Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dream State During Business Hours

It seemed surreal at the time and yet all too real – similar to situations of my childhood and since, where I am the odd woman/girl out at a party or feel slow and stupid when called on in class... Games being played that I didn’t understand and couldn’t focus on…feeling stupid, worrying I am being rude, thinking I am being judged for my poor social performance. OOOOPPHH! Not a nightmare but merely (haha) my corporate department open house last month. I have to live with, need to process, the knowledge that I am probably the only employee who had such a strong reaction. From reading a couple of books about introversion I have learned that the freezing when asked to answer test-type questions out loud is not so unusual – introverts take longer when verbally quizzed because we tend to access our long-term memory before responding. We also prefer real conversations to…chit-chat?...talk that doesn’t lead to knowledge sharing? Social interactions where the purpose, outcome, are not clear? Anyway, the “dream” (surreal vision) itself… I had to get directions to a cubicle aisle upstairs that I had been to before but didn’t know the name of…there I met a group of people, some of who I knew, some I didn’t…we tried to follow our printed instructions that didn’t quite make sense…made our way to where multiple choice questions were yelled at us and we were told to squirt foam darts at targets outlined on the glass walls…I didn’t understand a lot of the questions and I struggled to operate my gun properly…soon I gave up my gun to a fellow team member but had to half-hide behind a column to avoid being pushed to shoot again…our company CEO strolled by and fired off a few darts, we all applauded his talent… It took me 20 minutes to realize the VP who was reading off the questions was wearing Dr. Spock ears. At the next workstation the questions on our slips of paper seemed even more complicated than at the foam-dart range…I pretended to write on my test paper with a pen but really just dropped my blank form into the “completed” box… I picked up a free calculator on the party favor table but it was dead so I slipped it back onto the pile. We arrived at the next stop early and a tall black man dressed in a Leprechaun Pimp outfit (yes, really) made conversation with us. I struggled with the Pimp’s written test although he told me I probably knew most of the answers (a compliment which only made me more tense). He was a nice funny man but I didn’t know how much I should stare at his hat or his four-leaf clover medallion. As in a typical dream, semi-significant people kept floating through – the hiring manager who didn’t hire me in January…an employee who I recruited who never smiles, I sure hope he is happy since it took us 6 months to find him…a peer who shares my love of Chucks and to my great gratification, noticed my new ear piercings! I think the department managers had been told to stock candy but not given budgets for it, nobody had good candy (i.e. nothing chocolate) but I was glad not to deal with food temptations.

One area was wallpapered with fake federal currency – that did tempt me – it was a feel-good look I might attempt in my home. After a little more time was killed we were in my own workstation area. When my coworkers (who were more practiced at the spin than I was) took over the tour narration I went to my desk and started working online. Too soon somebody noticed that and pointed me out like a fish in a tank, “Why is she working?” – so I had to rejoin the tour, at least temporarily (till that group went around the corner). My manager had designed a questionnaire whose questions encompassed sister departments – another test I knew I would fail, even though at least one question had to do with me. (“Hint: She is an art collector!”) Of the few of us in my department (two were out with new babies, one was out sick-yes really), I had been one of two assigned to split off early for a tour – the others had intensive guide duty for more than an hour and only now did they have their chance to be tourists – meaning that I and one other coworker now had to be the people explaining what the heck our gang did every day, all year. Uh… Sometimes when a new tour group came in my teammate was trapped on a phone call and I had to go solo (OMG!, nightmare stuff), other times I didn’t see the new arrivals, sometimes they came from a different direction and I couldn’t tell if they were starting or ending (I wanted to pretend they were ending, but if they stood still and stared at me I had to admit they were starting). Two departments down from my coworkers but still part of our group was the mailroom, a vast open space usually off-limits to all but mailroom people. Today it was a sea of flower-pattern cups containing cheese popcorn and other snacks. I went there twice, only once as part of a tour tidal wave – learned some things about the mailroom and put popcorn kernels in my colon. We were supposed to start our department presentation by talking about 6 photos on a poster board and I couldn’t remember what half those photos were…at one point the Spock-eared VP came by and I had to ask him who was which executive and what was which hospital – I thought he might be smirking at me but I might have overreacted to the pointed ears. But before that drama I had to go upstairs and find my group to finish my tourist circuit…we found our group way to an unnamed, unnumbered conference room that one of us (not me) somehow deduced was our destination. Inside were several tables’ worth of employees explaining special initiatives I barely understood. At one station I was given a plastic lei (what was that theme?) that scratched my skin – I took it off my neck and put it around my wrist, couldn’t tolerate it there either. Everyone in that room, some of whom I had earlier seen in other workstations (their energy was impressive but their continuous movement was creepily surreal) seemed to be doing a great job at whatever they were saying/doing – another insecurity attack for me… (This event did not play to my strengths.) On to a high-energy department decorated with cartoon photos (real faces on cartoon bodies, usually embarrassing for both the subject and the viewer) where the employees were wearing yellow tee shirts and red capes. More questions on a verbal quiz…I stood back as far as I dared. The prize was having your photo taken with a color scanner, printed out and taped to workstation walls… Uh, no…I backed up until I was near the stairwell and then crept down to my floor. If someone had asked me I would have said I had a deadline…

I felt like a rodent in more ways than one. Nope, the afternoon did not play to my strengths. It did trigger my instinct to burrow into or under something… I’m not sure if it was introvert overload or employee guilt, but the afternoon left me with a sense of unease. Friday afternoon…by the time I got home I was ready to cross the Chardonnay sea on a cork boat.