Boss, Let’s Talk About Skipping My Birthday

Because no one has good office birthday party ideas…

Boss_Birthday_New

Boss, we need to talk about skipping my birthday this year.

I know you’re planning on something, I know you want it to be a surprise.  Let me just say it’s no surprise. You sent me the Outlook Invite for tomorrow with the subject “Quick Touch-base.” We’re having our touch-base today, right now.

Also, I know you’re doing this to build camaraderie within our department, and I respect your effort. Sales are down, and everyone’s a bit nervous. Let me just say that walking into your office with fourteen others crammed inside does nothing to help. Oh, our summer intern started today? Make that fifteen.

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of tension within our department right now. Jason and Will aren’t speaking to each other, not after that meeting with our VP. Will blames Jason for screwing up the presentation, and Jason claims the charts in the PowerPoint were inaccurate. Oh that’s right, you were at the meeting. How did I hear about how poorly it went?

Anyways, let’s talk about that cake. You know I have a gluten allergy, which means you already asked Tina to pick up Italian Ice. No one wants Italian Ice, especially me. There’s nothing happy about people awkwardly singing Happy Birthday over a single tub of Italian Ice topped with a single burning candle. Oh, birthday candles aren’t allowed in the building anymore? I forgot the fire chief visited this week, did anyone mention the sparks coming from the photocopiers in the closet space?

And the comments people will make about how there’s no real cake. I’m a hard working guy, wrists sore from the hours I spend number-crunching in Excel, and the last thing I want is to have people resent me because they can’t have cake from Baked by Melissa. You know Donna still thinks I’m making the whole celiac thing up? You know at the holiday party I saw her down glass after class of hot chocolate even though she claims to be lactose intolerant?

Also, I’m turning twenty-six. Yes, thanks again, but drawing attention to this only means that Jason will try to get us out for drinks at the pub downstairs. He’s a good guy, but I really don’t feel like hearing about the daughter that he never sees and how he has no life anymore. He’s only twenty-nine, and that’s a bit too much reality for me to handle, especially on my birthday.

Let’s not forget the company-wide birthday celebration that happens once a month. Honestly, that’s enough for me. We all file in, grab a slice of cake – or a Klondike Bar for someone like me – and leave, simple as that. Nothing like a bit of childhood nostalgia to help me forget where I am. Sorry, that slipped out, I’m very happy to be working here.
Oh, you’re concerned that no one will know that it’s actually my birthday? That’s alright, Sandra from HR knows. I started working here the day after my birthday four years ago, and I’m expecting an email from her to discuss how our company’s health insurance works.

I know you mean well, but if you really care about my well-being, as well as my future at this company, you will skip my birthday this year. What am I doing to celebrate after work? Nothing too much. Probably just go with my roommates for some falafel and then hit up a bar or two. Which bars? I’m not sure, we’ll just wing It. Yes, I’ll text you where we are if it’s not too late.

Lisa Edamame

It was a cool and cloudless Saturday evening. Yes, I’m starting this story this way because this is the truth. I’m not lying, unlike my co-worker who fixed me up with Lisa. She was a sweet girl, really. We shared a bowl of edamame. She requested brown rice instead of white to go with her chicken teriyaki. We talked without pause, until I excused myself to give Connor a call.

“How’s everything going buddy?” he asked.

“Everything’s great. Perfect. Peachy,” I said.

“She’s great, isn’t she?”

I said nothing.

“Ah, you know I don’t always get your sarcasm,” he said.

“Obviously.”

“So what’s wrong with her?”

“With her? Nothing. No problem at all. She’s sweet, we both have an extreme dislike for pears.”

“I’d tell her the same thing I’ve told you. You dislike them because you disliked them as children. If you give them another chance -”

“She’s married.”

Connor said nothing. I looked down the street and saw a guy dressed in a colonial costume. He stopped at the corner, removed a hat from the sack he was carrying and placed it in front of him.

“What do you mean she’s married?” Connor asked.

“How didn’t you know she was married?”

“I swear I didn’t.”

“I know you didn’t.”

“Really? You believe me?”

“Yeah I do.”

“That’s good. I wonder why she agreed to go out with you-”

“She thinks I can get her a job, that’s why.”

Again Connor said nothing. I looked down and saw the same guy, now wearing a white wig. Only the wig was too large and covered his entire forehead. Performers like him were common downtown. The week before I saw Elmo, only the eyes were unevenly glued on the face and caused a lot of children to cry.

