When 'fun' isn't

Gibush is one of those Hebrew words that is not easily translated. Strictly speaking, it's generally given to mean hardening or solidifying, sort of l

picnic table water 88 (photo credit: )
picnic table water 88
(photo credit: )

Gibush is one of those Hebrew words that is not easily translated. Strictly speaking, it's generally given to mean hardening or solidifying, sort of like what happens when you put a newly mixed batch of Jell-O into the refrigerator. More commonly, though, the word is used in the Israeli corporate environment to mean getting together or team building, and is widely regarded as an important component to effective management and employee performance. Which is why many companies, including my own, sponsor an annual day away from the office, referred to ostensibly as a Yom Kef (Fun Day). And which, in my opinion, is a terrible misnomer.

These outings, more often than not, involve strenuous activity of one sort or another, something I'm not overly fond of nor particularly well suited for. Trekking in the desert or rappelling down a mountain I gladly leave to others; effort beyond lighting a cigarette or turning the page of a book, quite frankly, disagrees with me. So when word came a month or so ago of our 2005 Yom Kef I began to get very nervous.

For the past four or five years I managed to convince a succession of frowning vice presidents that I had matters of extreme importance to take care of and that looming deadlines - work before pleasure, after all - unfortunately prevented me from joining in on the fun. This year I ran out of excuses.

LATE LAST week, therefore, found me sitting with the rest of my division listening to the coordinator for this year's event go through the agenda and itemize what we needed to bring with us. As I envisioned what was waiting for me, I began to selfishly pray for some sort of a calamity that might cancel or at least postpone the impending misery. My hopes weren't for anything too serious, mind you, just for something that would make the planned activities inconvenient if not altogether impossible. A small, harmless tsunami, for example.

As we walked out the meeting, a colleague with whom I've had daily conversations and discussions for the last three years turned to me and said, "I hear the waterfall we're going to be hiking to is really something else. Sounds like we're going to have a great time, no?" Glaring at him I replied, "Sorry, I don't speak Hebrew," and walked away.

The evening before this Fun Day was to take place, I wrote an out-of-office message on my computer. Realizing that there was no avenue of escape from getting on the bus in the morning put me in a foul mood, I guess, which influenced the message I left: "Hi. Sorry I can't return your e-mail, but I'll be spending today with the rest of my division communing with nature. So while you're reading this 'O-O-O' notice in the tranquil and air-conditioned comfort of your home or office, I'll either be getting mercilessly bumped around on a decrepit tractor, huffing and puffing along a snake-infested trail on a flimsy mountain bike, or dodging the menacing branches that cast their spindly shadows on the Jordan River.

"For matters of dire urgency you can reach me on the number listed below. Should there be no answer you can assume that I am totally incapacitated or that my phone has been smashed to smithereens from the fall I'm inevitably going to take. I do expect to be back in the office on Monday morning, however. Whether it will be with the assistance of a cane, crutches or a wheelchair remains to be seen."

THE HOPED-FOR tsunami didn't materialize, and I spent nearly 12 hours under a brutally hot sun doing all those things I most hate to do. Thankfully, I emerged from the day with nothing more grievous than a moderately sprained knee, a badly bruised but unbroken toe, scratches from thorny bushes that protected the entry to that damned waterfall, and a face the color of beet salad.

Never again, I kept repeating on the way home, so, shortly after I limped into the office the next day, I sent out the following e-mail to my division vice president: "Hi. I know it's a bit premature, but there's no harm in early planning, is there? Should we all still be together next year, then, I enthusiastically volunteer to take responsibility for the planning and preparation of our gibush event for Year 2006. Once I get the go-ahead, I'll begin making inquiries about renting out the facilities of a nice country club (one with plenty of chaise longues and shade umbrellas), and will begin getting price proposals from some excellent kosher caterers I know about a soup-to-nuts barbecue.

"I foresee as part of the day's itinerary such challenging activities as Simon Sez and charades, but I'll make sure to bring chess, backgammon and Scrabble sets for those less adventurous. I've no doubt you'll agree that this will indeed be a Yom Kef that will be remembered and talked about for a long, long time."

I'm still waiting for a response.

The writer is a technical communicator.

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