So I bailed.

I've been at this job for several years. It's an office job, and what I like best about it is that the phone rarely rings, and there aren't many interactions with customers or anyone else. I just stare at a computer screen and click at my keyboard and listen to music from my mp3-player.

Conversations with my co-workers are usually just "Good morning" and "How was your weekend?" and "Good night," and whatever work-related questions and issues come up. We get along, but these are my co-workers, not my best buddies.

"So, let's have an office potluck." Ah, crap.

We have occasional potluck lunches, and I'm not enthusiastic about it but I can cope. I always sign up to bring something, engage in a few minutes of light chit-chat as everyone's filling their paper plates, and quickly return to my cubicle and my work.

Sometimes I skip the conversation entirely, and just come back to my desk with a paper plate full of food.

Sometimes I skip the food, and stay in my cubicle.

This month's potluck celebrates that our boss is getting married. His fiancée is going to be there. Ah, crap.

The boss is OK for a boss, and Mrs Boss is probably human and all, but that's the point. I'm at work avoiding the humans, not seeking new ones to interact with.

The worst social interactions are the unexpected ones, so I'm glad they've at least given me a few week's advance warning. I signed up to bring some food, which I'll have to buy since I don't really cook.

Then comes the day of the potluck, which is today from 11:00 until 1:00. There will be two hours of conversation all around me in the office, but I only have to participate for a few minutes, and I can easily retreat to my desk, right?

Nope. Here's an email sent at 9:30 this morning: Instead of spreading lunch on the main table in the office, and then filling our plates and eating at our desks as usual, today's potluck will be in the third-floor conference room. For two hours. Please log off of your computers and put your phones on auto-answer at 10:55, take the elevator to the third floor, and arrive at 11-AM sharp. For two hours of awkward conversation. With nowhere to escape. Ah, crap.

I thought about it for ten minutes or so, and sure, I could've endured it. That's what I've been doing for my entire adult life — enduring such social situations. But the last-minute change of venue annoyed me. Being required to mingle instead of working at work annoyed me.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. I signed up to bring store-bought lasagna and maybe say "Hello" and "Congratulations," but I did not sign up for two hours of hell on the third floor.

So I feigned a headache, nausea, menstrual cramps, diarrhea, a fever, the chills, and an outbreak of mange, and went home an hour before the potluck. I'll probably take tomorrow off too, just so it won't be too obvious that I was faking.

I am not Mr Congeniality, but if you tell me in advance, I'll make an effort to play these social games I'm no good at. If you don't tell me in advance, then I'm under no obligation to play the games at all.

Republished 8/8/2023  

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