“You told her I had openings in my department,” I said.

“Because you do.”

“Not yet, not until next week. No one’s supposed to know until after our meeting next week.”

“I didn’t know.”

“My own team doesn’t even know yet.”

“You haven’t told your team yet?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“That’s beside the point. You shouldn’t have told anyone that my department’s getting restructured.”

“You’re right, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Now I’m worried she might say something.”

“She’s not that type of woman. You’ll be fine, just tell her the truth.”

The man in the colonial costume started shouting at the people who walked passed him.

“How do you know? You just met her at the tech conference last week.”

“Alright, I don’t know, would you rather me tell you that?”

“I should just get back inside,” I said.

“Alright buddy, and you should’ve told your team what’s going on already.”

I hung up my phone and watched the man shout and wave his hands.

“What are you wearing?” he said to the college guys walking by in jeans. “Those carriages seem to be driving themselves,” he said while pointing to the cars driving by.

“What is that device in your hand?” he said. “Yes you, come over here,” he said, pointing to me. I walked over. “I saw you talking into it. Can it hear you? Does it talk back?”

I told him it was called a “Lisa,” after its inventor, Lisa Edamame. After all, why did that guy deserve the truth from me, when I couldn’t give it to my team?

Guys In Their Hoodies

I’m a man of the times. The most popular TV shows? I watch them. I watch them on Hulu and Netflix and HBO Go. I watch them on my own time because I’m a guy who bends his time for no one. Hozier and Kendrick Lamar are my go-to artists on Spotify. I created radio stations for both of them. I deleted my Green Day and Blink-182 playlists because they’re no longer part of the times.

I wear slim blue jeans and I cuff the legs. I typically go for v-neck t-shirts, though the patterned button-down shirts also catch my attention. They’re becoming part of the times and I need to keep up.

I also wear a slim, solid blue hoodie. I bought it when I decided to become a man of the times. The hoodie I own is the kind you see in ordinary photographs posted on Instagram and Facebook. The kind that in twenty years the kids – my kids, possibly – will look back and ask “that was the style then?” and I’d say “Yes, and I owned one just like it.”

I’d also say something like, “I wore that hoodie on the commute to work, because at my office we wore what we wanted. This was when companies grew more and more lax about their dress codes to make up for the expanding work days.” And I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “I worked with two other guys who wore slim solid-color hoodies just like me. Once I joked we were like Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

Shoot, that was dumb, I wouldn’t say that. I know that reference is no longer of the times.

Instead I’d say something like, “I wore that hoodie when I went with my friends to the bars. I always pushed for college bars since they had the best specials and I’d fit right in because I was a man of the times.” Again I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “All the guys in their hoodies would play pool and hit on the girls and buy them expensive beers. Myself included.”

I really hope those don’t go out of style. I enjoy wearing mine, I really do. But if the time comes where guys no longer wear slim, solid-blue hoodies I guess I’ll have to throw in the towel. Or should I say, throw in the hoodie. Get it?

A Ridiculous Lunchtime Debate

Tom never finished the debate he started with Zachary at the holiday party. Tom was not the kind of person to leave anything unfinished, which is why he insisted he and Zachary settle this over lunch. And they did, four months later. Scheduling lunch wasn’t easy. Meetings were cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled again. Calls ran over, sometimes an hour over the planned time. Tom sometimes brought lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on multi-grain bread, and Zachary sometimes did the same, minus the jelly.

“Glad we could do this,” Tom said.

“About time,” Zachary said.

David pulled a chair over from the empty table next to them. The umbrella overhead kept the sun out of their eyes but they both kept their sunglasses on anyways.

“So where were we?” Tom asked.

“You know exactly where, asshole,” Zachary said.

“Alright, fine. How could you argue that Pokemon Red and Blue are better than Gold and Silver?” Tom asked.

Tom watched Zachary take a large bite of his burrito and watched the excess black beans spill onto his paper plate. “They’re the first generation. The success of the entire franchise rests on what those games offered. I have a cousin that wasn’t born yet that’s obsessed with those games now.”

Tom thought about what Zachary just said – not so much the quality of his argument but rather the age of his cousin. If Red and Blue were released in the US in ’98, he thought, his cousin was at most, seventeen?! Really?! Almost an entire generation separated us from that cousin?!!!

