I am still trying to understand the rhythm of the people at work, and to fit in. There are some definite differences from the part of the organization that I worked in before. These people like to have parties and to EAT. I sit within view of the coffee room and with some regularity wonderful treats show up in there. Sometimes they are leftovers from workshops or meetings, and other times they are from the extra money from the coffee fund. A couple of times a month they have bagel and muffin day. Thursday was the annual Cheesecake Day, 3 different kinds. I had the chocolate turtle. For breakfast AND lunch. There was the big Halloween Costume business meeting and luncheon that I mentioned before, and last week was the Christmas Luncheon which featured a rather bizarre animated talking snowman. It's not all about food either, this past Tuesday was "Christmas Sweater Day" and they also do a whole variety of charity projects.
The driving force behind most of this is a very sweet woman named Amber who (among other things) is in charge of the coffee room and the party planning committee. A few weeks ago a message came out asking for volunteers for that and I was quick to respond. I love planning parties and I got a kick out of there being a committee for it like on my fave TV show The Office. When I went to the planning meeting it became clear to me that Amber already had everything figured out and was looking for people to do the footwork. I was pretty much sitting on my hands until she started talking about the charity projects, one suggestion was to do something for the troops overseas, possibly through the Aunt Nancy Project. I know Nancy! She's a former coworker and good friend of mine who started a project of sending cards and gifts to cheer up the troops since her niece was over there, and over the years it has evolved into a regular thing. Whoops my hand was in the air, that means volunteering to do it.
Another woman named Jackie teamed up with me to work on this. I liked the idea of getting to communicate with Nancy who has retired to California. She's one of those people that makes everything she's doing a bunch of crazy fun. Right away she sent me the name and information about a soldier in Iraq who is in charge of several teams of troops doing some dangerous mission. He wrote about how they liked to build relations with some of the local civilians who helped them by playing soccer with them, but didn't have nets for the goals. Also he mentioned that they liked to do things to take their minds off of the job by watching dvd's. Amber approved the funds for us to order soccer nets, and Jackie put a box in the coffee room for anyone to donate DVD's for them. I thought we might get one or two to add to some Christmas cards. We collected over 100 movies and TV shows, most of them new. Jackie and I went to the post office and shipped it out in several boxes, and I put a letter in there explaining who we were and what was included.
Well yesterday there I was sitting in my cubicle talking to someone and a guy walked up and handed me a package. It was a little thank-you note, and a folded up American Flag. There was a certificate in there that said it had been flown over their battalion in Iraq and was now being sent to us in appreciation. How very cool and unexpected. I right away got Jackie and we presented the flag to Amber. She put her hand over her heart and kind of staggered backwards a couple steps, she was overcome!
Amber is going to find a place in the office area to display the flag and certificate. It made me feel good that I was able to be a part of doing this, and as always with these types of things I seemed to get a whole lot more out of it than I put into it.
I was messaging an old friend about Sweater Day and she chuckled at the image of the people in our former department ever doing something like that. Hard to picture it. There have been the occasional attempts at social and charity activities, usually reluctantly organized by the overworked admins and a few eager up-and-comers anxious for any form of attention. I remember back when 9/11 happened and our big, loud, self-important executive director happened to have an all people's meeting just after it. He made a really corny speech and then pressured us all into pitching in money for a donation, and told us we should give blood too. I still remember sitting there snarling under my cloud of cynical negativity because it was so clear that the effort was all about him, and how good he thought it made him look to do this great thing, and the only people who put anything towards it were the ones who wanted to be seen doing it. And the coffee rooms are run by people who do it on work time and keep the profits for themselves.
I could be imagining the difference here but the thing that seems clear to me is that this new department is a place that I would like to fit in with, and I hope I eventually do.