Company picnics and other torture

I love dreams about company picnics and reunions (not) – they’re almost as bizarre as the events themselves. It’s been many years since I worked a nine-to-five job in a downtown office high rise but I still have nightmares about the experience. Company picnics and holiday parties were expected to improve morale but that rarely happened.

However, I still feel sorry for the organizers of the last company picnic I attended. Times were tough and so they had to find a relatively inexpensive site which is not an easy task in the SF Bay Area, Finally they found a campground no one had heard of on the eastern slopes of Mount Diablo. Even for people who knew that area well, it was a bitch to find. Thus employees arriving from far away with carloads full of antsy children were beyond dismayed to learn that, on a scorching hot day, the campground’s two “olympic size pools with diving boards and slides” were closed. The reason, the ongoing drought had forced rattlesnakes and other critters down from the mountain in search of any source of water… even the chlorinated variety. The swimming pools were full of snake, mice, gophers … you name it. Some dead, some alive.

The organizers tried to make up for this unfortunate event by setting up a dunking tank and convincing the company’s most loathed director to be the “dunkee.” Lines of disgruntled employees lined up to dunk the man who made their working lives a torture only to find out he was having the time of his life. After each dunking he arose from the water, fist pumping the air. “I was in the Massod. Bring on your flimsy attempts to torture me! ” Eventually it wasn’t fun to watch the most despised man in the company enjoying the only container of water not filled with rattlesnakes.

We’d had to forego the traditional barbecuing of hot dogs and hamburgers because of the high fire risk and so, for lunch we had our choice of boxed lunches, each containing a sandwich, chips and a cookie. The organizers hoped to make up for the rather bland lunch with a piñata contest. Only the piñatas they’d bought and filled with candy had been manufactured to withstand a nuclear blast. After blindly whacking the darn things and getting not one treat, the little children soon gave up and moved on to the petting zoo. Some of the older kids gave it a try but most were insulted by even being asked to participate and moved onto their established bitching grounds. The menfolk, having been fortified by their allotted ration of beer, then stepped up to bat. They were determined to whack the shit out of the cute little donkeys and zebras, probably because the dunking tank had provided no satisfaction. After the slaughter was complete, the children were invited back to pick through the debris for whatever candy they could find. Needless to say, they looked a bit bewildered. This is fun mommy?

Last night I dreamt that I took the children of a serial killer to my company picnic. The serial killer was the daughter of someone (who will remain nameless) that I once worked with. The picnic was to be held at lake but it turned out to be a large puddle by a railroad track. The serial killer’s children turned on me and then luckily I woke up.

I wonder if my dreams would be much more pleasant if I hadn’t worked so many years in corporate America. What do you think??

* Images are all from Bing Images

23 thoughts on “Company picnics and other torture

  1. A pool full of snakes: Snakes on a Picnic – yay!
    Corporot prolly deserves crappy moral-building exercises.
    Small teams — sure. That can work. But company-wide? Even departmental-wide are too impersonal, to perfunctory. “Take the monies you would have spent and git it to a homeless family of our choosing.”
    This reminds me of the stupid “Here’s a $15 coupon to, a little something for your hard work.” What? X 1000 would be $15,000 — one hell of a gift to some destitute family or economy-ravaged individual.

    1. We used to get company branded tee shirts, coffee cups and hats as bonuses! Generally our events were organized by the HR department which was the same department that orchestrated lay off events!

  2. Wow. So much fodder here.

    “I wonder if my dreams would be much more pleasant if I hadn’t worked so many years in corporate America.” Corporate America has become a brutal slog. You report to a middle manager who thinks that working 18 hours a day and shooting off emails at 2 AM is normalcy and that middle manager expects that you keep the same regimen. If not, you’re looked down on as a slacker. And God forbid that you would take PTO. And by the way don’t even think of taking time off for being sick.

    By and large the companies I worked for didn’t offer picnics and when they did holiday parties, they were on the cheap.

    My best job was working for a retail hardware store in Downtown San Francisco. The owner of the store remained detached from picnics but he threw for the expense of a site and the burgers and dogs. He even winked and threw some cash for incidentals (read: beer and booze). Everything else was potluck. Those picnics were largely organic, dreamed up by the staff. They were the best. It was the same with holiday parties.

    “Company picnics and holiday parties were expected to improve morale but that rarely happened.” That’s because a holiday party or picnic requires a monetary investment and the planning takes away from “valuable” work time. Picnics are bestowed begrudgingly and that position is an unveiled one that drains the air out of the balloon. Financing parties is only slightly better than corporate taxes.

    I did get to see the other, rarer side of the coin. My wife used to work for Clif Bar. They spared no expense for parties and gatherings. It really was a team building experience. My wife has long since retired, Clif Bar was sold and the corporate owners have “f’ed” it up.

    1. You’re so right. I remember that during the boom the parties were legendary but then the bubble popped and you had to buy your own pencils. I guess it’s just human nature. My brother owned his own small company and they always had pot lucks and he bought the booze – his employees are still incredibly loyal to him.

    1. We were off site at a “treat the customers like they’re kings” seminar when we found out the company was laying off 1/3 of the workers. Those of us at the seminar were spared but so many friends weren’t. Boy did it piss us off.

  3. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh! They call it team building now in my day here in the UK it was called “works outings” I agree they were never a good idea and always best to be avoided!

  4. Ah yes, company picnics and what I thought was worse– Holiday Parties. At least at a picnic you were outside in fresh air, but once trapped inside at a party *oy vey* the stress. I don’t miss any of that forced frivolity.

    1. Holiday parties – my least favorite thing was having to get gussied up and finding a babysitter! And then everyone acting like they were back at the high school prom. Ugh.

  5. So strange that you wrote and published this, as I’ve too been having strange, vivid dreams about previous jobs and those I worked with. One of the dreams has prompted me to check if I have a forgotten pension waiting for me to claim. I hope so.

    1. Wow – I hope so! A lot of people forget about the pension owed them (the company’s certainly not going to remind you!) I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.

  6. Admittedly Jan, I’ve never had these sorts of dreams, but I never attend corporate functions. I never have and it hasn’t impeded me. The fact that no one else can do my job helps, I suppose 😁

    1. Okay Robbie – what is your super power? I must know so that I can acquire it – should I go back to the 9 to 5 gig. Do you speak Martian, perhaps? ; )

      1. Haha, no, I am just one of the only people left in this country who can do my job. We were only a few even 20 years ago. I have resigned 8 times in last 6 years and each time I agree to stay on I rid myself of things I don’t like doing. My job is very stressful and I don’t have any proper help as it takes years to learn to do it and I also, as an individual, have a great affinity for what I do. I think very differently from most people.

  7. Yes, company events can be a bore. Though I never attended one with rattlesnakes. (There were a couple of the two-legged variety, but that is part of the show…)
    “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…?”
    Your dream might stir a story…

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