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Straggling through the door, at the very last nano second, I scan the gray and taupe environ for any sight of coffee. It’s all that matters, really. My early morning fix. But I smell that rich aroma, before I spy the coffee maker in the corner. Choking and gurgling, it seems that the brew is still under production.

So, I sit down at the back and wait.

I’m not looking forward to this, at all. I mean the training, of course-not the coffee.

Seated at a smallish, rectangle table that accommodates four, I’m joined by others in rapid succession. That new guy. The bitch from P.R. that I can’t stand. And Mr. smug I.T. Hipster. They’re a discouraging bunch.

Yet gazing about our table, I spy the most fearful accoutrements ever. Cutesy stickers. Candy. Scented markers. Blank cards. Post-It Notes. Stick Pins. It had all the makings of participatory training, something I’d learned to loathe over the years. Yes, the dreaded group misadventures into bonding, mindfulness and better communication that usually leave me with that strange, lingering sense that my boundaries had been violated somehow. Probably by a group hug. But whatever. I’m just hyper-sensitive, right?

Finally, though, the ancient coffee maker wheezes to a halt and I go and pour myself a cup.

Just as I sit back down, the facilitator of our training session introduces himself.

“Good morning everyone. Glad to see that you could all make it. My name is Geoffrey Bean.” he says. His voice is vaguely monotonous, and suddenly, I’m aware that we are in for a very long day.

I shift in my seat. I swallow hard.

The training room is packed. Good, I think, the easier to hide in. Yet I look over and see all the cool kids, yes, the beautiful ones every workplace has all seated at one table in the middle of the room, (no kidding, they always must be the center of attention, right?). Mr. Spray-on-tan guy, and the girl that he secretly dates. Also, the former beauty queen and model turned H.R. executive and her mini-me Millennial sidekick whose name escapes me now. Oh, right…Natasha or some such vaguely porn-star like moniker. They are a discouraging bunch, I think, as I revisit that notion once again.

But I sip my coffee and I duck my head. While the trainer prattles on with an overview for the day, I become immersed in my smart phone. Thank God this isn’t school as we’d have to check all cell phones at the door. That would suck. So, I check my messages and notifications, bring myself up to date. Then just as I’m about to begin watching muted cat videos in earnest, I see our supervisor looking about the room and frowning as seemingly every second employee is doing the very same as me right then.

Like a hot potato, I drop my phone into my purse. I stare straight ahead, as if interested and engaged.

When our eyes do meet, the supervisor and I, I’m sitting pretty. I’m in fine form.

Ah well, I think, it’s Friday (fri-yay!) after all. My inner coach suggests, “Just get through this day of training and, mercifully, then it will be the weekend.” I exhale in relief.

Sipping my coffee, I glance about my table. The new guy and I exchange nods, faint smiles. Luckily for me, the other two are turned around to face the facilitator in the front, and so I don’t have to deal with them, not just yet anyhow.

“So let’s get started then with sensitivity training.” our trainer, Mr. Bean says.

I groan inwardly, as I take that to be code for political correctness. Our workplace is big on indoctrination it seems, as words like global and intersectionality seem to punctuate nearly every sentence.

What ever happened to the good old name game? I was fine with that…

So, in a desperate attempt to blot out this third wave of political correctness, I gaze down at the notepad and paper, we have each been given, and begin to doodle furiously. As Mr. Bean blathers along, the doodling jogs my memory, unfortunately, giving me a chilling, backward glance into high school where I scrawled furiously rather than become a cutter, thank you.

After drawing all the hearts and bunnies and kitties, that both my distaff brain and the notepad will allow, I look up at the trainer.

Hmmm…I judge Mr. Bean to be pleasant if not somewhat vanilla, just another soy latte sipping, metrosexual, inner urban sophisticate who haunts book stores and comic cons wearing Vans and bright blazers. That’s all. You know the type. No wonder he’s spewing politically correct epithets at us right now. He fits the bill, entirely, hahaha.

Whatever. I return to my coffee. It’s almost finished, and immediately, I begin to yearn for a refill. Do I dare get up and get one? Nah. Better wait until coffee break, my better judgement tells me, though the demons of caffeine addiction continue to prod me with long, burning sticks.

