I loved my time at the SCI FI channel (now SyFy). It’s probably the best bunch of people I worked with, and I promise I’m not saying that because the office consisted of a disproportionate number of extremely attractive women.
It was an extremely creative environment, and the brainstorms we had there were endless fun for me. Ultimately, I don’t think I was very good at my job, and I do regret not being more productive and useful to them, but… Well, I loved it. I wrote a lot, laughed a lot, and felt pretty smug about having such a cool job in a cool office right on Oxford Street.
Then again, there was the enforced fun. This has been a feature of almost every job I’ve ever had, but I want to use an example from SCI FI to illustrate it.
Somehow, we managed to get the UK premiere of Heroes. This took everyone by surprise, including us. It slipped past the big spenders at Sky, BBC, Channel 4, and so on. Flew under their radar somehow? Whatever the case, we had it, and we were positively delirious.
It turned out to be the biggest thing the channel had ever aired, smashing viewer records, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
To celebrate the acquisition, we had a team outing. I can’t remember if it was kept a secret until we got there, but basically it was cheerleading training at the Pineapple dance studio, an establishment which I understand has been given the reality TV treatment since. One of the main characters in Heroes is a cheerleader, you see.
We had an athletic, perky young lady put us through some steps, including some pom-pom shakes and so on. Crazy, wacky fun!
I hated it with the burning intensity of a thousand dying stars. I didn’t want to hate it. I wanted to be like my friend Paul, who is a great sport and gave it a really good bash. But I was busy. I had a lot of work to do, and it was a non-optional half day that put me behind, and made me feel like a stumbling, lumbering bear of a man. I felt humiliated, and resentful. An ugly response, and unworthy, but I feel like I should be honest.
There’s a fancy dress party! Everyone at work is invited! It’ll be fun! No, thanks, I’d really rather not.
Again, non-optional. I even had quite a senior manager take me to one side and give me a firm talk about the importance of attending. Polite refusal was not an option. I had to go, and I had to have fun, and that was that.
On the night, a colleague lent me a spare costume he had. I put it on with gritted teeth and a hateful heart. We got taxis to the venue. I walked in. I walked to the bathrooms. I took the costume off (it was an over-the-normal-clothes thing) and left as quietly and immediately as I could.
Why? Why do I hate fun? It’s perplexing to a lot of people. This is a really specific and very powerful reaction that I have, to a particular phenomenon. I will get heated. I will raise my voice. I will go out of my way to avoid riding that mechanical bull, or putting on that cowboy hat, or whatever.
Why? I don’t actually know. I wish I did. That’s an anticlimactic way to end this, though, so let me give it a try.
You know, when I was about… I don’t know… 13? 14? My parents booked me into this community centre thing during the summer holidays. A whole bunch of kids, led by older teenagers, doing… stuff. Uh. Activities. Games. Sports. Trips. I think we might have gone canoeing? Apologies, I’m trying to tug these memories out of my creaking brain in realtime, as I type. Bear with me.
I am pretty sure we spent a long weekend in a country house being split into teams and doing word puzzles and assault courses, and so on. There was a field of weeds we had to pull up (proving that youths could make a positive contribution to the community
Anyway, I hated it all more than I can possibly describe. It was all enforced fun. It was all arranged for us, and we had to do it, and we were entirely powerless to refuse. Not taking part simply wasn’t an option.
Maybe that set the scene. Locked in the hatred of enforced fun. My parents would imminently divorce, and that whole situation was the backdrop for a lot of unfun times – likely to be a factor too.
If I figure it out, I’ll post again, maybe.
Enforced fun. I hate it. I am awkward about it, I can’t be reasoned with, I am a killjoy, and I’m sorry. I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s good time, just please… give me the option of polite refusal.