Monday, April 18, 2011

Time of the Signs.

"Hey everybody!  It’s Mindy’s birthday on Tuesday, so we will be passing around a card for all of you to sign!  Then we’ll have a mandatory lunch time party on Tuesday!  It’s not actually mandatory, but if you don’t go, people will just correctly assume that you’re an asshole!  And everyone will awkwardly sing Happy Birthday to someone that they don’t really know anything about!  Except that her name is Mindy!  It will ruin your usual lunch time routine of eating alone in the parking lot!  And there will be one random guy who’s really into it!"

Alright, so I’m exaggerating quite a bit.  And to be honest, I don’t mind the forced socialization and the free shitty cake.  I think what really pisses me off is the passed around group card.  You know the kind with the lame joke and the cheesy picture?

Depending on when you get the card, it can be annoying for different reasons.  If you’re the first to get the card, unfortunately, you know that you’re setting the bar for everyone else.  You’re declaring the emotional tone, the level of jokiness and the overall desired length of each individual message.  Suddenly you have become the blueprint for how everyone else is supposed to feel about Mindy.  You’re a Mindy barometer, and you don’t even know what she fucking does at the company.

You may even sign the card and then realize at the party that you were thinking of someone else.  Plus, no matter what you do, you know everyone who gets the card after you is going to read your message.

“Did you guys see what Johnson wrote?  What does that even mean?”

Getting it last isn’t much good either, because all of the good standard messages are used up, which doesn't really matter because there’s no space left to write an actual message anyways.  You end up writing “YAY” and signing a shortened version of your name, followed by a little smiley face, if space permits.  And now Mindy thinks that you don’t care.

Which you don’t, but you’d hate for her to find that out based on a group card.

If you get the card somewhere in between first and last, there is usually room to write something, but as I have said, all of the standard messages are used up.  You read through everyone else’s to get ideas, and end up judging them, like you feared you would be judged.  And like future signers of the card will do unto you.

“Adam wrote ‘loose’ instead of ‘lose’?  Who still does that?”

Alright, enough of that, you need to get back to figuring out what to write, Mr. Grammar Police.

“Let’s see, I’ll put Happy Birthday Sue… wait… shit no, that’s been done already, ok… how about Best Wishes?  … Damn!  Carl already wrote that, I fucking hate Carl.”

You contemplate scratching off Carl’s name and writing your own, but somehow, you feel like you would get found out. You would, and the consequences would be severe.  Well, maybe not severe, but you might not get cake, and that’s probably not a risk that you want to take.  So you rack your brains trying to figure out something short and sweet.  And it sucks. 

Let’s face it, eventually everyone just starts randomly slapping words together in a nonsensical way, just so that it doesn’t say exactly what the others say, but still conveys the same general message.

“All the best” – Steve
“Nothing but the best” – Jimbo
“Mostly I wanna say, hey, take some best” – Amanda
“Good luck with all things best forever wishing you the best ‘n shit” – Jennifer

Amidst the confusion it’s only a matter of time before someone forgets what the card is actually for, signs the wrong thing, crosses it off and then tries to make up for it.

Sorry for your loss Get ready for all my best wishes coming your way” – Shawn

Shawn should have stuck to his guns.  At least it would have been original. 

Rather than go through all of this torment, why not just think “Seriously, who gives a shit?” and just write the same thing as someone else.  Do you honestly think that the person is going to get the card and go C.S.I. on it?  Original Vegas, not Miami or whatever? Also, original cast?

“Well Jeremy and Cassandra both wrote the same thing, and, when I brought the card into the lab, clearly, Jeremy’s ink was fresher, wetter, guiltier, thus making him the plagiarizer.  Alert the press.”
“Great work, Grissom!”

Why write anything anyways?  The card already says what we all want to say.  Does anyone get the card and think “well Happy Birthday is clearly printed on the inside and the cover page, but I should probably wait and see what everyone wrote on the inside to gauge what the card is really all about”?

Someone should just write “from everyone” and be done with it, even if it’s one of those ‘BLANK INSIDE’ cards.  No, especially if it’s one of those ‘BLANK INSIDE’ cards.  Fuck it.  They know why we’re here.

“It’s your birthday, here’s a card.”
“It doesn't even say anything.”
“It’s from all of us.”

That would probably more accurately depict what we all think of each other in an office setting anyways.

I’d like to see someone get fired on their birthday, and be thrown a going away party disguised as a birthday, and they only find out when they start reading the card.

“Oh thanks everyone!  What a lovely birthday party!”
“It says… You’ll be missed… ??? …  good luck for the future… ???? What the-”
“The wrapped present box actually just contains all of the belongings from your desk.  Security will escort you out immediately.”
“Can I have some cake?”
“No, I’m sorry, it’s for employees only.”

Have you ever accidentally not signed a card that everyone else in the office has signed?  And when you see the person reading that card in front of everyone, their eyes slowly going through the signatures, you can somehow feel what they are thinking? 

“Bill… CHECK… Chris… CHECK[insert your name here]… Oddly absent from the card, and yet, there they are, eating cake, joining in.  Watching.  Laughing.”

At this point, you might even try some kind of covert operation to get the card back before they leave for the day.

“Say Mindy, do you mind if I see that card?”
“Why? The messages in it are meant for me.”
“Yeah but you know everyone reads them as it goes around the office anyways so-”
“I trust people not to do that.”
“Well that’s dumb, look, can I fucking see it now?”
“I already know that you didn’t sign it, and that’s why you’re holding that pen.  You’re too late.  The jig is up.”

Maybe it wasn’t that covert after all.  And as everyone’s suspicious whispers begin to grow louder, you jump out the window and throw your two weeks notice at the boss on your way out, written in chocolate frosting on a paper airplane napkin.

“It’s been real.  I’m out.  PEACE!”

In the end, I suggest just finding a really original way to sign your name, and leave it at that.  Just a signature.  It’s even better if you get it carved into a custom stamp and use an ink-pad to stamp your mark on future joint cards.  It will give you a mysterious edge at work, which will work to your advantage when there is only one donut left in the breakroom, and you are face to face with the overweight guy from sales. 

Behind him, the receptionist offers him a word of advice.

“Dude, I’d let him have it.  He doesn’t even write messages in cards, who can honestly tell what he’s capable of.”

Answer: no one.  But seriously, it had those toasty coconut sprinkles.  It was a big win for me.

That’s it.  There’s no more room left on the card.