Every August, we climbed into a bus for the four-hour drive to Lake Geneva for Innovation Industries’ annual retreat. Our enjoyment of the great outdoors was restricted to scheduled events and fantasies of drowning my more bothersome coworkers. Every workplace seemed to have some version of Nosey Nelly, Chatty Chuck, Backstabbing Brenda, and Freaky Fred. Our boss, Mother Hen Monique, loved gathering us, her pathetic chicks, and doing her best to keep us from pecking out each other’s beady little eyes.
Before I could set my internal doomsday clock for the next corporate function, the dreaded holiday party, I needed to survive the team building activity.
I tried to make myself invisible in my oversized hoodie.
Chuck bounded over. “You wearing your Team Synergy shirt?”
“Synergy is a corporate buzz word used to rationalize right sizing.” I chugged coffee I’d covertly laced with minibar kalua.
Nelly, who’d been scavenging inside a donut box, the lodge’s concept of continental breakfast, moved closer.
“Synergy means redundancy,” I said. “Right sizing equals layoffs. Betcha our fearless leader’s planning a headcount reduction.”
Chuck and Nelly scurried toward Monique.
Before I could enjoy the blissful void of their absence, Monique announced the activity. Four of us would be blindfolded and tasked with creating a tower from marshmallows, a ball of string, and uncooked spaghetti while a single unblindfolded team member provided direction. The team with the biggest and best tower won an escape room outing, and more mandatory team building which was nothing short of a booby prize.
“Setting the timer for fifteen,” Monique yelled. “Ready. Set. Goooooo.”
Brenda bellowed orders. Chuck and Nelly became the hunter-gatherers, tracking down marshmallows, string, and spaghetti, and passing them to me. I was to puncture each marshmallow with a piece of spaghetti, and pass the skewered sweet to Fred, our builder.
I did my duty, not daring to deviate. My lack of teamwork at last year’s outing had garnered me a warning and an uncomfortable conversation with a drone from Inhumane Resources. I couldn’t risk another write up.
“Time,” Monique yelled, and I tore off my blindfold.
Bless his freaky heart, Fred had placed the strands of spaghetti in a neat pile and filled his face with marshmallows. Fred chewed and smiled and chewed some more while creating a cat’s cradle from the string.
Our others groaned, but for once, I had team spirit galore.
“Way to think outside the box,” I said to Fred before grabbing a donut and unzipping my sweatshirt to proudly reveal my Team Synergy tee.