Dante’s 9th Circle – Work Parties

I’m allergic to wild parties, rarely ever touch alcohol anymore, and I’m untrusting of people who email with deadlines and “gentle reminders”.

See article.

Fair play to her.

The irony of course is that she may have stayed at her demanding job had she not also been forced to endure the “rewards” of her job, namely the endless and compulsory asshole socialising.  

Typically, company management are extroverts; i.e., people who are energised by noise, small talk and physical proximity to other people.  When they feel exhausted after working hard, they recharge their batteries by noisy, shallow, and usually binge-drinking socialising.  This of course works for extroverts, and, in typical extrovert fashion, they assume that this must therefore work for everyone.

It’s important to state this.  The folks dragging you out to such godawful events are good people, with kind intentions.  They genuinely want to see you “having a good time”.

Having no understanding of / tolerance for introverts whatsoever – despite introverts making up circa 50% of the population – they’re acting out of the best of intentions.

But in their minds, an introvert merely is “shy”, or has some sort of personality disorder which needs to be “cured” by lots of compulsory fun.  To get you “out of your shell” lol. 

In reality, as an introvert, I’m generally the cockiest person in any room, the one with no nerves about speaking in public, the one with the loudest and most vociferously-expressed opinions etc, the one who interrupts most, etc.  I have zero social anxiety, and never had.

But I’m still an introvert.  I’m happiest by myself, or one-to-one, or in very small groups. 

Big noisy shallow events bore me fucking rigid.  Large groups bore me.  People in groups rarely ever say anything remotely controversial, or interesting.  Hell, they’re never even funny.  It’s all ha-ha-ha-bullshit-bullshit small talk, small talk, small talk, ha ha ha.  For fucking hours on end.  To make the tedium more bearable, I take refuge in quipping and piss-taking.  I have spent hours of my life being entertaining for other people, and they often seem to enjoy it, and tell me I’m “good crack”. 

Invariably though, I’m getting nothing out of it whatsoever, and am counting the seconds until I can make my excuses and get the fuck out of Dodge.      

But extroverts would feel guilty if you were “left out”.

It never occurs to them that so being “left out” might be the highlight of your day.  A blessed release. 

I’ve lost count of the amount of times in my working life where, after a hard day’s negotiating in meeting rooms, all I wanted was to head back to my nice hotel room, change, have a walk around an unfamiliar city, enjoy avoiding getting mugged, soak up the local atmosphere (e.g., go into a café or bar by myself – much more interesting than hiding in a group, swapping inanities), go outside and take a few photos of interesting bridges or architectural tableaux, and then head back and have a bath before turning in.    

Instead, the pressure is always on to head out for an expensive and overly-rich meal (too late for food anyway) and a shed-load of bullshit oldest-swinger-in-town, student-union style binge drinking, talking ha-ha-ha type shite to people I have nothing in common with and no interest in getting to know, as a “reward” for all the prior hard work.  And, because one is motivated to keep the deal and the investment, one must therefore hide one’s true personality, and be as professionally-vanilla as possible.  I’ve had hour-long conversations where I mainly said nothing other than “Really?” and “Quite”.  Bring your true personality to work, my arse. To get away with doing that, you’d either have to be very middle-class / boring to begin with, or be a bit of a simpleton.

I quite like sitting on calls or in meetings rooms, as I see it as necessary to get stuff done.  

But the sheer detail of the agreements reached bears eloquent witness to how little trust there is between us, and how little we have in common with each other.  

This is business.  Deals will be implemented, or not, based on commercial synergies and mutual self-interest.  If a deal falls out of bed commercially, all the prior carousing in the world will not save it.  As soon as the financial wind changes, all your new buddies will happily claw your eyes out, and conversely.  All your buddy-buddy extrovert socialising is a waste of time. 

I loved work culture in the 1990s.  People did their work, tried to shaft each other, and never wasted any time on perpetuating the dumb idea that the serendipity of commercial alignment meant that we were all besties, ffs.   

In a group, I’m boring, and so are you.  Everyone in a large group automatically becomes boring. 

Down the years, extroverted work colleagues have spent lots of time and money organising expensive piss-ups, often in far-off countries. 

Tellingly, very few / none of them has ever said to anyone – how about you and your missus come round to our gaff for a bite to eat and a chat some night? Such small, quiet get-togethers, where I can actually get to know you, and where quick-fire, nuanced, banter can flow and develop, and wherein interesting topics can be discussed, are what I enjoy. 

This is best illustrated by a typical night out a few years ago.  After an enjoyable dinner in a quiet restaurant, off we all traipsed to a more suitable bar. 

By “suitable”, it was of course large, and “not dead”.  That is, it was jammed to the fucking rafters, and unbearably noisy.  Obviously, you couldn’t sit down.  No seats available.  Obviously, beyond the most basic grunts, conversation was impossible.  Obviously, a cover band from hell loudly was murdering various classic pop songs, at ear-splitting volume.  You had nowhere to set down a glass, so you had to hold your drink all the time.  All the fucking time.  Actually, drinking was itself difficult.  So great was the throng that merely lifting a glass to your mouth without it being jostled was a task which required considerable forward planning.

Deprived of good conversation, deprived of a place to sit down, I resigned myself to an evening of sheer tedium.  “*&!*!@&*!!” roared one of my friends, happily, in my general direction.  “AARGH!”, I responded, grinning, and he nodded, satisfied. 

Once, in a vain attempt to hear anything at all of someone’s conversation, we actually butted foreheads, in an attempt to see if the conversational vibrations reverberating in our respective skulls could be deciphered.  Aha, a faint buzzing was discernible in his cranial cavity.  I tried to decode it.  Was he talking about football, perhaps?  Who knew.  Certainly not me. 

You might as well have attempted to have had a good conversation beside guys digging up a pavement with jack hammers. 

In despair, I resigned myself to a long period of standing there, unable to speak, unable to hear, unable to sit down, barely able to drink. 

As the hours passed, I shifted from foot to foot, to relieve cramp, and turned my head to one side, in a vain attempt to lessen the hearing damage being perpetrated by the asshole cover band.  (I remember having fantasies about running up and emptying beers into their equipment to see if that might short circuit them.  Hopefully, electrocute them too.) 

The boredom, the sense of paradoxical isolation, the physical discomfort, all were intense and un-relenting, and the fun night dragged on.   

I’ve endured much more interesting sermons in churches. 

But here’s the rub.  So many people in that black hole of Calcutta genuinely appeared delighted. 

“WOO-HOO”, yelled one of our group, clearly ecstatic, for no reason that I could discern.  “GREAT NIGHT!”

 “AARGH!” I yelled, and he nodded happily, satisfied.

So it was something of an “amen, brother” moment for me when I chanced upon this excellent blog post, by the quietly-droll blogger, Wait But Why.  As he notes:

 “Just 30 minutes earlier, this guy was at dinner with his friends—talking, laughing, and sitting comfortably. Now, luckily, the real fun has begun.”

Blog post here

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