontaneously, the experience is guaranteed to be unpleasant for the whole team unless I’ve got a grab bag of pre-made interactions into which I may dip.
A favorite is simply pointing. I eschew violence in all forms, so I do not employ the gun-finger method of pointing. My point is a loose variant on the plain finger point. I find that, often, my thumb does not close the circuit with the forefinger. This looseness results in a genial gesture, as if to say, “You, my friend are the one I was hoping to see, and the gift of your presence has yielded a weakness in my gesture.” This gesture is inappropriate when directed at a member of the opposite sex. The gun-finger variant, when directed at a woman, is inherently misogynist, and frequently shows up in the journals as a warning sign.
I’ve known fathers of my friends who’ve mastered the craft of winking. It’s a coveted skill. It produces almost the same result in the winkee as a higher dosage of Demerol delivered by intramuscular injection into the right buttock. An overwhelming warmth spreads through the body, satisfaction dulls the eyes, and in general, this vale of tears fades away. The true master of the wink has taken “less is more” as his axiom, and knows that the slighter the wink the more intense the effect. In nature, the model is the bird’s third eyelid, the nictitating membrane. The wink happens so quickly that its audience may not fully comprehend it the first time around. Over the course of a conversation, it may take four repetitions until its meaning lands. But when it does, it is felt both in retroaction and accumulation.
The fact that I can’t wink has never stopped me from trying, or from making the drive-by wink my default greeting in the hallway. Because I attempt the slight wink, it frequently appears to whoever I’m greeting as a momentary seizure or a harbinger of tragedy—an expression like a lizard anticipating a stroke. Coworkers respond in various ways. Some modestly avert their gaze. Some stretch out arms to break my impending fall. Most act as if nothing unusual has happened, as though a grown man making indecipherable faces at them up to four times a day was normal. As though, instead of establishing eye-contact and saying “Hello,” the way a human adult might, it’s enough to make a silent, generic contortion, and move on.
The last item in the bag I’ll mention is my response to inquiries about how I’d doing. Unless I’m feeling fully self-possessed, my invariable response will be, “Not too bad.” It’s almost always true.