It’s All in My Noodle, Right?

No no. This isn’t an Italian recipe post. It’s a post about a humiliating team-building exercise involving pasta. Obviously.

As some of you know, I spend my days working as a certified Project Management Professional in the pharmaceutical industry. Because what else would a gal with a Creative Writing degree and an aversion to doctors do? Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good job for many reasons, and I’m grateful to have it. The people I work with aren’t even nincompoops.

But there’s one thing I hate.

And that’s Team-Building Exercises.

No matter how well we know each other, or how team-y we’ve become, they won’t give it a rest. On Thursday, we had yet another staff meeting, featuring yet another mysterious team-building exercise. After seeing the draft agenda, I immediately tried to devise ways to get out early, before the game show questions or trust falls could begin. I still had 20 of those heroin cough suppressants; maybe I would O.D.

In the end, because I have a tendency to think one false move will get me canned, I went along with it. Again. This time the team-building exercise was a spin on the show Minute to Win It. They divided us into 4 teams, and we played 10 rounds. In each round, a single team member from the 4 teams had to complete a task in 60 seconds or less. Every time you did, you earned a point for your team. The winning team members all got $10 iTunes gift cards.

Not bad. And you know what? It was -I can’t believe I’m about to say this- fun.

Watching coworkers try to unravel rolls of streamers by flapping their arms like deranged flamingos (or in one man’s case, a flag squad champion), and others try to get a cookie from their forehead to their mouth without touching it, was breathtaking. In the good way.

Oh yes. I yucked it up.

Until my turn.

But my task didn’t look too hard.

I had to put an uncooked piece of spaghetti in my mouth, and try to ‘string’ 5 small pieces of penne on it – without using my hands. I put the spaghetti strand in my mouth and knelt on the ground in front of the table holding the penne, trying to ignore the fact that multiple people had their cameras out.

The timer started and the pasta wobbled between my teeth like Lindsay Lohan on the set of Glee. The circumference of the penne now looked like a pinhole. I somehow managed to get the first piece of penne on the spaghetti, then almost dropped it. “Aw, she’s shaking,” one team member called out, while another added, “You can do it! Don’t worry! Don’t look at the clock!” With 10 seconds left, and nearly a dozen people hovering over me, I had only gotten two of the five pieces of penne on the spaghetti. I was a pasta-stringing failure. How had I made it this far in life?

My teammates graciously applauded me, and I, red-faced and sweaty, tried to shrink into the background. I was 30 years old, for the love of all that’s vodka, and this was just a silly game. So why did it take a half an hour before I stopped wanting to cry?

Does this happen to you? Do you get freaked out in ‘public’ situations like this? How do you feel about team-building exercises?

P.S. – In case you were wondering, we came in second place.

P.P.S. – Screw you, team-building exercises. I never liked you.

***SUPER IMPORTANT ALERT THAT YOUR HAPPINESS PROBABLY DEPENDS ON: I’m wrapping up the Go Guilty Pleasures slap bracelet extravaganza, so if you have any unseen slap bracelet pictures, I hope you’ll send them to me at Julie.Davidoski@yahoo.com. Oh and I think you’re swell. Even if you don’t have a slap bracelet.***

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78 responses to “It’s All in My Noodle, Right?

  1. Ha! Your post made me laugh and thankful I never had to go through team-building exercises :-)

  2. All I could think was,,,How the Hell does collecting penne on a piece of spaghetti team build?
    “Don’t worry team member,,I’ll get rid of that annoying customer”,,,Let me just get my penne and spaghetti!!!

    Thanks ,,team member you showed that bitch!

    • Right?! The ironic thing is that this is the first team-building exercise I actually thought was fun/funny, and then it caused me to go on a total shame spiral.

  3. Did everyone have to share the same pece of spagehetti? Nothing says team-building like swapping spit. And stacking penne. That said, I’m not sure I see the team thing in this exercise. But you are stinkin’ cute. I’d rather call a rock wall.

    • Ha! At least if we HAD shared the same piece of spaghetti, I could have been all, “It wasn’t my fault! It was soggy!”

      And thanks! I can only imagine what I ACTUALLY looked like doing that. (And no. Those pictures, along with the ones from the week-long boot camp, will never be seen by these peepers.)

      • I’m with Renee – this would have been even more awesome if you had to Pass the Penne from spaghetti to spaghetti. Whosever noodle didn’t get spit-limp would end up the winner.

        (jeez that all sounds so suggestive. Not my fault.)

  4. Happiness is...

    Dare I say it….? I think I would enjoy team building exercises….!!!

    • Nooooo! It’s you! You’re part of the problem!! …Totally kidding ;) This one WAS fun (I still can’t believe I’m saying that), and I do appreciate that people care enough to try. (In some past experiences, people I worked with were so miserable they would NEVER do anything like this.)

