work lunches when you’re fasting for Lent, my husband’s retirement party still hasn’t happened, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My new office invited me out for lunch, but I’m partially fasting for Lent

I started a new job around two months ago, and everything has been going really well so far. I just received an email saying that they want to have a welcome lunch for me and another employee next week, and suggesting a local restaurant I would normally like a lot. The issue is that I’m on a partial fast for Lent, and have given up a number of foods, including meat, desserts, and most beverages.

I don’t want to make a big thing of my religion in this workplace, but I also don’t want to just say, “I’m vegetarian,” and then be eating meat a week later. Should I ask if they could hold the date until after Easter? Ask for a vegetarian restaurant? Or just suck it up and order a salad?

It’s not making a big thing of your religion to simply say, “That sounds great! Since I’ve given up a number of foods for Lent, I wonder if we might wait a week?” But if you’d rather not, it would also be fine to go and order something you can eat, like a vegetarian entree or a salad. Both of those are normal enough orders that no one is likely to think anything about it.

2. Can I ask a recruiter if they’ve really been hired by the company they’re filling a job for?

Can I ask a recruiter if they have been retained by the company they are attempting to fill a job for? I don’t know if it is just my industry, but I get the feeling recruiter see job postings and reach out to anyone in my field to attempt to fill a job with the hopes of being paid a finder’s fee. It’s a waste of my time and my colleagues if they don’t stand any real chance of getting called for an interview. Am I totally wrong on this?

Some particularly sketchy recruiters do sort of thing (although definitely not the majority of them) — but there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Have you been retained by the company to work on the search?” Any reputable recruiter worth working with will have no problem answering that — so if someone balks, that probably tells you everything you need to know.

3. Am I an exception to the “don’t call to follow up” rule?

I received a “can we set up an interview” call from the founder of a small company whose position I would be filling. Unfortunately, I am 5 states away so I couldn’t come immediately. She seemed a little discouraged that I was not local since they were looking to fill her position quickly. I told her I was hoping to relocate and could do so immediately. She loved my resume and talked enthusiastically about my projects I linked on my cover letter. The phone call turned into an interview, and by the end she was telling me the daily tasks I would do and talking about scheduling a time for me to speak with her co-founder in the next two days.

She went in-depth about her co-founder, telling me about his personality and giving me a heads-up about the questions he might ask so I could prepare. She said he was away in Hawaii but she could set up a Skype interview or phone call since they wanted the position filled immediately. She even converted the time difference and asked if I would be free to talk to him at 8 p.m. in a few days. She ended the phone conversation by telling me that she called me on her cell and that I should call back if I thought of any questions.

After two days and and no response, I emailed her a thanks for talking/I did more research on your projects/ can’t wait to follow up. However, I had to email through the generic email that I applied for the job because I couldn’t find her specific email, though it is only a 5-person company. I have not heard back, but I realize that they may have found someone local or had difficulty getting in touch with the co-founder. She did say to call if I had any questions, so would it be unreasonable to check in when it has only been a week? If it is a good idea, should I mention that I would be willing pay the travel expenses for an in-person meeting if the other phone interview went well? (I didn’t say anything about paying for travel in my original cover letter like many AAM readers do.) Maybe calling is the obvious answer and I am just hyper-aware of being annoying since I have been binge reading your posts on follow ups.

I think in a case like this — where you don’t have an email address for her, haven’t heard back through the generic one, and were specifically invited to use her cell phone number — it would be fine to call her to check in. (Note: This is not carte blanche for anyone to call people to check in outside of a situation like this! This is about your specific situation.) If you’re willing to pay travel expenses to come interview in-person, I’d definitely mention that — if they weren’t planning to consider local candidates, they may not have budgeted for that, and offering to cover the cost will remove one possible obstacle from advancing in their hiring process (and is often the reality of what it takes to get hired long-distance these days).

