Tomorrow evening, I won’t be able to be here at home enjoying myself in quiet calm. Instead, I’ll be playing The Game. We all have to play The Game at various times. In my case, I have to go candlepin bowling after work with co-workers. Other times, we have to buy candy, popcorn, or Girl Scout cookies. Other times, we have to chip in to buy gifts for bosses and VPs, even though they make much, much more than we do and they wouldn’t think to ever buy us anything. And if they do, they use the company credit card.
I used to be pretty good at avoiding The Game. The same boss that arranged for this second annual bowling night (if you can call candlepin bowling) also organized monthly summer cookouts in the courtyard of our office park over the last few years. There were many, many things that I would have rather been doing than sitting around with these Dilbert rejects, so over a four- or five-year period, I was able to hone my craft in dodging The Game. The very first time, a Friday, was a work of art. Captain Larby and Mrs. Larby were coming into town for the weekend, so I high-tailed it out of the office on that Friday at 5pm, telling my boss that I had to leave because I had “friends coming in from out of town.” Yes, they were, but not until the next day. I didn’t lie. I just used some creative chronology to my advantage.
Several other dodges entailed invoking The Costanza Method. See, the original cookouts began close to 5pm, but later on, they started around 3pm. This made it more difficult on me, but if I acted stressed out and frustrated while shuffling papers and typing away at my desk, I could convince everyone that I was busy and couldn’t break away for any longer than it took to get a burger and some potato salad. On still another dodge – the most satisfying – I moved my car to an unseen part of the parking lot at lunchtime. When the cookout began a couple of hours later, everyone was out in the courtyard, eating, drinking, and talking. Two co-workers and I bolted undetected out of a side door to our obstructed cars and were home free.
Now, we’re in a new office without a courtyard, so cookout avoidance is a game of the past. Thank goodness. But there are new Games and my mighty deflection techniques aren’t infallible. This bowling night was initially scheduled for a few weeks ago. I declined the invitation, citing major (and not at all faked) allergies; it was truly a message from God that He was trying to help me out. But my boss didn’t blink. I’m not saying she rescheduled because of me, but she set up a new night and a chief, if unwritten, rule is that you can’t dodge the same event twice in a row. Like the 2007 Christmas party, for example…but that’s a story for another time.