I started getting in trouble with a company-wide e-mail. There's nothing like a company-wide e-mail for getting in trouble, except being a celebrity thinking of a ``funny'' thing about a recent disaster. The celebrity gets off easy, emerging with freedom from endorsement contracts after composing an apology satisfying nobody particular that an apology has been composed by somebody and delivered to anybody, trapping nitrogen in the soil which plants use to feel even more smug.
My trouble was the invitation to the company Saint Patrick's Day lunch. The lunch isn't the hard part. At the risk of bragging I'm better at lunch than I am almost any part of the workday, including watching other people play Facebook games and disapproving of obsolete food in the fridge without throwing it out because nobody wants to indemnify whoever abandoned the pack of eight fajita rolls in 2008. The problem is the invitation to bring in ``anything you imagine''.
Imagine something to bring in? I don't have a good track record. For the Valentine's Day potluck I fretted for two weeks and finally brought in peppermint chocolate-covered USB cables. The guy at Radio Shack thought they would never sell, and gathered around all the sales clerks to watch me buying them. That should have warned me. The taste was fine but we were picking music download codes from our teeth for days. And they were Napster codes.
For the Christmas one again I brought a bowl of pencils and hand sanitizer. It was appreciated by the crossword puzzle fans with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but there aren't any in the office and we ended up abandoning the bowl in the street, where the suspicious sight was believed to be some kind of practical joke. Pedestrians came from up to five blocks away to avoid it.
It's been even worse. I was so upset preparing for August Bank Holiday potluck that three separate people had to remind me there's no such thing. Calendar makers just put that with a little (Observed UK) tag so the month doesn't look quite so barren. I brought jellied staple removers.
I considered making some kind of bread from the bones of everyone who tries passing off a joke about eating babies even though they've never read any Swift voluntarily, but the authorities disapprove of bone breads, and since I'd probably get caught up in that sweep I have to disapprove too. Curse my misspent teenage snottiness!
Finally I went to the lunch organizer and said, ``I can't imagine anything for the Saint Patrick's Day lunch, I can't even imagine imagining anything, I'm starting to doubt this Saint Patrick fellow ever existed, and now I'm getting skeptical about this `Ireland' thing too.'' That last was overstating things; I accept most of Ireland but would like to see the raw data on County Sligo, please. She said anything would be welcome and William Butler Yeats grew up there.
The sign-up sheet went up and others grabbed the obvious once I saw them choices: corned beef, cabbage, soda bread, soda water, soda, water, and an apology Jenny Lind published after her ``unfortunately misinterpreted'' quip regarding the potato famine. I asked another programmer what he was bringing in, and he hid underneath the desk and threw wadded-up balls of paper at me until I retreated. Clearly I'd hit a deep nerve, since the paper that fanfold stuff from movies about oppressive conspiratorial computers in the 70s, and you can hardly get it since the Forbin Project switched to inkjet printers.
Another programmer, one who shares my name --- we've worked out agreeable terms --- was planning to bring in Allen wrenches. I said that didn't seem very Saint Patrick-y, and he realized he could paint them green. So we got him off to a better start at least. He suggested I bring in a bag full of rubber snakes which we could cast out, maybe toward the bowl of pencils and hand sanitizer.
With enormous doubts I brought in sock brownies sprinkled with Samuel Pepys's regrets that his comments about Cromwell's invasion were taken in an ``inappropriate context'', and began worrying about the Easter potluck.
Trivia: Lord Berkeley sold his half of the Colony of New Jersey to Major John Fenwick, a newly converted Quaker, ``for and in consideration of one thousand pounds'' on 18 March 1673. Fenwick was apparently the front man for another Quaker, Edward Byllynge. Source: New Jersey: America's Main Road, John T Cunningham. (Berkeley/Fenwick's holdings would become the colony of West New Jersey before becoming the west of the colony of New Jersey.)
Currently Reading: Wine: The 8,000-Year-Old Story Of The Wine Trade, Thomas Pellechia.