Monday 24 Oct 2016

Company Picnics
Jennifer Flaten

Pop quiz: when is a picnic in the park no fun? I know you are thinking, never. A picnic is always a fun event right?

Yes, it is, unless, of course, you put your blanket on top of an anthill. It’s no fun if a bear carries off your picnic basket. The worst picnics are company picnics.

Why, oh, why, do companies persist in having company picnics or for that matter any other type of “fun” event? Here’s a memo, one marked urgent, giving up a whole afternoon of my already-too-short-to-begin-with-weekend to hang out with people I see 40+ hours a week is not my idea of fun.

Plus, it is never, ever fun to see people whose idea of letting go is a slightly loose tie. These men and women never look right in casual clothes. Somehow, I think, they were born wearing a tie.

I’ve come to realize business casual attire means something completely different to these people. Also, I think it is obvious employees have no interest in hanging out together for free, since employers have to pay us to be together in the first place. I believe I speak for all employees and their spouses, especially the poor, poor spouses, when I say, “You know what would be fun: never having to do a picnic ever again.”

You can always tell the spouses by their glazed expressions and willingness to run to the parking lot, at the behest of complete strangers, to get something, anything, out of the car. “Yes, I think we have authentic Heidi Doody parts in the car. You need a head. Let me go check.”

That is why most picnics have something resembling a border patrol to keep spouses from escaping the grounds. Yes, there is nothing like standing in 100-degree heat clutching a soggy burger made by none other than Ken, from accounting, to make you realize that Hell is now and there’s a mandatory three-legged sack race in 25 minutes.

Let’s take a moment to discuss activities at the company picnic. Watching my kids and preventing them from causing an “Animal House” size food fight is enough activity for me. “Wait, you’re not doing your imitation of a zit, again.”

I don’t need to play volleyball, Frisbee or any of the other myriad of team-building sports. The reason I work in an office is because I have zero athletic skill. Do you count vaulting over other employees to reach the time clock an athletic skill?

In fact, it’s a tossup between which I’d rather go to the interminable company picnic or an event in Hell. Who am I kidding? I’d go to Hell in a heartbeat. At least the Devil would make interesting conversation, unlike Melvin the copy boy; plus, Dante, the mailroom geek, told Hell is now air conditioned.

Hey, I don’t blame him; he’s hidden away in the mail room all day. Of course, he wants to buttonhole you and talk about his hobby. No, don’t ask, you don’t want to know. Still, that doesn’t mean I have to be the one he actually to bores to death.

Unless, of course, talking to Melvin would earn me hazard pay and then bring him on.

Obviously, I survived, thanks to a generous infusion of ice cream. Hey! It’s not my fault they left the ice cream cart unattended. I saw an opportunity and I took it.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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