Its Monday, seven fifteen in the morning and it’s pouring down rain in Atlanta, Georgia. Late for work, I speed into the hospital parking lot and park my Juke Nissan. I glance at my watch. The social work staff meeting is scheduled to begin at seven-thirty and I can’t be late. So I grab my things and scramble out of the car. I race across the parking lot into the hospital building and then down the hall. When I walk into the conference room five minutes later several of my colleagues greet me as I hurry down the aisle to the back of the room. I prefer to sit in the back because the element of surprise is greatly reduced when one can keep everyone in full view. Jay Cooper, my work buddy is already there saving me a seat. He’s a muscular fella with a medium build with silver blond hair and warm gray eyes.
Good Morning, my friend,” I said smiling as I pull out a chair from the table and flop down. “Thanks for saving me a seat.”
“No problem,” Jay said grinning like a chess cat.
“Are you excited about the meeting this morning,” I teased being sarcastic.
He chuckles. “The silliness is about to descend upon us,” he quips. I laugh tickled by Jay’s sarcastic humor. It keeps me sane in a toxic, often stressful work environment. I scoot my chair closer to him so I can joke undercover without being overheard. Soon the social work supervisor, Sandy Jade struts into the room. She shines bright like a neon light with her Michael Jackson style short waist jacket deck out in large gold buttons and tiny oval sequins. She is a slender, attractive woman with long thick braids hanging pass her shoulders. Her heavy purple eye shadow drowns out her dark brown eyes and her ruby-red lipstick adds drama to her made up face. Everyone settles in for the meeting and Sandy struts over to the podium. She grabs the microphone and taps the head checking for sound. Satisfy the microphone is working properly she begins the meeting with a warm and inviting smile.
“Good Morning Staff,” she said glancing around the room. Several social workers mumble among themselves while others holler out loud. “Good Morning Sandy!!” They sound like a bunch of five-year old children in an elementary school class. Jay rolls his eyes and whispers in my ear. “Excuse me,” he said. “Does it feel like we are in kindergarten?”
I chuckled at his comment as I scoot down in my seat and doodle on a sheet of paper. “Look on your agenda,” she said holding a sheet of paper up in the air like a school teacher. “The first order of business is the ice breaker exercise,” she points out. Everyone moans and groans while Jay and I look at each other with disgust on our faces. I detest ice breaker exercises. I think they are demeaning and a waste of time. Sandy, however, champions these exercises always including them on her meeting agenda. I sit there fuming, bracing myself for what she has in mind.
“Now, now,” she said waving her hand in the air in a dismissive like fashion. “I know many of you don’t like these exercises,” she said. “However, these exercises help us to team build,” she clarifies.
I roll my eyes. “Team build?” I thought. “These people don’t know about team building! They are all out for themselves,” I mumble under my breath. Jay nudges me and shakes his head. “Team building my foot,” he quips.
I laugh again, shaking my head. Sandy paces back and forth in front of the room, barking out instructions. “You have five minutes to make your choice,” she said. “Then we will go around the room so each of you can share with the rest of us the animal you selected.”
I sigh, taking deep breaths as I move closer to Jay. “I think I am going to be sick,” I said making a face.
“I’m already sick,” he said looking irritated. He folds his arms across his chest and frowns. “This shit is so ridiculous!”
By the time ten minutes is up, I still had not settle on an animal choice. So I sit there and contemplate while Sandy begins the exercise on the other side of the room. “Carrie you start first,” she said handing her the microphone. Carrie Scott, a new social worker on staff stands up and faces her colleagues. She smiles bright revealing two rows of jagged white teeth.
“My choice is a cat,” she said. “They are alluring and thoughtful.”
I fight back laughter while Jay twists his face up like a pretzel. “She looks like a damn cat,” he whispers in my ear. “She even looks sneaky like a cat too,” he smarts off. I purse my lips trying hard not to laugh out loud.
“Do you two have something to say to the group back there,” Sandy asked noticing our interaction, her dark brown eyes glaring straight at us.
“Nope,” I quickly retorted shaking my head. “Nothing to say at all,” I fibbed. Jay ignores her and doesn’t respond.
“Okay, let’s keep going,” she fumes. She then turns to Mary. “You are next,” she said
Mary Fox, a plumb woman with curly brown hair and large eyeglasses engulfing her whole entire face slides out of her seat. She adjusts her blouse as she turns to face her fellow co-workers. “I decided to pick a dog as my animal choice,” she smirks. “Because dogs are loyal and so am I,” she deadpans.
Jay snickers. “You got to be kidding me,” he chuckles under his breath. “The department back stabber loyal? Get out of here!”
“Who is she fooling,” I said agreeing with him. “That woman has something to say about everybody around here!”
“Come on you guys,” Sandy groans craning her neck to see in the back of the room. “Stop being disruptive back there!”
“Sorry,” I said looking down at the table. Before long its Jay ‘s turn. He gives me a blank look.
“Why are you looking like that,” I said with big eyes. “I can’t help you!”
Everyone cracks up laughing including Sandy. “Well, this brother is having a hard time coming up with an animal choice,” he smirks.
“Oh, just pick one,” Sandy urges him forcing a half smile.
“Very well then,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “I pick the turtle.”
“Really why a turtle,” Sandy asks.
“Turtles take their sweet time doing everything and that’s me to the tee,” he said grinning with glee. Everyone cracks up laughing again even Sandy in spite of herself. She then zeros in on me. I decided to piggy back on Jay’s sarcasm. I now have an animal choice in mind. A choice I knew would go straight over Sandy’s head.
“Denise, what’s your choice,” she asks.
Feeling mischievous, I too stand up giving her direct eye contact. “Welllll,” I said trying to be suspenseful and grinning from ear to ear. “When it’s all said and done, I identify with the homosapien.”
“Huh,” Sandy said looking very confused. I knew I had her and I struggle to maintain my composure.
“Can you say that again,” she said now looking befuddled. She comes over to our table and parks herself in front of me. I repeat my statement again. “A homosapien,” I said glancing over at Jay. He is sitting there red-faced double over in hysterics with his head buried in his hands.
“What is so darn funny,” she asks frowning up at Jay. “Let me in on this joke,” she demands.
“What joke,” Jay manages to say in between his bursts of laughter.
“What is a homosapien,” she asks again this time looking exasperated. I couldn’t hold it in any longer so I finally cut loose belting out a hearty laugh. “Are you serious,” I asked her. “You really don’t know?”
She shakes her head no and stares me down, not at all amused. I take a minute to gather my thoughts. “I’m waiting,” she finally said with her hand on one hip looking indignant.
The room is quiet. Everyone is on the edge of their seats as they wait for my answer. I clear my throat and say. “A homosapien is another term for human being. Humans are considered a two-legged animal in the animal kingdom, don’t you know that?!”
Everyone’s jaw drops open, caught off guard by my surprising, but true revelation. When it finally sinks in seconds later, they fall out laughing in hysterics. Sandy, her face turning different shades of pink, lets out a nervous laugh. She drops her head and returns to the podium. “Okay, you got me,” she said with a resigned look on her face. “You really got me this time!”
The exercise finally ends and she moves on to the next item on the agenda not missing a beat. However, Sandy learned a valuable lesson that morning. The next time she schedule a staff meeting with her social workers, the ice breaker exercise was no longer an item on the agenda.
Categories: Short Stories