Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Saga of the Pumpkin, Part I

If you have ever worked in an office, you may be aware of the minor ways in which the powers practice deception. Whatever holiday besets mankind always results in some form of false jocularity manufactured to make the drones of the office forget that they are in hell. Around Christmas time it is inevitable that a tree (most often referred to as the “Holiday Tree” so as to offend) will pop up and a few complimentary coupons to the local convenience store will find their way onto the desks across the work-a-day world. Merry Christmas, enjoy the soda and cigarettes. Please accept this in place of a dental plan or profit sharing. More interesting is the Halloween practice of pumpkin carving, usually presented in the form of a competition.

For the past few years, I have been involved in the office pumpkin carving contest. I don’t know why, since I have no skill in cutting up gourds. I can hardly manage to draw a stick figure much less produce a Jack-O-Lantern of any merit. Still, each year some attorney will decide that my particular brand of “caustic humor” will lend itself to the competition and secure our office first prize. It has yet to happen.

The building presents each office with a fresh pumpkin and a deadline. We have a week to come up with a concept and see it through. First prize this year is $150 dollars in Starbucks coupons. Considering I spend that much on coffee in one week, this is truly a coveted prize.

My ideas never get through. Once I decided to go with a Magritte reference, simply writing, “This is Not a Pumpkin” in French over the orange skin of the bulbous gourd. Sadly, no one in my office or any of the judges cared for my attempts to make a pumpkin into a piece of surreal art. Coworkers have dismissed other ideas as well. I wanted to hack off pieces of a pumpkin and place them around a store bought pumpkin pie. This was vetoed inside of two minutes. Proving myself to be somewhat prophetic, someone else did exactly that and snagged third prize.

This year I suggested my office go with a political theme and carve George W. Bush’s face into the pumpkin. From there, we could set up a tarp and invite the viewers to spit on the pumpkin or deface it in whatever way they saw fit. At the end of the competition, we would smash the thing with a baseball bat, much to what I believed would be the delighted eyes of the judges. I was thinking big. Normally I am not this politically active, but it seemed to me that a lot of people would rally around the concept. Hell, it may have even made the back page of some college rag. Predictably, my suggestion was rejected.

In place of my idea, a coworker decided to cut the thing up to look like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. While I am fan of his expressionist works, it seems as though it has been done before. Still, it is better than the witch idea they went with last year.

As I toil in the fields of lawyerland, people buzz about my workspace painting the hollowed Halloween icon and looking for highlighters and markers, all to try and reproduce the classic image of a man screaming in front of a fiery sky. I am anxious to see the result. Early this morning, I went downstairs with my colleague to take a gander at the first entries. So far, there are only three that we must topple. The first is a classic triangle eyes and jagged mouth design, the second looks like a turkey and the third is painted and affixed with butterfly wings.

Quote my ambitious coworker: “I’m scared. That bug is going to be tough to beat.”

We shall see.