Wednesday, September 30, 2009

House of Mirrors

So I'm washing my hands at the restroom sink at work. There are three faucets, and, as always when possible, I take the leftmost one against the wall, because it is farthest from the stalls and closest to the paper towels.

As I pre-rinse my hands before applying soap, another man emerges from one of the stalls and takes the rightmost sink. Other guys in the men's bathroom are of no interest to me, and I try to avoid eye contact. I hear a giggling to my right, however, and I cannot help glancing down the mirror to glimpse a disturbing image. It seems we've both come to work dressed in the same clothes--a white-and-blue pinstripe dress shirt and black trousers. He also happens to be one of the handful of other Chinese guys at work, so it's almost like seeing a taller, lankier mirror image of myself.

There's really no salvaging such a situation, but I think, in polite society, the preferred course of action is to pretend that there is nothing at all amiss. Neither man is more at fault than the other, so we should just part ways in silence and try to avoid one another for the rest of the day.

That's what I'm thinking, but he apparently doesn't understand. He just keeps giggling, and all I can do is offer a faint sideways smile in his direction to let him know that, yes, I get it, and he need not draw any further attention to this embarrassment.

I'd like to get out of here now, but I do think it always important to wash one's hands thoroughly, and the job is not quite done. As I work my way through rinsing the soap off, only then do the powers that be bring the cosmic joke to its final punchline: a third Chinese guy takes the center sink, and he too is dressed in a white-and-blue striped shirt and black pants.

WHY?! The chances must have been about one in a million. Yet here we are--three dudes in an office bathroom, all of us dressed in the same non-uniforms.

This third guy is like the shorter, fatter, balding and bespectacled version of me. Also, his are not proper pinstripes but rather grotesquely thick vertical stripes. In fact, had it just been me and him, the similarities might very well have gone unnoticed, or at least very easily overlooked. A true professional, he acts completely oblivious to the two dudes to his sides.

That will not do, however, for the giggler, who can no longer suppress his urge to point out what is shamefully obvious.

"Haha, funny--all in blue shirts, stripes, with black pants!"

Yeah, very funny. Life is just one big joke. Now get me the hell out of here.

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