Photo courtesy of Ana Fuji
There are some awkward money situations that crop up from time to time--like being asked for money from a friend or relative, or going out to dinner with a stingy tipper. J ran into an unexpected one yesterday.
J's boss and his wife just recently had their third baby. The boss has been out for a little over a week for paternity leave, and returns to work today.
Yesterday, J's group at work passed the hat around to collect money to buy the family a gift card from Target as a welcome to the new baby boy. The group has a grand total of 5 engineers in it.
The first gentleman to contribute--for they are all gentlemen--happens to be a young man originally hailing from India. He put a twenty dollar bill in the hat and passed it along to the rest of the engineers, all of whom blanched at the amount, since it now seemed as though they would have to match it. One of the remaining four gentlemen (who was not J) actually had to run out to an ATM, since he did not have enough cash on hand to be able to cover the $20 challenge.
J claims that this gentleman was heard to grumble: "Silly foreigners with their unstinting generosity! Don't they understand good old-fashioned American token gestures?"
Once all of the (rather more than expected) money was in the pot, J was dispatched to Target to purchase both the gift card and a greeting card to put it in. Since J tends to have a perverse sense of humor, he spent some time looking for the most inappropriate and/or ridiculous baby-related greeting card that he could find. He settled on a particularly sappy card that was covered in glitter that had a deplorable tendency to fall off and stick to clothing, since it was the card most likely to cause the other four gentlemen in the department to point as one man at my husband and exclaim "J picked it out!" when the boss wonders aloud what the heck they were thinking. J was quite satisfied with his find.
He told me all of this last night over dinner, and we had quite a laugh over the way the first person to contribute money can set an uncomfortable precedent. I then pointed out the bright side: when Thing 2 arrives just a few months from now, the precedent of $100 baby gift cards will have already been set. J just shook his head. "That seems unlikely after the greeting card I picked out."
I guess the lesson here is twofold:
1. Don't let the person who hails from a culture known for generosity and giving go first when requesting an unspecified amount money for an office gift.
2. Picking out a greeting card to give to your boss is not the time to let your weird sense of humor shine.