When Potlucks Go Awry

It’s been an interesting week at CenturyCo, capped off with a visit by the fire department this morning.

This is what happens when potlucks go awry.

Could’ve been worse, though: at least our building didn’t burn down. The close call merely resulted in a smoke-filled office, blaring fire alarms, and a forced evacuation. You know, typical everyday work stuff. Only three of us pulled an Elvis and actually Left the Building, though. Yes, I was one of them. Look, I love my job, but not enough to spend eternity as a pile of ashes in the rubble of my former office.

We were never in any actual danger. What happened was, one of the fellas was cooking a glaze for his sous vide pork shoulder roast on the stove (‘cause we fancy here), left it unattended, and it boiled over. Quick action on the part of my supervisor prevented the kitchen from erupting in flames. Thank goodness, because we had to jump through HR hoops just to get their okay for a potluck in the first place. A socially distanced one, I might add. All the food was set out in a conference room and we were all required to mask up and put on disposable gloves before filling our plates, one at a time, while the others watched and exchanged banter over Microsoft Teams.

It was a little awkward having a dozen people watch while you piled food on your plate. When it came time to eat, in the privacy of our respective offices, I turned off my camera and muted the audio. Camaraderie only goes so far. But kudos to CenturyCo for pulling this off! Though I have come to despise the word “pivot” as much as everybody else, I will admit we’ve done an excellent job at that.

Case in point: our Christmas party on Thursday. Here’s what it looked like:

The live event was virtual, held over Microsoft Teams. While it lacked certain things that an in-person party would have — like food, alcohol, and entertainment — it was still a festive enough gathering, and the company gave away 116 prizes drawn at random. I was thrilled when my name was called; I was lucky to snag a $100 prize. We have the choice of four physical gifts or a comparably valued gift card. I’m taking the card, since I really don’t need a 23andMe DNA Kit, 3D pen set, external hard drive, or HEPA air purifier.

I just appreciate that, even in the midst of a pandemic, we found a way to have a celebration. A lot of companies might not even bother trying.

Another festive event we had was dubbed 14 Days of Quarantine. Beginning on December 2, we’ve had daily contests revolving around a theme. Candy Cane Day, Ugly Sweater Day, Build a Snowman Day, that sort of thing. I’ve been doing my best to get creative. For instance: up until a few days ago, we hadn’t seen a single snowflake since October. With all the warm, dry weather, I had to go in a different direction.

Quarantine snowman

Yesterday’s theme was Holiday Critter Day, in which we had to dress our pets and submit photos for a chance to win a prize. This was my entry:

I was proud of myself for thinking outside of the box (literally). Kinda bummed that I didn’t win a prize, but all of those went to the dogs. Again, literally. Anybody can throw a sweater on a schnauzer, wrap ribbon around a Rottweiler, or put a bowtie on a beagle, c’mon! I suspect the winners were drawn at random. Today is the last day of the contest, and probably my best shot at snagging a prize. The theme is Office Decorating Contest, and as you might recall, I kinda went overboard with that the weekend after Thanksgiving. At the risk of sounding corny, it’s made coming to work every day joyful and bright. 

This holiday season has felt especially festive this year, even with all the crap going on in the world. All the lights put me in a good mood. We got an unexpected couple inches of snow this week. Financially speaking, Tara and I are better off than we’ve ever been in our lives; little luxuries are turning into realities: we’re talking about adding a kitchen island, replacing our (Doris’) refrigerator; and taking actual vacations, once the pandemic is over. Speaking of, South Dakota’s active COVID cases have dropped 20% over the past two weeks and are now at their lowest numbers since October 21; not sure if this is a temporary lull (the calm before the spike?), but I hope that trend continues.

I did the math this morning, and I like the numbers: we both have five of the next nine days off. That helps stoke the Christmas spirit, too!

18 thoughts on “When Potlucks Go Awry

  1. I jumped on this just to give you a cheap thrill. Also, I have your post open in two windows so I can read and comment as I read. Oh yeah!
    “We fancy here.” Heh heh.
    Okay, so I’m a straight up dork, but what does pivot mean here? Clearly, this isn’t something I’m doing any of.
    Having people stare at you while you get food. Ugh. I would so hate that. Were you peer pressured into getting those carrots on your plate?
    What the heck is a 3D pen set? The $100 was a smart choice.
    Rock you like a candycane. I really don’t care for Christmas music, but I may have to look that one up.
    Shocked no one stole the TP from your snowman. That snow is solid gold, yo!
    “At the risk of sounding corny, it’s made coming to work every day joyful and bright.” You shouldn’t have taken that risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You haven’t heard the term pivot a thousand times this year? Lucky you. From a business standpoint, it means to switch gears and move in a different direction than anticipated.

      “Rock You Like a Candycane” is my own personal playlist. Feel free to look it up and follow if you want!


  2. Mark, fire can be very scary so I’m happy to read it wasn’t serious. I remember back in 2015 when my apartment building caught fire and the tenants had to spend 13 hrs. out on the street until they could make sure it was safe for us to go back inside.

    Happy to hear that your potluck and virtual event went well too!

    OMG, that toilet paper snowman with mask is freaking HILARIOUS! Love the coffee cup top that was used as a hat. VERY clever!

    And of course, as I shared on your Instagram page, your pet rock idea was stellar!

    Oh, and speaking of SNOW….we got a really nice snow storm this week. I was jumping up and down like a kid, and twirling around in it on the streets of Philadelphia.

    Have a super weekend, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was following your weather with keen interest, Ron…knowing how happy you were to finally have a nice snowstorm! I hope you took a million photos and choose to post 999,995 or so.

      Have a great weekend!


  3. I love Quarantine Snowman. What a fun company to work for! I am a little shocked that HR allowed a potluck. The kitchen at my husband’s office is taped off, so coffee makers aren’t even being shared. Not that there are many people even going in right now. Our numbers are really bad here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think given the extreme safety precautions we were taking (stove notwithstanding), it was pretty hard to argue against the potluck. I’m glad we were able to do it, but definitely look forward to more “normal” ones in the future.


  4. The fire department! Very exciting. You guys know how to party.

    Our numbers are trending up. Way up. Our ICUs are full. At this point I’m more worried about having a car accident and being left to die in the ambulance than getting COIVD.

    Liked by 1 person

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