Monday, December 3, 2007

Don't Ask

I attended an ex-colleague's wedding dinner last weekend. For someone who has been attending so many wedding dinners before, I should have known that these dinners never start in time, right? Well, apparently I never learned. The invitation card stated 6.30pm sharp and I was there 6.30pm sharp! Ended up sitting in my table alone for 1.5 hours before my table-mates started to arrive!

As they came in, we mingled and did some catching up. By the way, I haven't met or kept in touch with these ex-colleagues for a few years already. So I really had no idea what's going on in their lives.

There was this male ex-colleague who came with the son and they were sitting in another table. We used to work together closely when I was still in that company. So I went over and did some small talk with him... mostly talking about our jobs. At a point in time, I actually thought of asking how's his family etc.. but later thought better just to focus on talking about work.

Then I went back to my table and the person next to me asked me whether I knew what happened to that guy. Her question caught me by surprise and the first thing that came to mind was probably that he was in some sort of scandal.

She told me that his family met with an automobile accident earlier this year and the wife, a child and the mother-in-law did not survive. I was dumbfounded and felt so sorry for him. Then I replayed in my mind the small talk I had with him earlier and was so relieved I did not went ahead to ask about his family. That would be a very awkward situation!

I guess it's very natural to ask about family when doing small talks. For instance when you see a friend attending a function without the spouse, the first question to ask would be "Hey, how come your spouse didn't join you?". Well, better to rethink such questions the next time especially when you did not keep in touch with them for a while. I remember another function that I attended previously and got to know about a friend's divorce. Imagine if I was to ask her about her husband.

So I learned that firstly, I shouldn't be so punctual in attending wedding dinners... and secondly never to ask family related questions unless I know for sure what's been going on. Just stick to work related questions, that should be safer.

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