As often observed, offices create weird families. Haphazardly formed, they both contain similar components of unity and division; joy and grief.
Take mine, for instance, an office universally considered within our institution as containing an unusual number of saints, misfits, talented, myopic, incompetent, insane (i.e. me) true believers and hanger-ons. Part of the reason is due to us being a creative division and this no doubt injects another layer of mayhem. But over time it can sort of be said that a hard-won measure of acceptance and peace settled among us.
Sharing a meal is one factor that enables both blood and perfunctory families to join together. No matter how brief the encounter, gathering around a table brings forth an appreciation, and even celebration, of all our differences. Our office accomplished several outings with good results and this week’s peanut butter and jelly day hoped to achieve the same.
The event resulted from the astonishing discovery that our newest member never ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her life. Being Australian was no excuse. She’s lived in this country long enough to have experienced the classic American school lunch staple. The esteemed grouch among us even exclaimed he’d no longer have anything to do with her until she consumed a pb&j. Clearly, the situation needed to be swiftly rectify, especially since she’s refreshingly skilled, charming, funny, and a unifying presences. We agreed on the proper ingredients: chunky peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly. A tiny squabble erupted over the choice of Wonder bread, if only because our palettes and diets have greatly changed over the decades. The holdouts finally concurred that the bread’s unique squishy and tasteless qualities enabled the peanut butter and jelly to smash just right together.
With all differences resolved, jars and a loaf of Wonder appeared on the conference table the next day.
This is how we made our sandwich:
Take 2 pieces of Wonder bread
Spread one slice with peanut butter
The other with jelly (A slight altercation broke out over how much jelly to use. The cafeteria matron protested but finally scraped some jelly off to maintain peace.)
Cut the sandwich in two halves (Another disagreement popped up–to cut in the middle or on an angle; crust or no crust. The cafeteria matron stood fast to follow her own preference. As you may be gathering by this point, the staff can be annoyingly opinionated.)
The Australian took her first bite, mulled over all the flavors melting in her mouth, and then smiled.
Ta-da! Mission accomplished–the birth of a true American! The conference room filled with laughter as the staff grabbed bread slices and lined up for the fixings. We shared personal memories of other childhood lunch favorites and disgusts (baloney seemed to win in the revolting category) and all decided to inaugurate a regular school lunch day.
A side note: The boss thought it fair we should try a favorite Australian ingredient and brought out Vegemite.
Two of us ventured to try it: one savored its interesting taste:
The other struggled not to spit it out.
I like to think that the spirit of this little lunch brought us closer together as much as the peanut butter and jelly stuck to the roof of our mouths. However, a few hours later an unsettling blow-up with deep repercussions rippled across all our desks. We behaved as many families do by coping in our individual fashions. Some hoped that, one way or another, the rend would bring about fruitful change. Others despaired the old contentious days would return. The sane few chose to put their heads down and concentrate on their lives outside the office.
Maybe only baloney sandwiches will bring us all once more around the table. I don’t know, though.