Today, my team went out to lunch to say goodbye to a couple of team members who are returning to their country of origin. My first instinct was to immediately decline, slide down the Batman pole I recently installed beneath the unused treadmill in the break room, and then duck down inside my car, listening to Stern as they drove out of the parking lot. I didn’t want to become a Language Victim again. What’s that, you ask?

(I know you asked. You had to. You’ve never heard that before, ’cause I just made it up. Stop googling it.)

When I went to Italy, there were many occasions where I was eating with a group of people who were talking to each other in loud, animated tones, about topics they were intensely knowledgeable about and interested in, and entirely in Italian. It sucked. Every 2 or 3 minutes, someone who could speak English would turn to me and either give me a 10 second synopsis of what the discussion was, or they’d give me a pity question like “So, you doing OK today, Damian?” just to make me feel like I was a vital part of the conversation. After I said “Yeah, I’m fine”, they would give me a thin smile, a curt nod, and they’d return to their discussion about the best place to buy goat milk or the finer points of Moussolini or whatever the hell they were discussing at the time. I was a victim of language. It was incredibly lonely, and I vowed then that from now on, when I want to be alone, I’ll be alone when I do it.

Alas, I discovered that my American partner in crime was going to go to this lunch, so I figured I’d better show up too, ’cause I don’t wanna be seen as a malcontent (or as someone with much better plans). So I went. And these are the rules that I developed while I was there. Some require additional information; some are self-explanatory.

Damian’s Five Unwritten Rules for Company Lunches

  1. Do not order for the entire group in a language that is not understood by the entire group. My boss decided we would eat ‘family style’, meaning we’d get a bunch of dishes, and all share. Problem was, he ordered in Chinese, and didn’t really tell us non-Chinese speakers what he ordered. Each dish was a surprise. I hate surprises when it comes to my food. Don’t say “Try it, you’ll like it”. I’m not 7. Tell me what the fuck it is I’m about to put in my mouth, and don’t be cute about it. I’ll be less mad if it’s squid and you TELL me it’s squid, than if you tell me it’s special shrimp and I bite into a suction cup. That’s your ass, then.
  2. Do not attempt to discuss religion at a table full of people with varied backgrounds. Need I even say more?
  3. Do not attempt to discuss politics at all. Especially when the discussion begins with the words “Your government”. Hey buddy, last time I checked, you lived here too, unless you’re commuting from Beijing everyday.
  4. Do not make loud jokes about how hot Korean women are, or how docile Japanese women are. Yeah. Seems reasonable, seeing as how there were women in attendence. And yet, it occurred. I just put my head down and ate.
  5. Do not invite people to lunch, as a group, under the guise of a company-sponsored outing, and then tell them AFTER they’ve eaten that “It comes out to $8.50 each” while you hold your hand out. When they said “company lunch”, I naturally (and mentally) slid the word “-sponsored” between “company” and “lunch”, and was prepared to get my eat on for free. However, knowing what I know about where I work, I also mentally prepared myself for the likelihood that I’d be coming out of pocket – kinda like when your broke-ass friend says “Hey, let’s go to the movies”, and you know good and damn well he hasn’t had money since “Friends” was on the air. So I was ready for it. And disappointed that I was yet again proven right by these guys.

Each day brings a bounty of knowledge to those who seek it.

Peace.

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