4. My husband’s company is several months late in throwing him a retirement party

My husband retired after 30 years at the same company as of December 31. It is customary that as employees of his company retire, the company throws them a dinner at a nice restaurant for 30 or so close associates. His boss took him to lunch in December and they discussed where he would like his party. Now it is April and no word has been said about a gathering. I think this is very rude of the company and the boss that my husband’s retirement has gone unrecognized by the company. We have several close friends there who we would like to celebrate this accomplishment with. I don’t think it is my place to call his boss and inquire. Should I just throw him a belated retirement party at our expense and invite those with who we wish to celebrate? He didn’t receive any cards or well wishes because that usually happens at the party. He did leave on great terms and still goes in to help and teach on occasion, but I think he would feel akward bringing it up to them.

Yeah, if he retired in December and the party hasn’t happened by now, I would assume it’s unlikely to and proceed with whatever sort of celebration you’d like to have, rather than trying to nudge them to throw one now. For whatever it’s worth, this was probably more oversight than slight, although I imagine it doesn’t feel great either way.

5. Will this train operator ever find another job?

I read a recent news article about a train operator who admitted to dozing off before the train ran off the tracks and onto the platform. She was fired last week, and my immediate thought (probably because I’ve been reading your blog a lot lately) was, “Wow, I wonder if she is ever going to be able to find another job.”

So, do you think she will ever find another job? If she came to you, what would your advice be to her?

While a single mistake doesn’t usually preclude people from finding another job, this one is different. Major safety related mistakes this like are so serious, and can be so hard to overcome when there’s been news coverage about them, that this might be a case where her best bet is to look at other types of work. Rightly or wrongly, I think an employer would be pretty skeptical about hiring her for another train operator job — in part because if she messed up again, they’d be responsible for having hired her despite track record.

That said, the part of this that is similar to others who are fired for legitimate cause is that she’s going to need to come to terms with why it happened and take ownership for it. That’s going to lead her to the right way to talk about it with future employers (as opposed to ducking responsibility, which usually makes a firing far more concerning).

{ 232 comments… read them below }

  1. CanadianWriter

    #4 Now your husband can throw his own party and invite people he actually likes! Sounds like a win.

    1. ArtsNerd

      While I wouldn’t particularly enjoy a work-sponsored party (my going-away cake at Oldjob springs to mind as something to merely endure…), it’s really shitty to see employers do something for everyone else but not follow through with you (flowers at my mother’s funeral during Oldjob springs to mind…) Especially if you’re marking a departure.

      I agree that OP and her husband should throw exactly the party he wants to have, but man. Hurt feelings here are really valid, even though I absolutely agree with AAM that it just fell through the cracks and wasn’t an intentional slight against OP’s husband.

      1. Annie O

        Yeah, I’d be pissed if my company didn’t hold a retirement party for me if that was the norm. Heck, I’d be pissed on behalf of a co-worker if I saw it happen to them. It may be a simple oversight, but it’s no good for employee morale.

      2. MaggietheCat

        +1 ArtsNerd. Our company gives gift cards when an employee gets married. I sent out an email letting everyone know my name had changed and shared the details of my wedding with my office but was apparently overlooked. It doesn’t feel nice!

        1. ArtsNerd

          I don’t mean to recommend that they stew or pout or hold a grudge against his employer, or anything. Just that it really can feel hurtful, even if the hurt wasn’t intended.

      3. Rev.

        My wife threw her own party…X 2! One @ her job site, for the coworkers (catered & everything, and her co-workers were happy for the food/interruption of their day), and # 2 @ a fancy restaurant for family/friends.

        After 30+ years, she said she wasn’t settling for cake and warm soda.

        Side note: “Throw Your Own Party!” makes a great sermon for the principle of not waiting for others to join in celebrating your accomplishments, i.e. the Prodigal Son’s older brother complaining that the father never killed the fatted calf for him…

    2. lachevious

      Exactly! It’s a drag but I don’t think it was a malicious oversight.

