Every job has its own set of specific quirks. If you’re lucky, some of these quirks are of the recreational variety. Having led quite an eclectic life, I have seen my fair share, for better or worse. From Taco Truck Tuesdays to Craft Beer Fridays to office mini golf anydays; yet, in all of my experience, nothing has come close to the fanatical mania that possessed a travel job that I took a couple of years ago.
Having been hired to guide camping road trips throughout North America, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Getting paid to go on vacations of a lifetime – what could be better? When I began my job training, however, it became apparent that my outdoor/travel experience was lacking. Somehow, my tales of visiting such exotic, romantic locations such as Paris, Florence, and EPCOT Center paled in comparison with the other trainees, some of whom had spent their last few years living in huts in Australia, camping in the Himalayas with Buddhist monks, or walking across the entirety of the United States with a Wal-Mart shopping cart (which, to be honest, I would have equated with homelessness – not a resume checkpoint, but I digress). Almost immediately, I felt like the outsider of the group which is something quite ironic since I had the least amount of outdoor experience.
Their collective familiarity of nature’s flora and fauna was incredible, many times leaving me in awe with new perspectives of the world around us. Akin to taking a hike with an arsenal of extroverted botanists, any fact, indigenous plant name, or point of nature trivia would be delivered with instantaneous ferocity. Whether they were rubbing various leaves between their fingers for their nurturing oils or literally licking the bark of butterscotch-like trees on top of Nevada Falls in Yosemite, it quickly became apparent to me that I wasn’t merely among a group of tree-huggers. No, they had ascended to another level entirely – they were hippie tree-lickers.
Arriving for the first time at corporate headquarters, I was overwhelmed by the large number of vehicles they had available for their trips. Never before had I seen such an impressive fleet of unmarked white vans in my life. I had a sudden impulse to spray paint “free candy and puppies” on the sides of each one – an impulse that, to my horror, eventually came true when an intoxicated Navajo man at Monument Valley was suddenly struck with inspiration and got decorative with a Sharpie. For several days, I was forced to drive with a graphic anatomy lesson on the side of my van.
The atmosphere of the base was laid back to a fault. It was then that I discovered the dangerous obsession that afflicted everyone who worked here. Rows of cornhole boards lined the ends of each building. It wasn’t a mere game – it was a right-of-passage and a corporate institution. Fraternities had their crazy initiations, Klingons had their death sticks, and these people had their cornhole. Nary would an hour go by without a seething battle breaking out on the cornhole playing field. Who knew that a simple game of tossing bean bags into opposing holes would bring about such competitive ferocity?
The addiction spread through my group as if a sudden conflagration had vaporized their precious trees. Before long, scores of beanbags were flying through the air with the precision of arrows on a medieval battlefield. Squirrels and birds ran for cover as the beanbags pelted corn-hole boards decorated with paintings of wolves, American flags, and handlebar mustaches. It was immediately clear to me that this was like no other corporate office I had ever witnessed before or would probably ever see again.
Never having played a single game of cornhole in my life, I was faced with a crushing conundrum – I had to prove myself to the tree-lickers. I solicited the tutelage of a veteran cornhole master and began to practice every night in the parking lot of our hotel. After spending the week improving my aim, strategy, and spirit, I was ready to engage my compatriots in combat.
Approaching my first official game I felt a rush of excitement. Holding the beanbag in my hand, I suddenly understood what made cornhole so appealing to my fellow trainees. No matter our previous experiences, backgrounds, or talents, we were all on a level playing field in the game of cornhole. The simplicity of the game was part of its beauty. There was no arduous challenge or puzzle to overcome. Rather, it helped facilitate conversation and provided the best way to help forge our familial group dynamic. With this newfound clarity, I was finally ready to join the shared obsession. I took aim and tossed my first beanbag into battle. Unfortunately, I completely missed my mark and knocked the fresh beer out of my opponent’s hand which then shattered and drenched everyone in the surrounding area. And that’s how I destroyed Craft Beer Friday.