Purpose In Life

Written in response to: Start your story during a team building exercise.... view prompt


American Funny Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

CW: Language and sarcasm


Susan said, “know you PURPOSE in life! Be able to explain it to anyone who asks!" Her words increasing in decibel. 

Jen looked over at the woman sitting next to her and whispered, “what is the purpose of this mandatory meeting? My Spidey senses tell me we are entering a shit-show of meaningless team building." The large happy woman next to her said, “this is my third team building class. They are so helpful.” 

“Oh crap,” Jen rolled her eyes to herself. “I’m sitting next to a participator, ugh.”

Jen was not a fan of sharing her personal thoughts and information. What kind of company had she just joined? 

“We are going to breakout into groups,” Susan gleefully announced. 

Jen got up and made a B-line for the bathroom. Her reasonable senses took over before she reached the bathroom and she thought, “I’ll get the reject group when I get back, if I leave now.” She quickly looked around for anyone else that had that “oh crap,” look in their eyes. She spotted an angry looking man trying to act lost in a phone call. She sat down next to him, and he shot her a, “what the hell do you want look.” “Perfect,” she thought. She spotted another lost soul and waved her over to join their table and their newly forming group. “She only needed one more. Looking, looking, looking. Yes, she spotted another fella who was trying to avoid eye contact with the cheerful participators. She left her bag and raced toward him. “Hey, we need one more in our group for this shit-show-of-fun exercise,” she said to him. Interest sparked in his eyes, and he grabbed his briefcase to follow her. She now had the mandatory four-person group assembled. 

The happy chatter surrounded them as they sat quietly at their table. “Two-minute warning!” Susan announced to get everyone to their new seats. Susan’s helpers were passing out booklets to each table. “No peeking!” she announced as Jen started to reach for her table’s small pile of booklets. Her eyes met briefcase guy and she said, “Hi, I’m Jen.” He half smiled and said, “Ben.” Carol introduced herself next, then they all looked at phone guy as he hung up his call, “Pete,” he said. “What are we doing?” 

“Nothing yet,” Jen offered. They had been listening all morning to welcome speeches and company statistics. “I hate this touchy-feely crap,” Ben offered. They all nodded. “How long have you been with the company?” Jen questioned Ben. “Ten years,” he said. Carol said, “two.” Pete said, “one month.” Jen said, “I’m new too.” 

She was not new to the workforce in general, she had done more than her fair share of “team building” exercises. Jen used to be one of those rah, rah participators. The last company had really done a job on her self-esteem. She had promised herself she would never “over share” again. She was no longer a fan of that kind of thinking. That deep bonding that promised a cohesive workplace. Her superiors had used that personal information against her in the past. She was even questioning whether this company was going to be a fit for her long term.

Susan began talking about the instructions for this next activity. On her go, everyone is to open their journal booklet and begin answering the questions. “You will have 20 minutes to fill out these four questions. Give as much detail as possible.” Ben slid a booklet to each person at their small table. Susan, with the biggest smile on her face, rang her bell into the microphone. An exhausted breath escaped from Jen before she could control it. She flipped her booklet open and read the first question, “If you had a million dollars, what would you do with the money?” She looked at the next question, “Now you have two million dollars, what would you spend the money on? “I don’t want to be here!” she screamed to herself. “I wouldn’t have spent it on this stupid meeting, that’s for damn sure,” she thought to herself. She started running the numbers in her head, the cost to fly everyone out to this destination meeting, hotel rooms for each employee, meals, booklets, lanyards with name tags, guest speakers, the list grew. “What’s the third question?” she thought trying to refocus her attention at the task in front of her. “What are the three most important things in your life?” the question read. “What is the most important aspect of your job?” was the final question in this exercise. 

Her mind was rejecting this project. “Come on, come up with something, some crap,” she tried to give herself a pep talk. “FIVE MINUTES,” Susan yelled. Jen started writing as fast as she could. 

1.       Million dollars to Pineview Home for the Aging.

2.      Two million dollars to Pineview Home for the Aging.

3.      Health, Happiness, This Job.

4.      Delivering the company message as clearly and as concisely as humanly possible.

“Pencils down!” Susan yelled to the room. Jen glanced around the table. Ben’s booklet was blank. Pete’s looked like it was full of his personal “to do list” listed out neatly and Carol who was across the table from Jen looked like she had completed the assignment. Susan continued, “Can we have a volunteer to read their answer to the first question?”

“Fuck no,” Jen answered in her mind.

People’s hands flew into the air and Susan selected someone from the front table. “I would invest my million dollars in our company,” came the answer from an over eager employee. “Nice,” Susan said. “You can spend it any way you like. Does someone else have another answer?” she continued. 

Jen started to daydream about what would be served for lunch. She glanced at her watch, realizing it must be lunch soon and a reprieve from this senseless waste of time. People were giggling and clapping, as her table was sneaking peeks at their phones or watches. Susan announced, “Don’t forget, your phones should be off and put away!” Jen looked up to see her staring at their table. “Pete,” Susan said into the microphone, “what do you have for number three?” Jen’s heart started racing. Pete calmly said, “I couldn’t decide on that one.” 

“Care to share what you could not decide between?” Susan probed. “No,” Peter said calmly as he stared at Susan. There was a moment of awkward silence before Susan moved to someone at another table. “Yes,” she pointed to a young woman with her hand in the air. 

Jen was relieved her table was out of the spotlight for the moment. She stared at Pete. He glanced over at her, shrugged, and smiled at her. “Wow!” she thought, “I would never have the guts to do that, no matter how much I would have wanted to.”  Susan and Pete seemed like they had history. Jen wanted to know more. Maybe she is in the right place after all.

She heard giddy answers to the fourth and final question and sighed a breath of relief. “We will be continuing in here right after lunch with trust falls! Please make your way to the Sedona Room where lunch is being served,” Susan announced. Jen gathered her purse and phone and followed her group down the hall. Team building was already happening within her new group of coworkers.

May 19, 2022 23:39

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07:40 May 22, 2022

Nice writing and a fun read. I liked how it kept the ironic cynical tone throughout, and then had a happy ending. The story held up the tension very well with a few twists. The anxiety of waiting to be called on was def something I could relate too.


14:14 May 27, 2022

Scott, Thank you so much for your comments. I'm glad you could relate.


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