“Day and night, and the quality of the new Pokemon introduced,” Tom said, getting his head back into the argument. He then looked down to his three tacos, picked up the first and tried to eat it in one bite. No dice. The fried cheese crumbles dropped onto his paper plate along with half of the tortilla.

“So the argument is if significance and quality are one and the same. I’d say not,” Zachary said.

“The unlocking of Kanto was unmistakably brilliant,” Tom said. He then grabbed his second taco and ate it in two bites. Only a few pieces of fried cheese crumbles fell onto his plate.

“But that wasn’t an option in Red and Blue. You gotta judge them for what they were. Gold and Silver were able to have the Kanto quest only because Red and Blue came before,” Zachary said.

“Honestly, are we saying anything different from what we said at the holiday party?” Tom asked.

Zachary picked up the black beans on his place and ate them, one or two at a time. “I don’t really remember what I said at the party.”

Tom thought for a moment and realized he couldn’t remember what he said either. He couldn’t remember much from that night. His co-workers told him he put up a great argument, but what consisted of that argument was never said.

“Did we even argue about this at the holiday party?”

Zachary wiped his hands on a napkin and tossed it onto his plate. “I thought we did. Everyone said we did.”

Tom nodded and went to grab his last taco, paused and realized he was feeling a little sick.

Zachary With the Perfect Hair

It was windy that day, though not too windy. At least, not windy enough to keep Zachary and Tom from sitting outside of the sandwich shop for lunch. Zachary ordered a turkey club. Tom ordered a BLT.

“Some party last night,” Zachary said.

“Yes it was,” Tom said. Tom would have said more, but he was distracted by the way Zachary’s dark hair waved in the wind. Pretty awesome, he thought.

“I gotta have people over more often,” Zachary said with a mouth full of sandwich.

Tom nodded and thought about the party Saturday. Zachary’s apartment on 55th Street was small but had enough room for Tom and their other co-workers. The night involved beer pong and a bong. They thought about going clubbing but decided against it and Tom was relieved.

“I don’t really remember everything that happened,” Zachary said.

“You kept texting and calling this girl but you never told us who she was,” Tom said.

“Oh, I knew who she was, ” Zachary said.

Tom started to think about Zachary’s hair at the party. It was gelled back and looked like a polished helmet. The last time Tom put gel in his hair was back in the fifth grade. The gel caused so much dandruff everyone in his class thought he had lice. Childhood trauma.

“I’m surprised Jessica didn’t schedule a one-on-one with you this afternoon,” Zachary said. “It is review time.”

Tom shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, it’s probably good news for you.” Really, he thought to himself. How the fuck could someone’s hair be that goddamn perfect?

That afternoon Zachary resigned. He told Tom they would meet up for a drink so he could tell Tom about it. He never did.

For the next several years, until Tom moved his family to San Diego, he always talked about this guy Zachary with the perfect hair.

Our First Friday Night in Town

Our_Frst_Friday_twitter

I was spread across the sofa, catching up on Mad Men, when Megan opened the door. She dropped her purse on the floor and slipped out of her heels.

“You’re home early,” I said. I heard a sniffle and then the fridge door open. I grabbed my beer off the coffee table and followed her into the kitchen. She said nothing as she closed the door and I saw the container of yesterday’s pork-fried rice in her hand. I started to say something but didn’t and instead watched her pull a fork from the drawer and dig in. We said nothing for what seemed liked several minutes.

“Where’s the car?” I finally asked.

“The garage downtown. I took a cab,” she said in between bites. That’s all really wanted to know. Megan can be a sad drunk – I only wanted to know that she’d be alright.

I took a swig from my beer and walked back to the sofa. I heard her follow and took the seat next to me and I was no longer able to spread out.

“It’s alright, you don’t have to see them again,” I said.

“Why was it so important that I go anyways?” she asked.

“You and Monica looked like you hit it off at La Azteca,” I said. Monica was Travis’ wife, my one of my co-workers at my new company. They seemed a few years older than us but were still good people. Max and I bonded the first day over arcade games. He mentioned a barcade downtown for my happy hour, but plans were already in place to hold it at La Azteca.

“Just tell me everything,” I said. I took a final swig from my beer and almost got up for another but thought better of it.

“It was all nice,” Megan said. She combed through the rice and I knew she was avoiding the peas.

“We had wine and goat cheese and fancy crackers,. We talked about Mad Men, which I’ve never seen.”

I’d asked Megan to watch the show with me repeatedly but she always turned me down. I wanted to say something but thought better of it.

