One of the perks of sharing an open plan office with 80 strangers and their annoying iPhone ringtones, is the fact that pretty much every other day, one of them gets married, has a baby or yet another “late thirties” birthday.
Now, I’ve been other places before this, you know. People there were growing old and having babies too. We got them donuts or little supermarket cakes and cheeky cards everybody signed in a million different shades of ink. “Have a good one”, “50 is the new 15”, “XOXO”, nothing crazy. Then we sang our embarrassing Happy Birthdays, poked a little fun at them soon to become pensioners, and life was back to normal in a matter of minutes. I was able to handle that pretty well, my social inadequacy considered.
But oh, how things have changed. Office celebrations are a whole different story in my current workplace. They’re like the Olympic opening ceremonies, like the crowning of a new royal. People expect the extraordinary. Chocolate fountains. Fireworks. Miley Cyrus in tight pleather daisy dukes.
Of course, everybody must attend to the wonderful preparations. The birthday boy/gal is obviously aware of what’s coming, but plays along for some reason, allowing themselves to be dragged into suspicious, several hours long meetings, while the rest of us proceed to taking our event planning roles very seriously. Mountains of plates and glasses are brought out of the cupboards we’d stacked them into just a day before, in the aftermath of another celebration. Bottles of wine are set to rest at room temperature. Bags of Doritos the size of toddlers are opened, their cheesy flavored contents distributed into a dozen porcelain bowls. Custom made birthday cakes are ordered and delivered. Yes, cakes. Plural. Every other day.
These joyous occasions are known among us as the “cake and stares”. The reason for that is that people generally gather around the mountain of goodies, start wildly munching on industrial quantities of cake and crisps and, their mouths stuffed with the delicious bounty, they’re unable to say a word. So, for minutes on end all you can hear is the satisfied chewing of a couple dozens party food enthusiasts. No Happy birthday, no Holy cow, this is some scrumptious grub, nothing but people staring satisfied into each other’s eyes as they chew away. It’s marvelous.
Now, I’ve got a problem. I don’t like cake. I know, I know, you can’t possibly believe that a cake hater actually lives and breathes in nowadays world, but what can I say, I must be the among the few remaining members of a dying species. I don’t have a sweet tooth, never had. I sometimes feel like having a bite of chocolate, or a spoonful of ice cream, but one bite or spoonful later and I’m done for the month. I do like Doritos, so much so that I’d fill my bathtub with them cheese dust oozing triangles of ecstasy and would just lie in there forever, crunching myself into a cheese flavored overdose.
So my cake intolerance and Doritos addiction considered, I try to keep myself away from the “cake and stares” celebrations. I’ll sign the birthday card, I’ll help with the preparations, I’ll even have a glass of wine (or two). Still, I’m seen as a traitor. It’s disrespectful towards the birthday boy/gal if I don’t join the munching. Not to mention that I’m also too skinny, therefore I need to help myself to a couple of brick sized slices of chocolate injected cake, and pronto, or I’ll surely succumb to inanition before long. Standing there all slim and superior, no sticky crumbles around my mouth, is seen as a form of defiance and will not be tolerated forever. I need to show a little respect and start chewing.
I push my luck every day, and every day I’m afraid they’ll have had enough with my smug attitude and will end up forcefully feeding me a briefcase sized cake. A particular scene from Roald Dahl’s Matilda comes to mind. Have you read that? If so, you’ll understand the constant terror I live in.
I need to run now, the wife of this guy I’ve never spoken to just had a baby. There’s sugar in the air.