      • I never get do something like this at work! First of all, it’s time away from work, so you’re not actually working, and secondly, you’re allowed to goof around so that your team can be successful.

        It’s a win, win ;)

  5. I haven’t had to do them in a long time since I decided one day that I didn’t want to wear pantyhose anymore (yes, it’s been so long that women actually wore pantyhose…I am so old.) But I remember them as humiliating wastes of time. A couple of years ago, I had to go to a workshop on conflict resolution because I was going to start teaching and they made us get in a circle and partner up. Then we had to pretend to be an animal as a team while the other’s guessed what we were acting out. I spent part of the seminar with my face way to close to my fellow professor’s ass. It was not my best day.

    • Oh you’re KIDDING. Please tell me you at least didn’t have to wear pantyhose. (I think hell might be a humid day in pantyhose, doing endless team-building exercises.)

  6. I’ve been blessed with not having to deal with team-building acitivities for most of my professional life. In addition, I’ll only watch Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, as he disturbs me in any other setting.

    Don’t feel bad that you let your team down, though I’m sure after you speared that first piece of penne so quickly, there were a couple of them who were already deciding what they’d get with their gift cards.

    • ha!! I don’t know what to comment on first – team-building or Guy Fieri. Peppermeister (first husband) wanted to be him for Halloween. He’s perfected the voice.

      Our team captain said, “What an iTunes?” when they announced the prizes. I told him he could give me his gift card after we won. …Maybe I got what was coming to me.

  7. Wow. That sounds painful. Having never had a team building exercise, I have to say that it looks torturous.

    I work with lawyers. They don’t want us to be a team and all harmonious and shit. We’re more productive when we’re mean and cranky. :)

  8. I’ve sat through some painful icebreakers/team-building exercises in the education world. They all remind me of scenes from The Office.

    Love the pics of you!

    • Yes! Leanne! That’s exactly it – like The Office, only without our beloved John Krasinski (now THERE’S someone I’d endure any team-building exercise for).

      And thanks! :)

  9. If that’s team building, show me the way to team busting…

    • OMG. Perfect follow-up post! Top Ten Team Busting Exercises. 1. Telling your boss what you really think about his letting EVERY day-long staff meeting run over at least 15 minutes so he can hear himself talk.

  10. I cannot relate to this more. I worked at a place that constantly imposed the most ridiculous games on us employees, including minute to win it. I learned that people will do anything for a gift card to Chili’s. Anything.

    • Oh, gawd. I’m sorry to hear that you can relate to this. It’s amazing what people will do for the dinkiest prizes. Have you SEEN women at baby/bridal showers??

  11. First of all, I am totally impressed that you managed to get penne on your noodle. Very exciting from an onlookers point of view. Secondly, I share your dread. I took an evening French class last year, hoping to expand my horizons. Every class started with a game. For starters 90% of the class were the same age as my own children, so I was shy AND old. A very bad combo. I couldn’t make it to the exam. I left three weeks early just to avoid these games. I had planned on taking all 5 levels, becoming fluid in French, visiting Quebec with my newly acquired skill, becoming a whole new exotic person, etc. etc. Oh well, I can still tell you my name and French, and possibly ask directions to la gare ou la bibliothèque.

    • Lori-Ann, thanks for congratulating me on stringing those two pieces of pasta, ha! I’m pretty sure all of the other teams got all five pieces on, so I really did feel like a loser.

      And ulghh, I’m breaking into a cold swear just imagining the French class games. I TOTALLY get where people are coming from when they plan these things, but don’t they understand what this does to some of us?!

      P.S. – I’ve been to Quebec. I think you’ll be fine without all that French ;)

  12. I once had to do a team building exercise in which the team had to lift each team member over a giant hurdle. That would be tolerable, except that some of us had to be lifted by those smaller than us, meaning there was no simple ankle grabbing and lifting. Instead, there was butt grabbage and mystery hands touching everywhere possible in order to prevent death by falling backwards and crushing. Awful, just awful.

    • Oh, Christmas. You’re kidding. That is NOT cool. At this week-long project management boot camp they sent me to (my first week in the department…) our team decided to do trust falls off a table. EVERYONE went except me. I was like, Um, no. Even if you all looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I wouldn’t do that to you. And they kept badgering me until I finally said, “NO. I WILL CRUSH YOU.” (I’ve lost a lot of weight since then. That’s probably what put me over the edge.) It was mortifying.

  13. As a project manager in the telecom industry for the past (way too many) years, I have personally partaken in the horrors of team building exercises; running across open fields wearing odd clothing, having to role-play telling a co-worker they have BO (and wasn’t THAT fun), a water balloon toss where the distance between tossers increases with every throw (that, I admit, was fun). nothing like the workplace….

