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Oh what fun…

December 22, 2010

It’s definitely that time of year, my friends. The time when we all hustle and bustle, which translates generally to “run in circles”. We’ve reached the week right before the holidays. Probably the least productive work week of the year. I notice how my colleagues schlep around the office, mumbling something unintelligible about the weather or the news, as if for some reason they just can’t make it to 5 pm. I guess the anticipation of being off for the holidays is just too great to actually do any real work. The temptation of following suit by sitting half-comatose in my office, concentrating only on keeping the saliva in my mouth, I have been resisting. I am making these final work weeks of the year ones of extreme productiveness, so that when I return to work in January, I feel refreshed and ready and not loaded with work that should have been done in twenty-ten.

The Office Christmas Party

I am often thwarted by Christmas/holiday parties and random celebrations with cake every time someone so much as passes gas. Well ok, despite my crassness and obvious sardonicism, I actually was looking forward to the staff Christmas party. It was to be my very first. I decided to even wear a tie that day. When I purchased my ticket, I politely asked if I could request a vegan meal, that is, a meal without any meat, dairy products, or eggs. The ticket mistress said yes, that should not be a problem, but I will have to verify with the caterers. She then proceeded to write in block letters on the back of my ticket: “NO EGGS NO DAIRY”. I scrunched up my face. She told me that it may be necessary to show this to the ticket collectors in case I run into any problems. I felt like I was doing something illegal, or at least distasteful. At the party, the people who requested special meals got different colour cards to display for the servers so they would know who got the special meals. For example, the gluten-frees got an orange card and the lacto-ovo-vegetarians got a green card. When it was my turn to show my ticket, I said that I was to be receiving a pre-requested special meal, a vegan meal. This is how the conversation went down.

Me: “Hello! I also have a special meal. I’m vegan.”

Ticket Collector: “Right… unfortunately we don’t have a card for you. There is no special colour for vegans.”

Me: (dumbfounded) Oh.

(It was then that I realised, I was going to be the only vegan attending the party.)

Me: “But my meal was specially ordered in advance. How will the servers know that I am to receive the vegan meal?”

TC: “When they come around, flag one of them down and let them know that you’re the vegan meal. Show them your ticket if you need to.”

(I peered once again at my crumpled ticket. NO EGGS NO DAIRY stared back at me. It could have just as easily said NO ONE CARES. I was forced to “make a scene” by contacting a server in front of my colleagues and ask for the vegan meal. For some reason, this time I was looking forward to being discreet. To just receiving my special meal without having to ask for it.)

So as expected, at the table surrounded by friendly colleagues, I was served the soup with everyone else and I had to tell them that I was the “vegan meal”. She was quick to respond and returned with the same soup, minus the swirl of cream at the top.

Server: “The cook says the soup is fine for you, just without the cream swirl.”

(I stared at her suspiciously, then I quoted my ticket.)

Me: “So no eggs no dairy?”

(She stared back at me with equal suspicion.)

Server: “No.”

(Split second of awkward silence.)

Me: “OK thank you!”

And I ate the soup, cursing myself for not having the courage to ask if it had any meat stock in it. A colleague to my left turned to me and mockingly asked how I could be sure that this was vegan. I told him that I wasn’t, and when I go out to non-veg restaurants, I generally am never sure that what I order will truly be vegan. I told him that I was going with trust at this point and hoping that people have enough of an ethical backbone not to trick a vegan into eating animals or animal products. I think he wanted me to respond with something witty, but instead, I put on my dead serious face, as I often do when someone starts joking about vegans.

Celebrate with cake.

And then there was that day when I was invited to yet another hallway gathering outside the kitchenette at work celebrating the engagement or wedding of some lovely co-worker to whom I have said no more than 4 words. Obligatorily at these events is the cake involved which is swimming in eggs and dairy. Needless to say, not my thing. In fact, marriage celebrations are not my thing either, so that was two strikes for this get-together in particular. The fact that I did not know the guest of honour very well was pretty much strike three. I had no reason to be there. I thought these parties were “optional”. They aren’t. I was chastised out of my office by a co-worker for not looking like I was preparing to go. I apologised and hurried to the hallway where everyone was gathering. The coworker who had angrily encouraged me to attend was handing out cake slices. When I politely declined, I got an angry look and a roll of the eyes which could be best translated, I think, as “What… you think you’re better than us? Are you too good for a slice of cake?” My counter-expression after that could easily be translated to “Really?!?” Why is it that we have to feel obliged to ingest copious amounts of dairy fat and sugar in the morning so that we are being a “team player” and celebrating something (that means absolutely nothing to us) appropriately? What if I were on a diet? What if I were celiac or diabetic, or lactose intolerant, or allergic to eggs, or *gasp* vegan? People need to understand that if you are going to invite everyone to an event and expect them to be there, you need to make them feel welcome. Nowadays, there are many people who can’t eat a traditional cake, and even more people who just don’t want to (especially in the morning). I eventually returned to my office muttering to myself, “Look sweetheart, if you want me to come to these ridiculous get-togethers, then ensure I feel welcome.” I would have liked to have said that to my angry co-worker, but I didn’t. I’m not one for unnecessarily stirring the fire and causing tension at the workplace. Instead, I will make a point of always going to these insipid pseudo-optional office events, so that I appear to be “one of the gang”. However, I will not be caught dead eating the cake.

Happy holidays!

For another holiday post by me on the vegottawa blog, please check out:

Being veg over the holidays

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    December 22, 2010 10:53 pm

    Insist on staying productive the week before Christmas, hm? Ah, the charming folly of youth…just you wait, my dear… Drool….

  2. Gab permalink
    December 23, 2010 3:24 am

    Happy Holidays to you!! You have no idea how much I can relate to your above story. Mainly because for years I have been the one planning the events, and I have been the one fighting to ensure the chef is ready to meet the needs of my guests! Most venues now a days pride themselves on being open to all dietary requirements, some however are still in the dark ages. Do you have a Diversity Department at your workplace? It sounds like they really need one. Last big place I worked we had a National Director of Diversity, his sole job: To ensure all employees feel included at all times. Especially in ‘social’ situations. Come one workplace, keep moving forward!!!

    Cheers to 2011!!

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