01 Feb I love my new job but I don’t understand the mandatory popsicles
For the past month I’ve been working at this new place downtown.
I sit at a desk all day and enter numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. It is mind numbing, repetitive and anti-social.
I love it.
I have a spacious cubical, my own computer, and a chair with lumbar support.
Best of all is the lax working environment. As long as you met your quota each day, management takes a hands-off approach.
However, there is one rule they rigorously enforce.
At the beginning of each workday, every employee is required to gather in the boardroom and eat a popsicle.
They offer a simple spread of cherry, grape and mango. For the diabetic staff members they have sugar-free alternatives.
They taste and feel like normal popsicles. But everytime I peel back the wrapper and take the first lick, I feel at my core that something is intrinsically wrong about the whole thing.
I don’t want it to sound as though I don’t like popsicles. I think they are fantastic. They taste good, are super refreshing, and take about five minutes to consume.
At first I felt uncomfortable standing in a cramped boardroom with about two dozen other people and eating a frozen treat. After a couple weeks I got used to it.
But I still could not shake the feeling that it was an incredibly eccentric workplace policy to make popsicle eating a mandatory part of the job.
The only time I really interacted with my manager was during the daily popsicle meetings.
He’s always ensured I had my name checked off on the sign in sheet. He collected our wrappers in an outstretched garbage bag.
This has been the routine every single morning since I started.
I was running late and I missed the popsicle meeting.
I was hoping that if I snuck in I could avoid an awkward interrogation by the manager.
I darted out of the elevator as soon as it opened and I ducked my head down so no one would see me enter.
Ahead of me the office was filled with the chaotic milling of over a dozen unfamiliar men. They all wore red doctor’s scrubs and had surgical masks that obscured their faces.
I watched bewildered as they walked in and out of my coworkers cubicles, dragging behind them trays of unfamiliar equipment.
I heard them mumble to each other in an Eastern European language I could not understand.
I advanced slowly towards my desk, keeping an eye on the intruders.
I glanced into the nearby cubicles. I noticed that none of my coworkers seemed to pay these red-clothed men any attention at all. Completely oblivious, they continued tapping away on their keyboards.
I arrived at my cubicle and found that one of the strange men awaited me. He was on his knees tinkering with arcane looking tools. Sprouting in front of him was something that resembled a waist-high red mushroom. I saw copper piping stick out of this strange fungus and snake its way into the back of my computer seat.
“What the hell is that thing?” I asked.
I saw the man in red suddenly bolt alert. He stopped what he was doing and whispered something into his wrist.
Five seconds later my manager leans into my cubicle. He has a raging grin and holds a wrapped popsicle in his hand.
“Heeeeeey, guy, we missed you this morning! But don’t you worry, I put one aside for when you came in.”
He passed it to me and waited expectantly.
“Thanks?” I said, removing the wrapper and placing the frozen tip to my tongue.
He watched me lick the popsicle down to the stick before shooting me a pair of finger guns and retreating back to his office.
I turned around to examine the weird mushroom behind me. It was gone, along with the man in the red scrubs.
I stood up and scanned the office. All the strangers and all of their curious pieces of equipment had vanished.
I sat back down onto my computer chair to collect myself. There was no way that all those men could evacuate the office so quickly, especially not with all their tools. I must be going crazy.
I loaded up Excel and went to work. I didn’t see the men in red scrubs or the odd mushrooms for the rest of the day.
Throughout the day I could not escape the feeling that I’d discovered some forbidden secret.
I kept returning to one revelation: all the strangeness disappeared the moment I licked the popsicle. Could there be a connection?
Maybe there’s some medicinal ingredient in the popsicles that’s messing with my brain chemistry. But why would my employer do that?
I came up with a few possible explanations.
First, maybe the company is drugging us with performance enhancing drugs to improve productivity. Sort of like fighter pilots.
Since I missed my morning dosage, maybe I was experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal. In that case, the men in red and the giant mushroom were nothing but a visual hallucination.
But I never saw anything like that on my popsicle-free weekends. So there goes that theory.
Another option was that Excel was warping my brain. The men in the red scrubs then would be an expression of neurological damage.
The best explanation was that maybe the popsicles prevented me from seeing something. Instead of blocking out pain, they inhibited the brain’s ability to process certain images.
That would mean that the strangers have always been there, lurking invisibly all around us. I haven’t seen them until today because I have been consistent with my morning licks.
No matter the explanation, I vowed I would never eat another popsicle.
Unfortunately, that put me in a major dilema: my job depended upon my consumption of the frozen snack. Despite its eccentricities, I really wanted to keep was job.
I needed a strategy that I could get past the scrutiny of my manager.
So I devised a plan. Just before the popsicle meeting, I would store an unwrapped condom in my cheek. When the time came to consume the popsicle, I would use the condom to act as a barrier between the frozen treat and my mouth. That way, the poison my employer was supplying would not enter my system.
Additionally, I would keep a plastic bag in the collar of my shirt that would allow me to spit out the excess liquid.
This morning I tried out my plan.
The manager smiled at me and nodded as I entered the boardroom. I already had the condom in my mouth.
I picked up a cherry flavored popsicle and retreated to my corner.
This was the moment of truth: I unwrapped the popsicle, tongued my mouth condom into position, and slowly slid the frozen treat into the rubber sheath. . .
And I started choking uncontrollably.
Part of the condom dipped past the back of my throat, triggering my highly sensitive gag reflex.
I realized too late that I should have taken this weakness into consideration before enacting this plan.
Everyone in the boardroom stared at the spectacle. I coughed so hard my eyes watered.
I gave up and noisily regurgitated the condom wrapped popsicle into my hands. Absolute silence followed.
I felt someone behind me breathe heavily into my ear. I knew it was one of the men in the red scrubs. I turned around and no one was there.
Moments later the manager took me to his office. The HR rep followed shortly after.
They terminated my employment. Apparently, since I was still in my probationary period, they had no problem releasing me.
It seems they got the impression that I have perverse sense of humor.
They said my behavior was “unbecoming” in a “professional environment.”
They said the popsicle meetings were meant to be a cheap and effective way to engender office-wide camaraderie. They emphasised it was not an opportunity for a badly timed philatio joke.
I mentioned the men in red and the tubes and the mushrooms.
My manager then said, “They aren’t really a problem as long as you eat your popsicles!”