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You say hello, I say goodbye

November 01, 2011|By Jason Steele, For RedEye

Warning: If you encounter me before 9 a.m. on a weekday, you will most likely get a cranky, snarky Jason.

See, I have PTMCD: Post-Traumatic Morning Conversation Disorder. Not too long ago, I ran into a "friend" whom we'll call Tuck who loudly told me all about the hemorrhoid surgery he had just had the week prior. In great detail. At 8 o'clock in the morning.

I had to listen to Tuck go on and on and on about the surgery and the aftereffects. This would have been barely tolerable on a drunken Saturday at a bar, but before work and before coffee? It was unbearable. There's no other way to say this: He ruined me for everyone else.

Lately, I'm like a reverse-werewolf—my mean side comes out as the sun comes up. That means no matter how close we are as friends, if I see you on the "L" platform I'm likely to duck and run. It's nothing personal—it's just that I no longer want to make small talk before I've had coffee and settled into my daily routine.

There have been several instances when I spotted a friend walking to the CTA station and I just didn't have the energy or desire to engage in conversation. Thus, I've developed some avoidance techniques. I've been known to duck into Walgreens for a few minutes. Or walk unnecessarily to the opposite end of the platform. Even hang back and wait for the next train, thus arriving to work a few minutes late.

On one occasion, I managed to sneak behind a friend of mine and wait until she got on one train car while I got on another. If that same friend were to catch me in the evening? No problem. I'd talk her ear off.

It's just that I'm taking back mornings as "me" time. I need those precious few minutes between rolling out of bed and launching into the work day to rev up my brain. I can't be expected to properly conversate—as Beyonce would say—that early. Especially if someone's going to drop hemorrhoid talk on me.

On the occasions that I am spotted before I can skedaddle, I politely wave or nod hello and then turn the volume up on my iPod and bury my nose deeper into my book. Once I even pretended to be extremely interested in a takeout menu I was handed outside the station just so I wouldn't have to make eye contact with a friendly acquaintance. Had I looked up, I likely would have spent the next 20 minutes on the train listening to him talk about the latest Bears/Bulls/Cubs/White Sox/Blackhawks/Fire game that he watched. Zzzzzzzz.

Maybe one day I'll get over my PTMCD. But until then, if you see me in the morning hiding behind a trash can at the train station, please just nod hello and go about your day. I'll catch up with you on the way home.


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