Random co-worker: Why's it always so damn hard?
Me: Has it been longer than four hours?
Random co-worker: Hungry?
Such was the exchange one day at the diamond grading lab. My neighbor diagonally across from me had just returned to his desk after stepping out to answer a phone call. Leaning back in his chair, he sighed heavily and asked, "Why's it always so damn hard?"
His sentiment was a common one, an understandable one, not limited to our occupation, but certainly shared nonetheless by anyone who has ever had to get through an eight hour shift one stone at a time.
I myself struggle through these moments of ennui two, three, probably forty times per day on average. My personal single-day record stands at a solid fifty-six. But I have the decency not to further burden those around me with my own soul-sapping moaning. ("Is it Friday yet?" "How 'bout them Chargers?" "I wish I could sing." And so on and so forth.)
Nevertheless, I was not without compassion in the face of another man's anguish. While I no more possessed the answers than anyone else in that building, I figured, in lieu of hope, I could offer a bit of levity.
After a pause, I responded, "Has it been longer than four hours?"
Not only did he not get my joke, but he evidently hadn't even realized that I'd made one. Why, if I'd suspected that he had understood, then I would have been deeply offended by his reply. But, as I'd immediately surmised, he was referring to the fact that many employees, myself included, preferred to take lunch four hours after starting work, thereby splitting the eight hour workday evenly into two chunks.
My timing and delivery were both lacking, I'm sure, but perhaps the joke was too convoluted as well. As often happens, most of the progression to that punchline had taken place in my head, through connections drawn internally, to which my co-worker obviously could not have been privy. Someone who knew me better might have been able to make those jumps with me, but this guy was not exactly my buddy, and, so, in trying to reach for just a little more than the standard "That's what she said," I had instead come up with a seeming non sequitur. Nor did it seem appropriate to explain after the fact.
And so my witticism went unacknowledged, lost in the ether, or so I thought, until it occurred to me to post about it here.