  14. I’m so grateful that our team building involves who can find the best Italian restaurant and comparing the bottles of wine that are brought. No matter what, everyone wins!

  15. WTF kind of hazing ritual “enacting” something else is THAT? Christ. I think that you can sue them for that.
    And I’ve never sued anybody.
    And of all the crap I’d have no problem making an arse out of myself doing…with COWORKERS as an audience?! This is why I don’t leave my shitty job. I can tell people off add a vacation day to a 3 day weekend (I’m at home!) and I don’t have to do stuff like this.

    I have to do shitty stuff but not “for nothing.” There has to be some other old broad there like me who wouldn’t do that (I mean, unless it looked like fun–your task SUCKED…pun intended, just saying).

    • You might be onto something with this lawsuit idea… I definitely have to remind myself of all the perks to put up with it.

      But that’s the thing! They’re ALL willing to do it. I feel like it’s *always* me, and only me, who’s dying inside. Everyone else is all, “Rah! Rah! Fork over the pasta, ma’am!”

  16. Ugh…team building….

    No worries about the pasta. I bet you’d have killed at the cookie-forehead-mouth one.

    • Thoughtsy, it’s funny you say that because that’s the challenge I initially signed up for! But someone misread the rules, and I had to be bumped up in line (because everyone had to go once before people could take on a second challenge). I’m pretty sure I would have tanked at almost all of them. I choke under that kind of pressure. (If it was with my friends and I was drunk, though? GAME ON. This one actually would be a lot of fun.)

  17. The really sad thing is apparently your mom isn’t getting a pasta necklace next Mother’s Day. Fail.

  18. You need to get yourself on the organization side of that noodle. I once organized a team building event (when somebody made that part of my job description along with separating paper clips by color and walking the boss’ neurotic lap dog) to go to a funeral museum. Nobody but me wanted to go there, so I took my multiple personalities and enjoyed the outing immensely.

    • Ha! Linda, you’re so right. I need to get on the Planning Board.

      Separating M&Ms was one of the challenges. I guess you would have had it in the bag?! …In all seriousness, I want to know so much more about that job.

      I am trying to imagine what a funeral museum would be like. Besides amazing.

  19. I think you should consider going out to paint ball with your office instead. It may be a lot less traumatic! I think…. I better think this through…… :)

  20. Kinked Slinky

    I take a mini-vacation & I miss ‘tricks with pasta” – Agh!

  21. How is it “team building” for everyone to watch you do something weird?

  22. I love that you got so worked up over this. Most of us won’t readily admit such petty things. You have a bit more self restraint than I do, as I’m pretty sure I would have gnashed my teeth and swallowed all of that dry pasta, just to spite the “team builders.” Or at least drooled. A lot.

    • Rian, if you think THAT’S worked up, you should hear me talk about baby and bridal showers!!

      Let’s not even talk about how, when I first read the instructions, I thought they were talking about COOKED pasta. I actually said to someone, “How is this even POSSIBLE?”

      Signed,
      Your Favorite Blonde

  23. LOL! It’s surprising to find yourself, a grown woman, defeated by a lowly food item – I could recount some seriously embarrassing work stories that would make you feel far better about your pasta stringing abilities :-) Like the time we went to a restaurant for a client meeting, and I wore my crisp white shirt so I would look serious and professional: only to realize after the client had left that I had sprayed my entire front with tiny flecks of tomato soup and even had somewhat of a tomato mustache. I did not see that one coming. In fairness, my boss was trying to signal me but I thought he just had an eye twitch. I always thought once I left school I was also leaving such petty humiliations behind. Seems not :-)

    • Hmm…I’ve decided that yes, yes, that DOES make me feel better. Please keep those stories coming. ;)

      I really think one of the most revealing questions you can ask a person is, “If someone had food stuck in their teeth / on their shirt, would you tell them?” …Do you think your boss REALLY tried? LOL

  24. These accompanying photos illustrating the various points on the grief cycle chart might be the best accompanying photos in the history of blogs with accompanying photos.

    I want to play that. I want to team-build. Why am I not doing this at my work? Do you have to drink vodka in order to play or could you just throw back a couple of beers first?

    • Okay, where to start? 1) Vodka should be MANDATORY for these things, with beer as a back-up. 2) Thank you. 3) I’ve never wanted to be Lindsay Lohan so badly.

  25. P.S. Lindsay Lohan’s got nuthin’ on this trainwreck.

  26. Yep, Jules, I’ve been through dozens, maybe even hundreds of team-building exercises. And yes, I’ve even led and come up with some new ones. :)

    I’ve always been uncomfortable in those scenarios, but had to participate, as you say, to keep the job so to speak. Why else would we do those crazy things.