“Wrapping up now. Any questions?” our trainer, Mr. Bean asks the dispirited audience.

One hand limply goes up, someone asks, “How is all this going to work once robots are in our workplace?”

I stifle the urge to snicker. Suddenly, I have a vision of the robot from the cover of that old Queen album, News of the Century, creepy, almost apocalyptic. So, retro…

Nodding his head, the trainer begins, “You know that’s a very fair question…” He then launches into a lengthy soliloquy about his undergraduate training in software engineering, and as I could care less, I dutifully block it all out.

By this time, though, somebody seated at the front proceeds to begin clearing his sinuses. It feels like it goes on for an eternity, the snorting, blowing, hacking and sneezing. Yet in actual fact, it probably only lasted a few minutes. Mercifully enough, it did finally stop, however.

Gazing about the table, I spy the candy sitting in a pile between the stick pins and cutesy stickers. In a passive-aggressive moment, I snatch all the candy up in one handful and begin peeling the wrappers off and eating them. I know that I wasn’t supposed to do this as I had just sabotaged our group, after all. But I don’t like them. And I can plead ignorance or just feeling a little peckish, low blood sugar, or even trying to avert lapsing into a coma. So, I munch happily as I know that I have all my bases covered.

Now, feeling the buzz of both coffee and candy, my mind begins to race. So, I decide to play a game to appease my overextended neurons and synapses. Not boxers or briefs, that’s so 90’s. Rather, I devise a new game. Mean Drunk/Fun Drunk/Sad Drunk. It goes as follows; I gaze at someone and mentally categorize as one of the three primal arche-drunkytypes. First, I look at the trainer.

Hmm, definitely a sad drunk I judge. No doubt about that one.

Next, my gaze shifts to the new guy seated beside me. Hmm, I get an okay vibe from him. He seems chill enough…So I vote Fun Drunk.

Then, finally I gaze at the two others seated at our table. First, I gaze at Mr. Smug I.T. Hipster. Without a doubt, he’s likely a mean drunk, especially if someone happens to challenge any of his cherished beliefs about organics or indie bands or alt-politics. Then you know that you are in for a good beta lashing, lol.

But I had absolutely no problems deciding on Ms. Bitch from P.R. Now, that’s a sad drunk, if I’ve ever seen one, my Spidey senses are tingling loud and clear on that! She screams wine o’clock, day drinker, night wailer, curled up in a fetal position with the cat on the couch. So, I’m not actually drinking alone, though my life does feel somewhat like a country-blues song, y’know that type of thing.

Hmm, this is fun…I think I’m good at this guessing game… Could it be some new addition to my skill set, lol? JK.

But all the frivolity, swiftly, comes to an end when Mr. Bean announces, “Okay, moving along to our next item… We will now consider conflict resolution. This will be a group participation exercise. So, could each table brainstorm the topic, causes of conflict, examples of scenarios, that sort of thing. Write your ideas down on the little blank cards and put emoji stickers on that represent how both the conflict, then the resolution afterwards makes you feel.”

Crap!

But then the worst happens as the gruesome twosome turn away from the trainer and now sits facing me, instead. Ms. H.R. Bitch smiles icily at me. Mr. I.T. Hipster/Know-It-All just stares. But his eyes immediately fall on the discarded wrappers and he objects, “Hey, you weren’t supposed to eat up the candy!”

“My brain glucose level was slipping. I had no choice but to.” I reply

Mr. I.T. Hipster looks at me suspiciously, eyes narrowed, jaw tight.

But I just smile. “I’m feeling so much better now, thanks.”

“C’mon, we better get going with the topic Mr. Bean just assigned us-conflict resolution.” Ms. H.R. urges.

“Okay, the conflict can be over. Who ate the candy at our table?” I giggle.

The other two look at me darkly. The new guy just stares in wonder.

Ms. H.R. seizes the stickers, a scented marker, a couple of blank cards and begins writing on them.

“So how do we resolve this issue then?” Ms. H.R. asks, as she looks up from the card.

