Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gluttons for Punishment

I think it is fair to say that I have always been odd and somewhat of a glutton for punishment. As a little girl, I refused to play video games and instead spent my weekly allotted television time watching Nova. When other kids grumbled about school projects, I set weekly project deadlines for myself as the editor of the Unicorn Gazette and later, Pointe Magazine (both had a top circulation of around 10 paid subscribers-$2 got you a lifetime membership/subscription. What's surprising is not the fact that I charged, but that I got 10 of my friends to willingly pay...but I digress). I'd spend hours fiddling around with my new favorite toy, Microsoft Publisher, fixing margins, finding appropriate clip art and condensing the stories my small but dedicated staff of writers would submit. When my mom attempted to finish her degree while I was in elementary school, I'd secretly pray for nights when my grandma wouldn't be available to babysit so I could go to class with my mom. I'd bring a few sheets of unlined printer paper with me and pretend to scribble notes like everyone else around me. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the people who occupied the desks nearest to me and I couldn't wait for the day when I too could sit silently in class and absorb the wisdom of someone as ancient as the man standing before us.

In high school and college, I filled my freetime with student organizations that took great pains to schedule as many meetings as possible, often purposeless and almost always incredibly awkward. At one point during my senior year in High School, I was secretary of 3 different organizations, which meant that I not only had to attend several meetings a week, I also had to take notes. And I loved it. The posturing and petty politics surrounding the activities I was involved in were things I found incredibly engrossing.

And you'd think now that those activities (meetings, deadlines, politics and gossiping) rule my world, I'd find any excuse to escape. And you'd be wrong. I find the world of corporate America to be ridiculously and endlessly amusing and interesting to examine. I sometimes think that I chose the wrong (semi) useless Liberal Arts major and that I should've gone the psych/soc route so that when I eventually ended up right where I am now, I'd be able to accurately assess the motives behind people's actions.

I don't really attend very many meetings at work, but I do occasionally get invited to morale events, goodbye, congrats, and happy birthday parties that occur in various ill-chosen areas throughout my building. Everyone shuffles into the chosen spot, typically in groups of 2 or 3. People stand in a lopsided circle until the organizer of the event coughs up a few words regarding why we're all standing awkwardly around a table in a conference room. Whatever food that's being served (I think this might be the main reason people attend these events) is passed around the room. People chuckle awkwardly, examine their watches and make rueful glances towards the nearest exit. Small talk follows, and then people begin peeling away, offering apologies and saying they need to go to another meeting, or just disappearing sans explanation. A couple of women in my office (who I've mentioned in an earlier entry), regularly show up to events, take food and jet. It's remarkable to watch because they either a) are blissfully ignorant of the way you behave at these things or b) don't care that you're supposed to give the appearance of caring about whatever occasion the awkward little shindig they're stealing food from is meant to mark.

The thing that I don't understand is how these events have become such a part of corporate culture. No one seems to enjoy them, yet they really are de rigeur, and seemingly inescapable. The fact that a dozen or more people usually attend events that bear a striking resemblance to the clip below is a testament to the fact that I'm clearly not the only glutton for punishment in the room. It also suggests that though every company has it's own unique culture, we all clearly share some characteristics. And a love of free food.

No comments: