Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Morale boosters

One of the nice things about being down here is that they often do try
to make your life better. It's tough, mostly because they spend so
much time trying to make your life rotten that they get out of
practice.

Take Christmas dinner. One of the customs of my employer is that on
big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, they more senior members
"turn the tables" on themselves, and man the steam tables to serve
dinner to the more junior. It's a nice touch, and I've always
appreciated it. But this past Christmas, when I went to dinner, I
saw something that made our custom pale in comparison, at least in my
eyes.

We all eat in a communal facility, a cafeteria, if you will. This
includes not just the people I work for and with, but those of our
partners from other countries. As I entered on Christmas day, looking
forward to a nice dinner (they do tend to go "all out" on the food as
well) I noticed one of our British brethren, a more senior type,
standing in the door. He greeted me pleasantly enough, wished me a
Happy Christmas, and held the door for me. I stepped inside, picked
up a tray, and headed for the line. I noticed the sounds of jollity
from the room, but didn't think anything of it as I collected my
shrimp cocktail, steamship round of beef, turkey, mashed potatoes,
corn, and brussels sprouts (yes, sprouts! I was a happy guy). The
senior leadership behind the steam tables were cheerful, offering
generous helpings with a "Merry Christmas," but they were also joking
and talking amongst themselves. Now, granted, there's only so much
room behind a steam table, and so when two are serving, where else are
the other 10 going to go? They're going to stand behind, hanging
about, and chatting. I didn't think much of it at the time, as I
headed to a table.

Looking about, and not seeing anyone I knew, I moved toward a
nearly-empty table near the back of the room. It was then that I
noticed that the aforementioned jollity was coming from a group of
tables right next to the one I had chosen. I sat down, and looked
over. There were a group of very junior Brits, sitting at tables,
being waited on (table service, no steam table lines for them!) by
some VERY senior Brits. I mean VERY senior. And the seniors were
having a ball, waiting hand and foot upon the lowest of the low. And
the juniors were laughing and chatting, and ordering the boss's boss's
boss to take back the sundae he had just made, because there was too
much whipped cream on it, or demanding a bigger helping of stuffing.
And it was amazing. The cameraderie was palpable.

It made me jealous.

And then, as I watched, I noticed someone sit down directly across
from me at my table. I looked up, and noticed that it was the second
most-senior person at the whole place. And an American. I waited for
him to make eye contact, to wish him Merry Christmas.

He never looked up. He never said a word. He ate his dinner like a
man on a mission, in silence.

I looked over at the laughing Brits, and thought, "I thought our
leadership was doing a nice thing, but THAT's the way this should be
done." I turned to the very senior American. I'll call his name, I
thought, wish him a Merry Christmas anyway. But he was already
walking away, his tray empty.

I finished my pie, and went back to my room. Someday I'll be in a
senior leadership position. I hope I remember this Christmas when
it's my turn to man the steam tables.

1 comment:

SusieH said...

PLease, sir, may I have some more? More blog, that is? Love you!!