      Heck, I am still waiting on my departing gift from my last attorney, left that job six months ago and even though it’s been sitting in his house I don’t think I’ll ever get it, and frankly – it’d be a little silly to get it now.

      Let it go, and party the way y’all want to – congratulations on the retirement!

    3. Except in California

      It is a tradition here that a Big Bash is held for longterm retiring employees. It’s annoying, actually, because you are pretty much required to attend and pay to do so. The last one cost me a little over $50 with the dinner, gift, and parking. When I retire, I will insist on not “taxing” current employees for my party and hold one myself. I’ll feed everyone and give THEM a gift.

      1. John

        I like your approach a lot. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a generation where we don’t feel as entitled to such things, I don’t understand the mentality of expecting the company to fete you. This may sound corny, but I hope that when it comes time for me to go, I will just be thankful for the opportunity the company provided for me to support myself and save for my retirement.

    4. Transformer

      I wonder if there is any way to bring it to their attention? I work on a pretty close team and I think we would (and do) call out when someone or something has been overlooked. Is there a co-worker who he is close too who could casually mention it to his old boss? Maybe a hallway conversation casually say… “you know it seems like is been a while since XXX left, are you still planning on having the retirement party?”

  2. ZSD

    #1 – Lenten luncheon
    Is there a way the OP can request a delay to the lunch without specifying that they’re fasting for Lent? I just ask because I’m Catholic, and I know that when we’re fasting, we’re theoretically not supposed to announce that to people; if people feel sorry for you for fasting, then you’ve already gotten your reward here on Earth. (OP, I’m not trying to force you to keep this secret if you don’t mind just saying that you’re fasting for Lent. I’m just wondering about other options in case you *would* rather not mention the fasting. I never even managed to come up with anything to give up this Lent, so I’m certainly not trying to be holier-than-thou!)

    1. ArtsNerd

      I was raised Catholic and never heard the “don’t tell people you’re fasting” thing. For people who chose to actually fast (one of my classmates in middle school comes to mind) it was very important context for people around them to have at mealtimes. I’m talking about a full fast, not just abstaining from meat.

      Additionally, I’ve know many people over the course of my life who aren’t even religious who give certain things up for Lent. They use the season as self-discipline and self-improvement exercise, so you can mention Lent without necessarily giving away your religious beliefs.

      I know Catholicism is huge with a bunch of subcultures, so it really depends on OP’s environment how this stuff is perceived.

      1. Rev.

        In SWLA, Roman C. is the dominant subculture, so “giving up X for Lent” is common, from cigarettes to sweets, to, uh, procreation. Wednesday and Fridays are the normal fast days, so most restaurants in the area serve seafood instead of red meat.

        1. Nina

          I see a lot of restaurants advertising Lenten specials in the midwest, particularly Chicago. Just a few days ago I spotted a little Mexican place with a big sign that said “Fish burritos and tacos for Lent!” Business is business, right?
          A coworker at oldjob was very devout and ate only pepper and egg sandwiches on her meatless days.

          1. Jen RO

            Here (majoritarily Orthodox country) it is very common for restaurants/pastry shops/etc to advertise that so-and-so food is “safe” for Lent. My vegan friend who lives in another country is always happy when she visits, because she can just say she is eating Lenten food instead of having to explain veganism to waiters.

            1. Lanya

              I’m Orthodox! I think the Lenten experience would be very different (and much nicer) in a country where everyone is doing the same thing. Can I come to visit you in Romania? :)

              It can be difficult to fast in the USA, but I think it’s more from peer pressure than actual food options nowaways, since everyone serves salads and vegetarian-friendly meals.

              To the OP, I think you should just order a salad or something vegetarian. If anyone comments, tell them you’re fasting for Lent, or just joke and say you were “feeling green” that day. No big deal. They should not be judging your food choices anyway!!

