This MM, the thought bubble above my head features a formerly frequent occurrence at my most recent job: The lunchtime "Place Games." These were typified by the game of "Now, what was that place called again?" and the popular variation, "What's the best way to get to that place?"
Around 12 or 1, someone would either send an office-wide email asking "lunch now?" OR enter the common area and say, loudly, "Eating lunch now." This was everyone's cue to drop everything to have lunch in the kitchen/break area.
After the inevitable "ooo what are you having today?" round of questioning and a few bites in, The Place Games would begin.
Coworker 1: My husband and I just went to a great little diner the other day.At that point in the Place Games, I had become invisible to my coworkers and boss. I had no idea what diner, old mall, roads, or town they were talking about. It was all a distant suburban mishmash. I also had nothing to add to the conversation, because of which I was the only one done with my lunch.
Coworker 2: Oh, is it that new place down on Route 2? I love that place!
C1: No, but I love that place too!
<insert tangent about the new place down on Route 2 here>
C1 continues: Anyway, no it's a place called <insert wacky suburban name here>. We were going to just go to Applebee's...
C2: I love Applebee's...
C1: ...but this place looked really good.
C2: How did you get there?
Boss, totally interrupting: I know which place you're talking about and they have great grilled cheese sandwiches. The best way to go is to take <some road> all the way to the end down near <some town>. Then you take a left and then that exit at the next light that goes all the way around and after about a quarter mile, it's there on your right.
C1: Ohhh you're right! We went the way you go to <that town> but then we didn't take that first exit, we took the next one that takes you by the old mall...
It reminds me very much of the time I drove by a certain restaurant sign in the 'burbs and shuddered with discomfort. The restaurant I'm referring to is a chain located in a few outside-the-city areas surrounding Boston. It was started in the early 1900's by real Italians, so I'm sure it's authentic and delicious. That's not the issue. The issue and source of my discomfort is that it is called "The Chateau Italian Family Dining." There are three things that just don't sit well with me in that name:
- "The," a word from the English language, is followed by
- "Chateau," which is French for "castle." French, so shouldn't it be preceded by "le" or something equally French?
- Not to mention these two words are followed by "Italian Family Dining." Italian? How do you figure? It feels like a slap in the face.
Ultimately, what did I learn from The Place Games? You shouldn't have to work in a place so far from that with which you understand and are comfortable. Especially if it's so far from said place that you have no idea what your coworkers are discussing at lunch.
Thinking about it more, the Place Games were only an example of my lack of assimilation into office culture. There were also bigger issues, like:
- I didn't eat frozen or pre-made aisle lunches, at least not every day. They often looked upon my leftovers with envy and disdain, making me both boastful and uncomfortable.
- I wasn't married. Even if I was, which I soon will be, I don't know that I could match the stories that spawned from their marriages.
- I didn't have a yard or own a house, so I didn't have problems like this.
- I didn't have a weakness for bad local access television or a need to discuss it at length
- I didn't drink two mountain dews a day.
- I didn't have a 5 minute commute to work.
Well, no more! I'm back in Boston! I'm unemployed and I feel like I'm back in my element. Is that a bad sign?