I ended up drinking last night with a group of eight people from work - most of whom I had never met before. We were in a little watering hole, known largely to locals. Items on the menu included "The Good Catholic," a plate of fish and chips (it is Lent) and cheese steak with fries. A large DJ section in one corner of the bar was set up, and a drunken locale did a karaoke rendition of some rock ballad while we looked on from across the room seated at a series of tables hastily thrown together, littered with the detritus of the free appetizers they gave us (fish sandwiches, cheese pizza and fried clam strips).
My job is one that puts me in contact with people who have significant formal power within the organization. This puts me in an interesting situation vis-a-vis the front line workers (in this case, teachers) in the system. I have to be especially sensitive to what I say to whom, and need to be certain that I'm building trust - regardless of who I'm working with. To be able to go out and drink, to joke about sex and talk about local politics, with front liners, - some of whom are true townies - feels like a victory of sorts. A victory of belonging.
On the victory of belonging front, my office was recently moved from the hinterlands to the bona fide central office - the belly of the beast as I've joked with some. I moved because a much loved senior staffer retired. A senior staffer who was also a townie. As a newbie and a yuppie, I was bracing myself for passive-aggressive hostility in the office. This has not happened. In just over a month, I feel as if I've been accepted into the office culture. How can I prove it? I was asked to contribute to the office Mega Millions ticket pool. Together we bought $110 worth of tickets. And, sadly, I left all of my numbers at the office - so I have no idea if we won. I'll need to wait until Monday to figure it out.