          2. KellyK

            Same here in Maryland. I see a number of restaurants advertising stuff for Lent, and pretty much every fast food chain, even if they don’t mention the religious observance specifically, has their fish items mentioned pretty prominently.

          3. TL

            I grew up right near the border and a lot of Mexican places served fish tacos, ect.. for Lent. (My school served fish burgers for Lent, too. Those were nasty.)

              1. Evan in the USA

                Not always. My high school cafeteria actually made some rather nice fish every once in a while!

        2. Except in California

          SWLA means southwest Los Angeles? Louisiana? Laos? Seriously, no idea what SWLA means. This is off-topic, but it is a good idea to avoid anagrams if you possibly can, as not everyone shares your knowledge.

          1. Melissa

            I’m assuming southwestern Louisiana, since Louisiana is a pretty heavily Catholic area of the U.S. A quick Google search seems to confirm it; a lot of organizations in the area use SWLA (United Way of SWLA, SWLA Chamber of Commerce, SWLA Center for Health Services, etc.).

            1. Except in California

              To be fair, SW Los Angeles is pretty heavy Catholic too…Laos maybe less so, but that really isn’t my point. imnsho.

      2. Matt

        The “don’t tell people you’re fasting” thing is in the Gospels, when Jesus tells the disciples not to do it like the Pharisees who would demonstrate their holy behavior to everyone – Jesus recommended to give to the poor in a way that no one else could see, and when fasting not to look suffering and make a big deal about it, AFAIR (it’s been a long time since I read the Bible ;-)

        I encounteredthe similar “problem some years ago when I was on a diet to lose weight. But since everyone could see that I was obese, maybe this didn’t come across as “strange” as would be for religious reasons …

        1. ArtsNerd

          I don’t deny the validity of the teaching, (and I’m still very uncomfortable when I’m publically thanked for quiet donations to charity) but wanted to point out that it’s not universally interpreted as “don’t mention your fast at all” among even devout Catholics. There are plenty of ways to mention your religious practices without trying to make a show of your holiness. In the example of my young classmate above, it nipped serious concerns about his well being and home life in the bud. He wasn’t bragging, but responding to people worried he wasn’t eating because food wasn’t available to him, y’know?

        2. Katie NYC

          I looked it up. That guidance comes from Matthew 6:16 (verse below). I don’t feel like it’s a hard and fast rule… I see it more like “best practice”. I’ve definitely heard the teaching read at mass, but I’ve never felt it was emphasized. I think I heard a homily once telling people not to bore others with their diet stories.

          “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

          1. Chinook

            Exactly – the teaching is to not brag about fasting but it is still necessary to let people know why your eating behavior has changed so as to how take the focus off you.

            Also, there is another teaching, from St. Paul I think, that we also need to be good guests, which means not declining food normally forbidden (I.e food sacrificed to idols). That can then be interpreted as, if you are someone’s guest in their home, you eat what is put in front of you (restaurants are different because we can choose what is put on our plate.)

        3. Melissa

          That’s definitely never the way I’ve interpreted that Scripture. I’ve always thought it was just about not making a big deal out of doing the religious things you’re supposed to do, but not that you can’t tell people what you’re doing when they ask, and that’s what my (non-Catholic admittedly) upbringing taught was the interpretation too.

          Not saying you’re wrong or anything, just that I think it’s interesting how many different interpretations there are!

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      As a cradle Catholic I’ve also never heard of this. Whenever anyone brought it up, it’s always in the context of “Oh, please excuse me for not eating that lovely meatloaf souffle you’ve brought in, I’m fasting” or, like in this letter, declining an invitation to eat at a restaurant on a fast day.

      The teaching as we always interpreted it was “Don’t go around sobbing and wailing and sitting in the lunchroom going I HATE peanut butter and jelly THIS FAST IS AWFUL, good thing I’m SOOOO devout!” but I’ve never heard that it’s supposed to be a secret.

