Coworker #1: We should eat in the breakroom.
Coworker #2: I agree.
Coworker #3: We should eat in the conference room.
Coworker #2: That makes sense.
Coworker #1: Where are most people?
Coworker #3: The breakroom.
Coworker #2: No they aren’t.
Coworker #1: Then let’s go there.
Coworker #3: Ok.
Everyone wound up eating in an entirely separate meeting room. My coworker’s comment on this was “we aren’t stubborn, we will easily listen to a leader, but no one usually wants to be one.”
The CARe seminar is an annual event focused on property casualty reinsurance actuaries. Almost the entire work group was present from across three time zones and we had gotten permission to go canoeing.
We headed to the canoe rental place, changed, all received life preservers that made us look like idiots, and were taken a few miles up stream on the Brandywine river. I opted to canoe at the request of a coworker who had no watercraft experience and wanted me to pilot. I had no problem doing this until she screamed whenever we approached either the banks or an overhanging branch. This wasn’t the kind of gentle scream of surprise or a yell so much as the scream of someone being stabbed. I was relieved to find that she made the same scream while using a trampoline.
After a little under two hours, we left the Brandywine Creek, a remarkably domesticated body of water and went to one of my coworker’s houses for a bit of a barbecue.
We were all there. It sounds trite but my team very rarely gets together. The last time was 16 months ago and that was only for an global meeting of the analytical teams. Here we were, chatting and eating in a first order approximation of friendship. Everyone still had a certain amount of excess courtesy but we were by and large relaxed. We ate well, drank a little, and then had a camp fire. There was a guitar that two people played acceptably but sadly no one knew how to play any songs that everyone knew. A Québécois coworker played what seemed like the Tracy Chapman version of “What’s Up?” by Four Non-Blondes and we filed out when we were done.
I have trouble calling most of my coworkers friends. There are two notable exceptions, one being a coworker with whom at first I clung too for mutual self-defense and another whom I helped get hired. They both felt a little more distant here. My two previous workplaces spoiled me. One was a summer camp and the other was medical device design. The former involved one living with ones coworkers and the other had project arcs that were long enough that one often worked long hours for an extended stretch with a group. No one would be able to do all aspects of a medical project so you got used to relying on people. At my current workplace, many projects are parallelized more than anything with no one having unique abilities in the group. The distance could be born to the stereotypical introversion of actuaries or maybe I’m too noisy. In the mean time, I will keep giving them baked goods.