I used to believe Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was the saddest song that I’ve ever heard. I now realize that the saddest song ever is “Happy Birthday” sung by 5 co-workers that you didn’t even know on your last birthday. Is there anything worse than birthday celebrations at work? (I mean other than sitting in front of a small child on an airplane, Bieber, and unnecessary abbreviations obv.) Hey, does he go by Mike or Michael, I don’t want to screw it up. Yes, because if the people singing to you are not sure about your first name, this is bound to be a jolly good time.
It truly is a terrible song. In any situation, sung by anyone, it sounds like cats fucking. But at least if you’re around friends they will feign a little excitement assuming they like you. If they are drinking, they’re probably excited to sing anything so you’ll really feel like a million bucks. The same thing applies to little kid birthday parties. Even that little dweeby fucker that you only invited because you have to invite everyone from your class is serenading the shit out of you. Wait, I’m being encouraged to eat a ton of sugar and scream at someone. This is awesome! Hell, even at family parties they’ll sing to you with some spirit, whether because they like you or because they are over compensating for the shitty gift that they gave you is irrelevant.
But work is a depressing, sober place where no one has to like you, and no one has any real incentive to really pretend either. The only reason that they’re doing anything is because the boss has to keep track of this shit so they don’t get their car keyed several times a year. Either you pool together money every couple months, or you take turns making one poor bastard shell out the money for a cake and a card that never quite fits your personality. But you can’t blame them, they just started working with you 3 weeks ago, and they only have 45 seconds to pick out the card that morning before work or they would be late. For some reason everyone makes a big deal about keeping the surprise: enclosing the card in a folder and passing it off discretely like your sharing insider trading secrets, keeping silent but sending emails to alert everyone when they will sing, and everyone simultaneously turning off their phone ringers right before go time. It’s supposed to be a surprise, but it’s not like you forgot your own birthday (even if you claim you did), you’re on to them. And if somehow you didn’t know it was coming, there’s always one asshole who walks right up to you and says “Hey, I didn’t know it was your birthday. Happy bday man”. I wonder what timely reminder triggered you to say that. “Thanks”.
Anyway, this misery parade shows up and sings the worst rendition of “Happy Birthday” that you’ve ever heard. The two people with the worst voices sing the loudest, because why not, 2 others sort of fade in and out just so you know that they’re alive, and 1 jerk just sits there clapping for someone unknown reason (note: I’m typically that jerk). You blow out the candles and naturally spit all over the cake so it becomes even more awkward now that you’re sharing this cake with all these strangers. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to put my greasy hands all over the slices too because I have the honor of cutting it. The cake is another story all together. We have 5 people, and I use this term loosely, celebrating, and we need a fucking cake? If you’re at a family party with 20 people, sure get a cake. If you get a cake for 6 people, chances are 4 people are going to ask for “just a tiny piece” or a “sliver” if you’re feeling saucy, and then one fat ass will fess up to wanting a big piece. And fuck it this is probably the highlight of his day too so you give it to him. Here ya go big guy, you can even have some frosting lettering on yours. You know what, take the flower, just take the fucking flower piece.
Short story long, you’re still left with half a cake. You’ve had a hearty piece because you don’t want to be rude, but for christsakes you just had lunch an hour ago. Yes, some of you reading this would just eat the cake, or at least take it home and pound it privately. And that’s fine fatties, savor your bdays, I’m sure at this rate you won’t have too many more left. So you can’t eat the rest of it, but you can’t throw it away either: some guy you hardly know that spent 45 seconds picking it out might have their feelings hurt. So you have to embark on the task of giving away cake to other departments at work. Hey guys, you want any cake? “Sure! Whose birthday is it?” Mine. “Oh, cool, happy birthday”. Thanks stranger…glad you could share cake with me on this happy occasion. Who are the fuck are you again? Kim’s nephew? Doesn’t matter. Can I just set this down on your desk? There, let me cut a piece for you. Oh sorry, I stuck my fingers in the frosting. Getting it off this workplace-friendly, sorry excuse for a knife is tough. Don’t worry; it probably has my spit on it too. You’re welcome. My name’s Mike by the way.
By the time you’re finished with your role as the free-cake fairy, you’re actually happy to just sit down at your desk and get back to work. Maybe, that why we celebrate bdays at work to begin with? The whole day you’re thinking, I can’t sit here and do work. I should be out drinking, or hanging out with people I like, or even just sleeping in. Now you just want to at least appear focused enough on work that no one else asks you if there’s any cake left. You peek at your card: 10 happy bdays, all written in the same color ink, except the one girl who always writes in pink (she probably hearts her “i’s” too). 8 simple “Happy Bdays”, 1 inside joke, and 1 message to someone else because they didn’t realize whom the card was for when they were stealthily passing it around. Lastly, to make things worse, now that people have been forced to eat cake in your honor, they’re compelled to pretend to care about your plans for the rest of the day. “So you got any big plans tonight?” Yeah, it’s Monday night in the suburbs, I’m gonna alternate doing lines with Lamar and Kanye off each Kardashians’ butt while we all swim in Scrooge McDuck’s vault of money. No, I’m going to go the gym to work off this shitty cake and then drink alone until I fall asleep happy knowing that tomorrow I’ll be spared the humiliation and absurdity of the work birthday “celebration”.