Over the last couple of years it's become manifestly obvious that I shouldn't warn people about my birthday because it never ends up being a good experience. Either somebody plans a party for me which doesn't get canceled until after I've turned down other (often better) offers, or the party gets commandeered by other people who want to do other things, or everybody forgets, or...
What I hate most is surprises.
My dislike of surprises is not categorical. I don't mind getting an unexpected potato cookbook (thanks Keith!) or learning that someone donated $250 to NPR in my name, thereby getting me the official Lake Wobegon spatula, signed by Garrison Keillor hisself (thanks, __________! (it's not too late to fill that blank with your name), but there are some surprises that I really don't want to have to deal with.
Like when they decorate my desk at work.
In order not to waste your time, I'm going to state up front that nothing spectacular or horrible happened to my desk this year.I hate when they fiddle with my desk because it interrupts my workflow. There is nothing more maddening to me than discovering, just after I've finally decided to stop screwing around, that my stapler has been filled with bubblegum. Okay, that one's never actually happened, but every once in awhile the Funny Guy Who Shall Remain Nameless (But Deserves a Punch in the Face) steals my phone cord or hides all the work in my inbox or wastes my Post-It!™ notes by wallpapering my cubicle. These incidents were much more common before he got talked to about taping a sign to my monitor that said "I'm in the bathroom adjusting my privates" during my week of vacation (actually, I got talked to, and then he got talked to). Still, this crap increases tenfold on my birthday. Anyone's birthday, really, but I get more of it than most people. The reasoning, I think, is that since I'm the young, quirky guy with a great sense of humor(!), I must love finding myself unable to do my work because whomever sabotaged my desk went home early.
About a year ago I semi-consciously decided to take a passive-aggressive stance against this stuff. I stopped acknowledging sabotage. I pretend to take sarcasm at face value (I do that anyway. It's unnerving). If the Funny Guy Who Shall Remain Nameless (But Deserves a Punch in the Face) hides my work, I pretend not to have noticed. My workflow determines, in part, his own workflow, and he freaks out when he realizes he's caused it to dry up.
This has turned out to be a really effective way to handle the problem. Today I was pleased when everything was where I'd left it and none of my overhead cabinets dumped glitter into my keyboard. There were minimal decorations, and nothing that would clog the vacuum cleaner (like the confetti in 2002) or take forever to dispose of (like the toilet paper in 2004). No dried fruit was involved (as in the Great Wall of Named Raisins), nor were there pants pinned to the ceiling above my head. These are plusses.
Also, pleasingly, someone had made banana bread. I s'pose that if the AEG still worked here I'd have had a Waldorf Astoria Cake, but no normal human being can be expected to have as much free time as that woman did. Anyway, the banana bread was free and delicious. I'm not disdainful of free and delicious.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I expect that I'll come in tomorrow to find that they've, oh, I don't know, filled my cubicle with pudding or something (like in 2003), but my coworkers are probably not nefarious enough to do that. If I'm in the news tomorrow evening for having brought a gun to work* after my lunchbreak, well, you'll know why.
* Homeland Security disclaimer: I'm kidding about that, by the way. I haven't got a gun, I lack the money and desire to purchase one, and the mandatory waiting period means that even if I bought one, I wouldn't get it until the end of the week. I can just see how that sale would go down: "48 hours? But I'm disgruntled now!"