Participation is Optional

As the holidays roll into the workplace, along with them come the usual festivities: gift exchanges, feasts, all that other stuff that go along with them.

My office is no exception.

About a month ago we dedicated a portion of our Monday morning meeting to choosing when we would have our annual Thanksgiving feast, which was today. From that point it was up to the organizer to distribute a checklist of which employee was going to bring so that she could have an accurate record of all the food.

Near the bottom of the list was the phrase “Participation is Optional” for those of us who had already decided not to attend for whatever reason.

I chose to exercise that right yesterday which was when the organizer approached me and asked what dish I was going to bring to the event, a dish being the only real requirement for attendance. Well, not necessarily a requirement but more of a cordial thing to do.

She gave me my options which were down to one thing: bread. I told her I’d text Ann and see if should pick something up for me. Ann suggested dinner rolls since those always seem to be in short supply at my Thanksgiving feast. Sounded good to me.

When she came around to check I told her that I could bring some dinner rolls.

“Oh, already have someone bringing those,” she insisted in a pushy manner. She then rattled off a few other items I could bring, one of which was gravy.

“And we’ll need a lot of it because there will be lots of mashed potatoes.”

At this point, another coworker joined the conversation and told me that Costco had some kind of humungo tub of gravy for $6 a barrel or something.

“Would you be able to go to Costco for that,” she said, implying that everybody has a membership (which I do, but it wasn’t in me to drive down there on such short notice).

I smirked and said, “Probably not. And I don’t live around the corner from here so getting it here prepared and not making a mess would be difficult.” The freeway drive is never predictable and one slam of the brakes would mean my car could end up smelling of gravy for weeks, if not the remainder of my finance term.

The questions all began to be a bit too much for me. It’s a simple lunch, not Presidential Visit. As she held the checklist and the other coworker continued to pontificate about Costco, I threw up my hands, looked at the “Participation is Optional” at  the bottom of the list and made my choice.

“Just…mark me off the list. I’m not going.”

Here’s the way things work with me. If something gets to this point and is not all that important in the grand scheme of things, it’s much easier to just dismiss myself from said event and be done with it. I will simply walk away and not care. The organizer seemed to be really pushy with what she wanted me to bring and even though I was getting annoyed by it all, she kept pressing. Too much for just a simple lunch with people you see every day. I was done and over it.

She came back to my desk later and tried once again to get me to go by “making arrangements for someone else to bring the gravy so you could bring the dinner rolls” but nope, I wasn’t budging.

“No need. I’m not going.”

So that was it; my mind was made up. I didn’t buy anything, packed a lunch for the day and planned on taking an extended lunch in my car (and taking a little nap, too). The way things work is that if the event is company sponsored, you can still leave at your normal ending time even if the event ran a bit longer than your traditional lunch period. Mine is 30 minutes but this was scheduled to last 1.5 hours, so I would definitely have time to enjoy a nap.

The lunch was taking place from 11:30 – 1:30 and right at about 11:30 I started to hear the sound of people taking their dishes to the lounge area. This went on for about 25 minutes before my supervisor went around and started gathering the troops. I continued to plug away at my desk.

“It’s time for our lunch! Are you going?”


“Oh…maybe? Okay…” She walked off and returned a few minutes later.

“So why the ‘maybe’?”

“I didn’t bring anything.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. There’s plenty of food!”