      1. Annie O

        Catholic here too, and this is my understanding. Fasting doesn’t have to be a secret, but we shouldn’t go around playing the martyr because we’re fasting.

      2. IndieGir

        You’ve hit the nail right on the head. The Catholic interpretation of Matthew 6:16 is not so much about secrecy, but about joyful sacrifice. You’re not supposed to be in a race to the bottom to see who can flagellate herself the most, you’re supposed to fast and give alms with love and joy, and even if it’s hard, suck it up and smile.

        Having said that, I’d also add that at times it is more gracious and more of a sacrifice to break a fast if not doing so would be hurtful to your hosts.

        1. Jess

          Yes to both of your points. Fasting is a small, quiet sacrifice, and shouldn’t be adhered to above and at the expense of all other values, such as consideration for others in situations where it might be hurtful or make others uncomfortable if you didn’t partake. It truly is an act of grace to forgo your personal commitment to fast in such cases, and you’re right that it can be the bigger sacrifice.

          1. IndieGir

            Oops, I hit submit too soon, what I mean to say is that you expressed the concept much better than I did!

      3. Recovering Catholic

        This was my understanding. Especially since my second grade teacher at Catholic school yelled at me in front of everyone for trying to wash off my ashes after Ash Wednesday mass.

      4. wanderlust

        Not a Catholic here – I am Protestant; However, I think the spirit of Jesus’ admonition there was basically what Diet Coke Addict said. If you’re only fasting so that people will notice you and give you praise for your devotion to the discipline of fasting, then you’ve “already received your reward”. The purpose of the fast should be to draw you closer to your faith, not win the praise of others.

      5. Jamie

        ITA with Diet Coke Addict – I’ve never heard of the fasting in secret thing either, not to say that’s not how it’s done elsewhere. I was told we weren’t supposed to make a big show about it, but not that we couldn’t tell people.

        In Chicago you can’t swing a stick without hitting a restaurant with a lenten special – and our workplace is predominately Catholic so we have menus from everywhere with stuff safe to eat on Fridays.

        Speaking of lent, I need someone to explain to me the appeal of a pepper and egg sandwich. It’s such a huge deal here regionally and I know so many people who love them – but I just don’t get it.

      6. Rev.

        LOL @ “lovely meatloaf souffle you’ve brought in…”

        I use “quiche” as my Favorite Food To NOT Bring to a Potluck Supper.

        (assuming you meant it that way. If not, “Never mind!”

        :>)

  3. Jillociraptor

    OP 1, I think as long as you are matter of fact about your temporary restrictions (i.e. not repeatedly congratulating yourself for your piety) it wouldn’t be weird at all to mention it, unless the foods you can eat are so restricted that other people wouldn’t be able to enjoy a good meal due to the limited number of restaurants you could visit.

    For the record too, I don’t think there’s anything super weird about saying you’d like a vegetarian meal one week, then eating meat the next. I keep Kosher and often request veggie meals for work functions when it seems unlikely that they could easily accommodate my needs (esp when my needs are, like many Jews, “there is literally no rhyme or reason to why I am cool with cheeseburgers but not cool with sausage; there’s no guidebook for this”). No one’s ever batted an eye much less accused me of nefarious intentions. Just be chill about it, don’t overexplain, and probably it will work out totally fine.

    1. Jillociraptor

      Just wanted to quickly add – I was being glib with the parenthetical about not congratulating yourself on your piety. I don’t mean to suggest that’s what you were doing!

    2. Kerry

      (esp when my needs are, like many Jews, “there is literally no rhyme or reason to why I am cool with cheeseburgers but not cool with sausage; there’s no guidebook for this”)

      Ha! Me too! (For some reason shellfish and particularly prawns are my sticking point. I’m don’t keep halakhically kosher and eat pork now and again, but prawns are a definite NOPE and I have no idea why.)

      1. Rev.

        To be kosher, seafood requires both fins and scales. Jews who live here have to close their eyes to boiled crawfish and shrimp, esp around Lent.