    I’m surprised you don’t like them based on your love of theater. ;)

    • MJ, I’m glad you have the good sense to acknowledge that we only do these things to keep the job. For that I suppose I can forgive you, even though you’ve been behind the madness on some occasions ;)

      Oh and sit down for this one – I’m actually not a big theater person at ALL. I’ve always thought most musicals were cheesy as all get-out. Do you see the true power Second Husband holds over me??

      • Wow, you shocked me there, Jules. I would have thought you loved theater. SH really does have your number. :)

        I personally love musicals (but not Glee). My fave is Les Mis – it actually is way more than a musical. I saw it twice in London and I think three times on different US touring groups over the years.

  27. I greatly dispise team building exercises. Solely because I always end up being the leader while everyone else stays quiet. Wusses.

    • Also, every corporate job I’ve had has made me play them, and nothing makes you feel more adult than making doodles with smelly pens, or playing hangman with uncreative people.

      Now, you know I’m not a grownup, but I prefer to play one when I’m at work.

      • Ha! L, I’m not surprised you’re the leader. You definitely convey a sense authority – in a good, bring-people-to-you way. (As I’m sure you can see by your continued blogging success!) I still can’t decide if I’m really an introvert or not. Just when I think I’m confident, I have a total noodle failure. I’d probably be one of the quiet ones who drove you crazy. I only rise to the occasion in those situations when everyone else is wimpy. Or vodka is involved.

        • Hahaha, I am an extrovert, but I also have anxiety problems. It’s a huge mess. You can only imagine.

          I don’t think you’re an introvert. You have too much of an ego ;) <3 Posting all those crazy pictures of you being crazy! Awesome. Or I just imagine you that way. It's how I read your writing voice anyway.

  28. I’m with Angie, these are the BEST pictures! How did I miss this post? And to think I’ve never done a team-building exercise before. This is what I’ve been missing being a stay at home mom all these years?! I feel so deprived. And hungry. Yes, the pasta is making me hungry.

    • Thanks, Darla! Sometimes I think I really need to cool it with the goofy pictures and the word cross-outs, but I’m addicted. I mean, I really don’t think I can stop.

      THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS that you haven’t had to do anything like this. Although, now that you mention it, they do feed us pretty well at these things…

  29. team building exercises – designed to break the souls of the strong and mould the week into pasta spearing jobsworths. hehee

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself! LOL Look what they’ve done to me! Before this, I was just a side-pony sporting, Glee-watching, blog-writing, cool, cool, COOL girl.

  30. OK, I don’t even remember the last time I sat in front of my computer screen and laughed this hard (well, I kind of had to snicker quietly out-loud so as not to awaken the slumberers, but my face hurts from trying to keep it quiet!) and I never imagined the comments were going to be as funny as your blog! Imagine, some people go out of the house to have this kind of fun! And Puh-leaze whatever you do, DO NOT consider cooling it on the pictures and cross outs…they are what stood out as quirky fun! Thank you! I needed this! I’ve been kind of depressed and taking things a bit too seriously, so this really helped! Initially, I was just going to comment on your great Father’s Day blog, but got hooked. I don’t think it matters what you call your blog, just keep writing!

    • This comment made my day – thank you so much! Knowing I might have helped cheer you up really is the best compliment I could ever hope to get :) I’m sorry to hear you’ve been feeling depressed; sometimes I have to ‘fake it ’til I make it,’ but luckily laughter is contagious, and there are so many wonderful, funny folks on WordPress!

      Oh and encouragement for goofy pictures and cross-outs is like my heroin. You’re totally an enabler. Are you ready for your “Intervention” cameo? I hope my intervention guru isn’t that woman with the red hair. She scares me.

  31. haha….i remember trying to sell kirby vacuum cleaners once…..and these guys stood on their chairs and sang and clapped the kirby song every morning to get motivated….really funny and very embarrasing was this excersize………..

  32. hhaaaaaa…;) this annoying things often happens with me also..!! and i wouldbe crying ” Y me Y me” !!! good to know not only me ..;):):)

  33. I just can’t wait to have a party, my friends should be worried. Very, very worried. I can just see my friend Roy do the ‘streamer un-roll’ bit, he’s a super fast talker and walker….it’s too perfect. To quote some evil villian somewhere, “I love when a plan comes together”.

  34. Pingback: I Would Do Anything For Blog Love (But I Won’t Do That) | Go Jules Go

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  36. You are a hero and do not know it…penne macaroni weighs more than spaghetti, therefore the odds were against you before you began. If they had given you a strand of fettuccine you would have won hands down…great job for even getting one on…

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