The new guy shrugs.

Mr. I.T. Hipster says, “Well, there really is no room to resolve it, as the candy is gone and uhh…none of us were consulted in the first place.”

There is a momentary awkward silence. I stifle the urge to say to him, Look Hipster, you’re not as special as you were raised to think that you are. So, I just think about it, instead.

“So what should I write down?” Ms. H.R. looks up quizzically.

“Maybe we could try and think of another scenario.” the new guy suggests

“Okay.” I agree. I kind of like the new guy who resembles PitBull but in a defanged, non-sexual way.

But then the trainer loudly calls out, “Times up!”

I am amused as the others at our table scramble.

Then Mr. Bean, our trainer, says, “Now could one of you from each table read what you have written down. Starting with the first table at the front and working our way to the back of the room, please.”

Nearly laughing aloud at the scenarios involving office gossip, politics, brown nosing and the like given as examples, I am enjoying this momentary detour from all things touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy into naked corporate culture. Raw death.

Finally, when it’s our tables turn to read, Ms. H.R. blushes and says, “We had conflict over the candy being eaten…but uhh…never got to resolving it.”

“That’s fine.” the trainer says.

Smiling broadly, Mr. Bean looks about the room. Then he says, “Okay, we have one last segment before coffee break… Now we will examine the work-life balance.”

In his unique nasal monotone, he begins to drone on, accompanied by a Power Point presentation of stick figures mainly, into the work/life flow. But what about home? Didn’t home use to factor into the work-life balance schemata? So, who decided to drop home and why wasn’t I given the memo? Hmm, just another blow to the beleaguered, working masses, I decide. That’s all. Home and Family and Faith are certainly devalued in the modern workplace. But that’s a rant I’ll save for another time.

Getting back to this whole work-life balance thing, though, it’s a strange aspiration for a fulfilling life anyhow. Even if you ever reached that sweet spot whereby work was going okay, the kids were happy and taken care of, the cat was fed and you were in a blissful state, it’s likely that you’d scream Nobody Move! It’s likely that you’d be grabbing for your camera to snap a quick pic of this fantasy, Kodak moment. Haha. Gotcha. And this, too, shall pass.

Still, it wasn’t all a loss. I did learn a cool new Danish word. Hygge. It means finding joy in simple things. It speaks of wellness, contentment. Leave it to the Norse, of course, I think. Who else has come up with similar wonders like minimalism and the social safety net? I will be experiencing great hygge later, when I catch up on all the shows I’ve TIVO’d lol.

Finally, though, Mr. Bean exhales loudly and says, “Alright then, time for a coffee break. Help yourself. We’ll see you all back in fifteen minutes.”

Thank God, I think.

But, as I amble over to the coffee station, I’m immediately incensed as the box of donuts has already been emptied and everyone is happily munching but me! Could this be karma over the candy, I wonder? All around me are Boston cremes, sprinkles, dips. It’s just not right, an outrage in fact! Yet it’s one of those training day truths that if you linger, you lose out on all the treats and perks, the good parking spot, that extra ginger snap. You know, that sort of thing.

So, I just mournfully refill my coffee cup and I take consolation in the fact that at least I got a second cup. It is one of those ancient urns, however, that can make about fifty cups at a time. Thus, I couldn’t hardly not get a refill, right?

Looking about me, I see that everyone is schmoozing when I wish that I was still snoozing, but whatever. The training room is rather bland and functional but otherwise alright. My only real misgiving is that the overhead, fluorescent lighting is so intense it feels like we are all about to perform surgery or perhaps have been beamed aboard the mothership unknowingly. I rub my temples. Give my head a quick shake. Then once my senses have cleared and returned, I notice another training day truism.

The overachievers are in one group, the beautiful people in another. Once again, I feel another chilling, backward glance into high school coming on and I shiver, involuntarily. Why is it that I always find myself in the semi-productive group? Yeah that’s right, there is me and Larry and Moe left bunched together. But I decide to just make the best of things and join in. After all, it’s only 10:15 a.m. There is still a lot of the day left.

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