    3. Bea W

      That’s a good point, the OP could request to go someplace with good vegetarian options. It’s not weird to want or request a vegetarian meal without being a vegetarian.

      It’s also not necessarily odd to claim you are fasting or observing a religious practice. This may depend on your office culture, but I live in a religiously and culturally diverse area, and it’s really not uncommon that people observe certain practices at different times of the year. Fasting or dietary restrictions are common to many religious practices, so this has come up in my workplace a number of times, and no one bats an eye. They wouldn’t think twice about either postponing or choosing a menu to accommodate that person.

    4. Zahra

      Heh. My family is practicant Muslim and my mom cannot force herself to eat sausages, even all lamb merguez (which are a staple in North Africa, where the majority of the population is Muslim). She also dislikes having wine in her food (Beef Bourguignon, or risotto cooked with a splash of wine at the beginning of the stirring process). I, on the other hand, do not practice, but I don’t cook pork (apart from bacon), simply because I’ve never seen my mom cook it.

      1. iseeshiny

        I also do not eat any pork except sometimes bacon. And prosciutto. Consistent? No. But you know what they say about consistency.

      2. Cath in Canada

        A friend of mine is not religious, but grew up with a Muslim mother in a Muslim community in India, where pork products just weren’t really available. She moved to Canada for university and married a Newfie guy she met during her first few months in the country. She’s crazy about bacon now and says “I basically married the first guy who ever fed me bacon”.

    5. Anonathon

      Totally agree. When I’ve fasted for Yom Kippur, I’ve just said exactly that and no one has minded. Even if they don’t share your specific religion, plenty of people’s backgrounds involve some kind of food rules. (The only way that it could be an issue in the office would be, say, if you started giving others a hard time for not fasting or something — which I highly doubt you would do!)

    6. Cath in Canada

      I’m not vegetarian, but I often order a vegetarian meal when I eat out, and probably about 95% of the lunches I eat in front of colleagues in the lunch room are meat-free. A lot of my friends do the same. I don’t think eating a vegetarian meal one week and a meaty one the next would be weird at all. Someone might ask “oh, are you vegetarian?” when you place your order; just answer “no, but I don’t always feel like meat, you know?”, and unless your new colleagues are very peculiar people, it probably won’t even be mentioned or even thought of again!

    7. Jen S. 2.0

      I’m not vegetarian at all, but I often don’t eat meat at a meal. “I eat meat” =/= “I eat meat every time I eat.”

      I wouldn’t think anything of it of someone ordered a meatless salad at some point but I saw them eating meat another time. You may not eat meat at any given meal, even if you eat meat at other meals. I very often have toast and fruit for breakfast, or grilled cheese for lunch, or pasta for dinner, and I can’t imagine that it’s odd.

      Moreover…do other people really micromanage others’ food choices this much? I really don’t pay this much attention to what others order at group meals. People need to mind their own food business.

  4. Franny

    OP 1, I was in a similar position when I started a new job a few years ago. I was fasting for Lent and two people in my small, tightly-knit office had birthdays during March, so we all made plans to go out for lunch. I was really nervous about coming across as self-righteous or proselytizing but I also didn’t want to sit there conspicuously not eating, so I just mentioned the fasting when we made plans and everything was fine. I went to the lunch to celebrate with my coworkers and just had some water, and that was it. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, other people probably won’t either.

    1. Lanya

      My birthday almost always falls the first week or two of Lent, so I go through this issue every year at work. They want to throw a party, I am not supposed to be partying, etc. Normally I just have a conservative slice of cake to be gracious, and I don’t make a big deal about it.

      1. Jamie

        My birthday falls at the same time and my mom always said birthdays are exempt.

        Not sure she was basing this on religious principle or just making it up. My money is on the latter. :

        1. Lanya

          Apparently, you can get a dispensation from your priest or bishop, but I’ve never asked for one!

