A coworker came to me fifteen minutes after I arrived at work, “Mornin’,” he said.

I thought for a moment. Was this a greeting? Was it a statement? Was it a test to see how I would react to a one word comment? I thought about how I could answer. I felt most compelled to say, “Yes, it is morning.” I thought about offering up a similar one word observation, such as, “Tuesday,” or “Cloudy.” I could follow the standard social protocol and return his greeting, but I couldn’t do so without preceding it with some adjective such as “good” or “lousy” or "adequate” to specify my true intentions. Then I thought, what are his true intentions? He didn’t wish me a “good” morning, or a “pleasant” morning, or any kind of morning for that matter. Was he secretly wishing me a terrible morning? A morning worse than his? Did he not care what kind of morning I had, using an emotionless, insincere greeting as a way to kick off a discussion to persuade me into performing an undesirable work task?

I recalled an email I received the day before. “Mornin,” it started. I mentally searched the email for clues. I remembered reading the email along with other morning emails after I returned from lunch, one of the two times I read emails, the other being 7AM when I read the previous afternoon’s emails. I also remembered the email being sent to me at about 11AM. I sidetracked, and wondered, why would someone who knows I only read emails twice a day, and knows I won’t read his 11AM email until after noon, send me an email beginning with “Mornin?” Back on track, I recalled the greeting was followed by a dry request to perform an undesirable work task. Hmm. Then it struck me: the email’s “Mornin” lacked an apostrophe to mark the missing “g.”

I wondered, did the coworker standing in front of me just wish me a verbal “Mornin’” without an apostrophe? He clearly did not pronounce the “g” in the “ing” of “morning.” He already broke the rules of speech, grammar, and proper social etiquette, should I assume he also intended to snub proper punctuation? Could I further assume he would forgo normal work convention, and, rather than ask me to perform an undesirable work task, simply dump one into my lap?

I stood staring at him, unable to muster a response.

After the short silence, he began talking work talk, the usual projects and challenges talk peppered with unfunny jokey comments, and dumped an undesirable work task into my lap. I barely noticed, still stunned from his morning greeting. But my suspicions were confirmed. And I realized his “Mornin’” was designed to cloud my mind, to distract me from the impending drop of his crappy work bomb.

I bumped into the same coworker after lunch, about 1PM. I stopped him in the hall. “Mornin’,” I said.