Strangers On This Road We Are On.

The vending machine in the building where I work hasn’t been restocked, perhaps not even touched, in three years. It’s on the second floor, just off the parking garage–the first six floors, half the building, are devoted to parking–next to the maintenance office. The room it’s in is dark most of the time. I’m not sure anyone goes in there anymore. Anyone but me. I went in to see if anything had changed. The vending machine used to be a place where I’d run into strangers who also worked in the building. Even if we didn’t say anything to each other at least we had the need for a cheap snack, and an excuse to step away from our desks, in common.

Then there was the time I made an even deeper connection with some of the strangers in the building. One day there was a note on the vending machine:

“Please stock some brownies. Thank you!”

For some reason this seemed like an opportunity. I grabbed a post-it note and added a message of my own.


The next day there was a new note.

“Don’t eat the brownies then Tarzan.”

Oh, it was on now. I added a response.

“Tarzan have poor impulse control. Too many brownies make vine break.”

Different handwriting and a different color of ink told me a new voice had entered.

“Jane agrees. Tarzan doesn’t need the love handles.”

More voices–or rather different handwriting–joined the conversation.

“Cheetah suggest counseling for Tarzan. Worked for elephant.”

“Elephant fall off wagon. Crash heard throughout jungle.”

In the middle of the week was a test of the building fire alarm. Everyone who worked there gathered in the parking garage next door. And as we all stood around in our little groups I looked around. This was an office building. People from at least half a dozen companies, and at least three more departments within the place I worked for, were there. And among them were Jane, Cheetah, Elephant.

They were complete strangers but, without getting overly dramatic about it, I felt connected to them. I thought about yelling out, “Hey, I’m Tarzan!” but I was afraid of ruining the magic.

Back at my desk I wrote another note.

“Tarzan thank Cheetah. Will look into therapy. Perhaps have deeper unresolved issues.”

That afternoon a co-worker asked me, “Are you Tarzan?”

“Yes,” I said, a little sheepishly.

“Well I’d stay out of the break room. The delivery guy is pissed.”

From down the hall I could hear boxes being slammed around and someone muttering.

After he left all our notes were gone. There were no brownies but I still had the memories of our conversation.


Facebook Comments


  1. BarbaraM

    I loved that!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad I could share it.

  2. mydangblog

    A delivery person with no sense of humour–such a shame! I remember when I worked in Toronto that there was a building across from my office where they would create messages on their windows with post-it notes. It was always so much fun to read them: “Don’t Look Up”, “Happy Pride”, “It’s Friday!” and cute things like that.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Creating messages in the windows is such fun! There’s a building in downtown Nashville that used to use their lights to spell out messages. The funniest thing about the delivery person with no sense of humour is that when I worked in the mailroom I got to know a lot of delivery people and they were all really funny. They always brightened up my day.

  3. mydangblog

    Just an fyi that I posted a comment in WordPress then came here and it’s not showing. I wonder how many times that’s happened? Anyway, here’s what I said: The delivery guy has a poor sense of humour obviously and that’s a shame. I used to work in Toronto and the people in the building opposite used to create messages with post-it notes in their window and it was a lot of fun: “Don’t Look Down”, “Happy Pride”, “It’s Friday!” and things like that:-)

    1. BarbaraM

      That’s exactly my problem with leaving comments on your page (mydangblog)! Something must be out of whack on your end if you can’t get WordPress to acknowledge you either. I don’t have that problem with anyone but you (sob).

      1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

        I have no idea what’s going on with comments getting sent to spam but I hope I can fix it.

    2. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yeah, there’s definitely something weird going on with comments here. I’ve unspammed several of your comments and also checked a box that says you’re “approved” so your comments shouldn’t keep disappearing, and yet they do.


    I love this so much, Chris. It reminds me of my first job where I started writing questions on a big white board about people’s experiences (the one that stands out for me was “Who has been in jail?”). People answered the questions and I kept adding more. I remember somebody wrote on the white board: “Please do not erase this! This helps us feel connected.” And, of course, somebody did eventually erase it because they felt it was taking us away from our work. But the connection lingered on.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s always wonderful to have these sorts of connections, especially at work. Someone brought a magnetic poetry kit to work and left it in the kitchen where all the words were soon transferred to the refrigerator. I enjoy the weird messages the people I work with sometimes create. And the best part is they can’t be erased.


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