        2. Chinook

          Actually, birthday exemptions are a religious principle because it is a feast day. This is also why the 40 days of lent are actually 40 days plus Sundays – Sundays are also feast days and you can’t truly “celebrate” the Lord’s mass if you are working on your preparation for his death.

          The feast day exemption also explains St. Patricks’s day celebrations in Ireland and Valentine’s day dinners.

      2. KJR

        Mine does too! I really hate when it’s on a Friday and I can’t get my birthday steak. It’s actually a great excuse to get the birthday lobster!

  5. Nina

    #5; I agree with Allison that she needs to find another line of work. For one thing, that wasn’t the first time she had fallen asleep at the wheel; she’d done it before and missed a stop. There are other factors that need to be addressed (what she’d been doing in the 18 hours prior to working, the time she crashed the train, etc.) but she lucked out in the fact that she didn’t kill anybody. She caused millions of dollars in damage, people were injured, and that’s bad enough. A future employer has to take all of that into consideration.

    That said, there are serious screw ups in the transportation industry (especially falling asleep at the wheel/rig/train/etc) and they re-hire drivers or just put them on probation, but they don’t have such massive damage and media coverage like this one (rightfully so; I still get chills when I see that Blue line train just clamber into the platform) and that’s what’s really going to mess with her in the end. The CTA already has enough issues going on, so I’m not surprised that they let her go.

    1. Artemesia

      Yes she had done it before and yes she needs to be in another line of work, but I do feel some sympathy as she was in a position where she was required to call in every morning to see if they had work for her that day (and thus not sleep in after a late shift) and they had scheduled her for over 65 hours that week. She needed to be fired but the company bears some responsibility for their bad management as well. I hope she can find something in another line of work.

      1. JMegan

        Wow, 65 hours is a lot for work like that. It’s a lot for me just sitting here at my desk – but my mistakes don’t have the potential to kill anybody!

        Definitely the employer should be looking into their scheduling practices as part of the investigation in that case.

      2. Mimmy

        Ugh…just the mere idea that train operators are over-scheduled to a point of nodding off at the wheel makes me nervous!!

    2. Celeste

      Another voice of agreement that she should find a new line of work. While in theory she stands to make the best money doing more of what she’s already experienced doing…in reality, she is a liability to the new employer because of her history. Odds are she isn’t going to resume her old salary (much less do better), so it’s the perfect time to make a change.

      I also feel like it would be a lot healthier for her to get out of that industry. While she will always have to live with what happened, she shouldn’t have to walk back into it every day. I can’t see how that is good for her, even with a less responsible job in the field.

  6. PEBCAK

    #5 — I assume you are talking about the blue line derailment in Chicago. I heard yesterday on WBBM that she had been worked for something like 60 hours in the previous 7 days, and that the CTA won’t admit fault, but is planning to change its work rules. So, while she certainly bears some responsibility, if new safety legislation mandating rest periods or similar comes out of this, I would take that as an indicator that management shares a good bit of the culpability. In that case, what’s the right way to address it in an interview?

    1. PEBCAK

      Let me add that I am not intending to argue the merits of this exact case. I have seen additional info indicating that she had done this before, that she skipped her disciplinary hearing, she had enough time off before the shift, etc. I’m just interested in the bigger-picture hypothetical of “I messed up, but the policies in place sort of set me up for failure.” Can you EVER bring something like that up in an interview, or will it always look immature and defensive?

      1. ArtsNerd

        That’s a great, difficult question. I’m also interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this!

        1. Celeste

          I think leaving “but” out of it would only help. “I had a significant failure that resulted in my termination, AND it’s an unfortunate reality that the work policy I had to follow was a root cause of the incident.”

              1. fposte

                Yes, I think that locution would. You don’t want to say “root cause” for something other than your own behavior. I think you might be able to say “I was glad to hear that subsequently they changed the shift demands, but it’s still the worst mistake I’ve ever made and expect I ever will make.”