“What else?” I asked.

“Everyone there knew Monica for years, either from college or high school,” Megan said.

I stood up and walked back to the fridge. I pulled out another beer.

“So they talked and I felt left out,” Megan said from the sofa.

I popped off the bottle cap using the counter’s edge. I stayed in the kitchen. “So you’re saying you never gave them a chance?”

“I said I wasn’t feeling well and left.”

“So no, you didn’t.” I took a couple swigs of my drink while Monica stayed in the living room.

“Why did you tell Travis to tell Monica that I’d go without asking me first?”

“You keep on saying that you’re lonely.”

Megan said nothing and I stayed in the kitchen. I opened the fridge and pulled out the last of the banana bread my mother made the day we left.

“I need to make my own friends.”

“I was only trying to help.”

“Because you can fix everything.”

I pulled a knife from the drawer and cut the bread into little chunks. I alternated between a sip and a bite.

“Why did you have to look for work so far way?” Megan asked.

She only asked the question once and I said nothing. I was scared of what I’d ask and what she’d answer. I continued to alternate between bread chunk and beer until it was gone. I opened the fridge, stared at its contents for a couple seconds, closed it and walked back to the sofa. I sat down and Megan placed her head on my shoulder. We said nothing.

The Beanie

“The beanie is a problem,” Zach said.

I didn’t think so, but I also wasn’t the boss. Zach was. He was twenty-six with sunglasses resting on his buzzed blonde hair. I was a year older than him.

“I wear it everyday,” I said.

“Not with the Thomas Reynolds visiting today,” Zach said.

“I never saw a memo,” I said.

“I didn’t think I had to send one,” Zach said.

So I nodded and left Zach’s office. Apparently sunglasses were alright but beanies weren’t. Our cubicles separated us from each other and no one passing would see me. Not to mention Friday’s were causal day – surely Mr. Reynolds knew this. How could our CEO not know this?

—————————————————-

I wore the beanie all day. I wore it when my co-worker Kenny came by at eleven. He always came by at eleven.

“You’ve got some balls keeping that beanie on all day,” he said. He took a swig from his water bottle with a NYC Social sticker slapped on. He always carried his water bottle.

“He’s meeting with our VPs and they’re on the tenth floor,” I said.

“Yeah but his temporary office is on this floor,” he said.

Now I didn’t consider this. Or rather, I didn’t know this. How could I consider something I didn’t know?

“Still should be fine,” I said. I wasn’t about to tell Kenny that the Mr. Reynolds working on our floor made me nervous.

—————————————————-

I wore the beanie when I crossed the street to grab some pizza for lunch. Every Friday I went to the same place and ordered an extra large slice with pepperoni. The way I figured, I made it through the week with a cobb salad every other day. Besides, Friday was casual day. Friday should also be junk food day.

“Your beanie is cute,” the cashier said. I never saw her before. She must have been new. Otherwise she would have known that I wore my Pikachu beanie every Friday.

“I’ll wear it next Friday just for you,” I said.

“Isn’t it going to be like seventy degrees outside?” she said.

Alright, so I didn’t think of this either. It was a cold winter – we were in the middle of March and the high was only thirty – so the idea of not wearing my beanie next Friday kinda bothered me.

—————————————————-

I wore the beanie during my department’s meeting at 4. Why Zach insisted on having meetings at four on a Friday I had no idea. We discussed our targets for the Fall season. That’s right, Fall. It was still March and I was worried about not wearing my beanie for the Spring and now I had to think about the Christmas season.

“Mr. Reynolds will be stopping by during our meeting. He’s been visiting all of the departments and I told him to drop by during our weekly meeting.”

Alright, so I wasn’t expecting that, I really wasn’t. Why would the CEO bother to drop in on us? We were just a group of analysts whose work could be done by anyone. We weren’t that important.

But wait, why did I assume that the CEO was that kind of guy? He could genuinely care about his employees, and that a visit to everyone could boost morale. But if that was the case, why was wearing my beanie such a big damn deal?

“You have ten seconds to take off that beanie,” Zach said. He was now standing by the door and kept it open part way with his hand. I looked over to Kenny who just shrugged his shoulders. He always shrugged his shoulders when he thought he knew something I didn’t.

And just as Zach opened the door I pulled off the beanie. I pulled it off because I didn’t want to look like a fool, but also because I didn’t know what I believed in anymore, I really didn’t.