“Sooooo… not many people have signed up for the pot luck next week.” Because I somehow managed to be anointed Keeper of the Pot Luck Sign Up Sheet, this fact wasn’t a surprise to me. The fact that a week before this kind of officially designated team building mandatory fun event, almost no one had signed up to participate shouldn’t have surprised anyone, really… but it does, time after time.
You understand going in to this line of work that it’s not Silicon Valley. We’re never going to have a water slide in the lobby and a full bar in the break room. Our bosses aren’t going to rent out a beach house or ski lodge. What we end up with, then, are events planned to “make do” with whatever minor leeway we do have in terms of building team spirit and morale. Of those, the pot luck lunch is the staple.
Maybe there was a time when this kind of thing was popular – make a dish, bring it in, pass it around. Smoke, joke, and relax for an hour or two. Now that we can’t smoke, no one can take a joke, and a long lunch is looked on as the ultimate form of slacking, I just can’t imagine why it’s not drawing a bigger crowd. Face it, I cook for myself in the evenings out of necessity – making another dish to carry along on the commute is just another layer of hassle I’m ok with avoiding.
The only thing I can tell you is that my morale has never been significantly improved because of a plate full of lukewarm and/or over crock-potted food offered up in some drab, windowless conference room. I’m willing to stipulate that the intentions here are probably good, but the execution is something between bland and ineffective. Sure, if it makes anyone feel better, I’ll send out another reminder, but you can go ahead and mark me down as a hard no.
One of the undeniable perks of working from home once a week is getting outside with the dogs at lunch time. Usually it’s about as close to a mid-day moment of zen as you’re ever likely to find around my place. Today, though, the only way I can describe it is that the whole outside felt unsettled.
It’s not that there was anything wrong with me, or the dogs, or the house but it felt very much like this little patch of woods was holding its breath – and waiting for something. There were no birds chirping and no small fuzzy creatures – or even large fuzzy ones for that matter. Aside from the steady wind in the upper reaches of the oaks, it was unnaturally quiet. I can’t say it made me nervous, but it definitely had the feeling of being something other than normal.
I’m not a fancy big city scientist, but if I had lay down a guess, it would have something to do with rapid changes in barometric pressure and “big weather” moving in. If it can make the old timer’s arthritis act up, I don’t see any reason not to believe the other creatures of the forest can sense the same thing since they’re the ones really living out in that mess. At least that’s my meager effort to explain today’s brush with the strange and unusual.
In any case, I’ll be happier when it all feels normal again. Like that’s a surprise.
1. Working lunch. Fuck that noise. I’m either working or I’m at lunch. There is no middle ground where that issue is concerned. Lunch implies a pause from labor in order to nourish and sustain the body. Flipping slides as part of a conclave of the great and the good while popping Tic Tacs and swilling warm Coke and cold coffee just to keep myself awake does not in any way constitute “having lunch.” Don’t worry, though, I’ll go ahead and adjust my departure time accordingly.
2. Undeserved ego. I don’t have any complaint about people whose ego is deserved. There are plenty who walk among us who are perfectly justified in displaying their swollen head at every opportunity. It’s something else entirely if you’re thinking so highly of yourself for no discernible reason. Because people are generally polite by nature, most of them won’t tell you that your new clothes aren’t clothes at all – Their desire for self-preservation will see to that. But rest assured, every single one of us will be thinking it every time your pie hole swings open.
3. Meetings (again, because frankly they’re probably the single most annoying element of my life). As a rule of thumb I’ve always thought a meeting should be a quick affair. It’s a chance to pull a lot of people into a room and convey information that can’t be shared any other way. That’s fine in principle. The problem arises when people want to use a meeting as a forum to “do the work.” In my experience that’s the very last thing that happens in a meeting. There may be loads of discussion but you should never confuse that with having accomplished a great deal of work. It’s the kind of thing I think about during the first in a series of three and a half hour long meetings – wherein I have seemingly limitless time to ponder bad career choices and the 210 minutes of my life I will never ever been able to get back.
1. Refinancing. At the moment I’m trying like hell to refinance the condo since interest rates can’t conceivably go much further down. This week, I’m playing an interminable game of “send this, then send that, then send some other thing, send something else, resend the first thing.” While I can understand that not everyone share’s my obsession with order and neatness, it seems to me that just sending one list of the documents I need to provide might go a long way towards streamlining this process.
2. Don’t ask. If you ask if I’m busy and the answer is anything close to “yes, I’m going to lunch,” that should not be a signal to you to then drag me into a 30 minute conversation about something I couldn’t possibly care less about. Instead, you should consider it a signal to STFU so I can go get lunch. #TheMoreYouKnow
3. Nothing original. If you really are going to hold me to a third thing this week, let’s just go with the fact that, occasionally there isn’t a third thing. it’s not that the week has been any less stupid than the others, just that most of the grievances I noticed this week are a little too familiar. They’re the same ones that came up last week and a few weeks before that and maybe even months ago. Being a dedicated creature of habit it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the same things come up over time. I’d be more concerned if they didn’t. There’s just so many times I can create a new and interesting spin on “meetings are stupid,” “people are a pain in the ass,” and why leader is a verb rather than a title.
1. Panera. About once every three months lunch from Panera Bread sounds like a good idea. I’ll walk in, order something that sounds tasty, get it back to my desk, and then promptly be disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It’s not their fault. If I would just show up and order soup and a bread bowl everything would turn out alright. This dissatisfaction is precisely what I get for walking in and trying something new when I already know there’s something on the menu that I like… but apparently I need periodic $10-12 reminders of why new things are bad.
2. Politics isn’t personal. Hard as it is to believe, I don’t hate people who have the audacity to disagree with my political positions. It’s never occurred to me to pick or maintain friendships based on whether anyone approves or disapproves of the right to bear arms, or to have an abortion, or on tax policy. Politics, in my mind at least, is mostly a “business” function. Although many of my beliefs are deeply held and intensely personal, I’m smart enough to know instinctively that with about 300 million other Americans all wandering around with their own moral compass and free will, there’s a chance that some of them might disagree with my positions. Some of them might even disagree intensely. That’s fine. Once upon a time that kind of disagreement was even considered healthy in a democracy… but that never stopped people from being able to share a drink or a meal together across the aisle. That sort of thing is probably out of fashion now, but fortunately that’s not something likely to dissuade me.
3. Game of Thrones. The idea that it’s going to be another twelve months before another Game of Thrones episode airs is just really sinking in. As much as I appreciate its far ranging filming locations and production values second to none, I despise the HBO programming model that delivers only ten new episodes per season. Although it’s apples and oranges, the first season of Star Trek booked a whopping 29 episodes. Sure, It’s a classic first world problem, but since I live in the first world that’s usually the kind I tend to encounter. It just feels a bit like perhaps there’s a happy medium that falls somewhere between the 11th and 29th episodes.
Here’s a little advice from your kindly Uncle Jeff: Don’t say things you don’t mean. Like when you walk by someone’s desk and they’re eating lunch don’t lead off whatever jackassery is about to flow out of your filthy pie hole with a platitude of “not meaning to interrupt your lunch.” That’s exactly what you mean to do. I know it’s what you mean to do because it’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re giving the truth a head fake and then diving on towards whatever useless drivel you intended to spew all along. If you didn’t mean to interrupt lunch your actions would have passed two basic tests: 1) You wouldn’t have come by during what is commonly referred to as “lunch time” and 2) When you saw that I was engaged in the act of eating lunch, you would have said something like “Oh hey, I see you’re eating. Give me a call when you’re done.”
Instead of that, though, you first assured me that you in fact didn’t mean to interrupt my lunch and then immediately proceeded to do the precise thing that you said you weren’t going to do. Perhaps you can see where there is an ever so slight disconnect here between words and actions. It’s no wonder everyone in this damned country has trust issues. It would have been far better for everyone involved if you had just been honest in your intentions up front. It would have saved me from making a mental note that you’re a douchecanoe who doesn’t know falsehood from truth and it would have saved me the approximately 300 words it’s going to take for me to tell the story. So really, what you’ve done is wasted my time twice today and it all could have been avoided if you would have approached, said what you needed to say, and then departed the area in as expeditious a manner as possible.
In conclusion I hope that in the future we can all dispense with the meaningless and misleading platitudes and just get on with saying whatever we were going to say in the first place. We can probably all save a shit ton of time that way.
It’s that time of year again when officially sanctioned near-mandatory fun events lurk around every corner. The annual office Non-Denominational Holiday Luncheon, a team building pot luck lunch, the rush to decorate the door in a manner to acknowledge the holiday season but also ensure that there’s no way anyone might accidentally be offended by anything on it. They’re all on my mind as we rush headlong into December. There isn’t one of these things that sounds like either a good idea or something I’d enjoy. Those two categories are not mutually exclusive, of course, knowing full well that there are plenty of things that are a bad idea, but that I find perfectly delightful.
That being said, I know I can’t stop anyone from making me attend town hall meetings or award ceremonies. I know full well that I can’t waive off just because of my fundamental distrust of anyone who calls a meeting that isn’t absolutely necessary. I also know that there’s no requirement that I cook or otherwise prepare food for my colleagues. I can’t be mandated to attend the Non-Denominational Holiday Luncheon and pretend to be rapt by small talk with strangers and feigning an interest in the ugly sweater contest. As a former boss of mine so eloquently put it on so many occasions, “Look Jeff, I can be friendly, but that doesn’t mean I have to be your friend.”
Some people would surely find that offensive. I found it refreshing. Maybe some people come to the office to get their social fix. Maybe their life outside cube farm walls is devoid of other human interaction. Me? Well, I’ve got a Facebook, a blog, and unlimited text messages so there’s 90% of whatever interaction I’m looking for most days. There’s also the same bunch of friends I’ve had largely for the last 15 or 20 years… and they never ask me to pay $20 to pretend to enjoy a lukewarm lunch while surrounded by people I don’t know… and that counts for a lot.