      2. Bea W

        I think explaining the circumstances around the situation in a non-emotionally laden, factual way would not look immature and defensive. You can own your mistake while also explaining why you made that mistake. You can also talk about what you learned and what changes you made/can make to avoid making the same mistake in the future. That change may even be deciding to find another job or a different line of work.

        1. EG

          Also, just wanted to point out that if this were me, I wouldn’t want to take another job like this one, after so much injury to others and emotional damage to myself as well. I can’t imagine being responsible for so many people’s lives and being comfortable with that, ever again.

          1. Mike B.

            Getting a new job in the field is almost certainly not going to be an option for her, whether she wants to or not.

            Even though it was her mistake (and very nearly a catastrophic one that could have destroyed lives), my heart goes out to her. Most people who make comparable lapses at work don’t completely lose their livelihoods as a result.

      3. Josh S

        Two things:
        -Roller coasters have automatic braking systems. So a great many light rail and commuter rail systems. So it’s not just the schedule that CTA bears responsibility for–there are many failsafes that could be added to prevent operator error that simply aren’t present for whatever reason.
        -Regardless of the dangerous scheduling policies, the lack of safeguards, or whatever other circumstances, this operator had a horrific outcome. There are presumably dozens of other train operators who hold the same position and schedule without running off the end of the track or missing stops. While it is certainly worth improving the schedule policy and adding failsafes (and it shouldn’t take an accident to prompt that action!), the responsibility lies with the operator to come to work prepared and alert, particularly when lives are at stake. She failed to do so, and therefore needs to have a dang good explanation to demonstrate that she won’t let it happen again before she is put in any kind of situation where she is responsible for lives. Otherwise, she needs to find a job/line of work where that doesn’t even factor in.

        1. Josh S

          I guess I’m saying this: it won’t necessarily make her look immature or defensive to explain the circumstances, but it won’t help her either. At all.

          The only thing that will help her is to show that it won’t happen again, regardless of circumstance. And talking about the bad schedule policy will only detract from that message, since it says “I won’t screw up again, so long as you have good policies” rather than “I won’t screw up again, period.”

        2. EM

          I heard on the news that there WERE failsafes built in — just that NONE of them worked in this particular incident. Crazy!

          1. fposte

            In general in the modern world, a big transportation accident needs more than a single failure to happen–it’s actually known as the “Swiss cheese model,” where the holes have to align for the failure to happen.

  7. Corie

    #1 – I’m not a vegetarian, but I NEVER eat meat/poultry for lunch. I will, however, eat chicken or whatever if I have to. I don’t eat meat for lunch because they all say we eat too much meat to begin with. So for me, meat only at dinner! If you don’t want to bring up your religion, and you want to order the Portobello Sandwich, just say you ordered it because it sounded good! Or, just say that you are cutting down on your meat because it’s healthier! tons of ways to deal with this without saying it’s for religion! Good luck!

    1. skipping girl

      Absolutely. I am a meat-eater but at lunch I often don’t eat meat, and I never order dessert or coffee. Nobody ever asks me about it. If you don’t make a big deal about it, nobody else should either.

      1. Cat

        I was going to say, maybe I’ve just been in DC too long, but who gets grilled for ordering a vegetarian item at a single meal?

        1. AnonAnalyst

          I had this same thought! I wonder if it’s regional? I’ve lived on the west coast and now in the northeast, and since I just don’t really like most meats, most of the time when I go out for lunch I get something vegetarian. I honestly cannot recall ever being asked about it, nor can I recall ever noticing if anyone else I was with was ordering something vegetarian, unless they had specifically asked if something had meat in it prior to ordering.

          1. Bea W

            That’s the only thing I could think of, if someone is in a region where not eating meat at every meal isn’t common or the population is more homogenous so people just haven’t been exposed to other dietary or cultural practices. I’ve lived in the urban northeast all my life. It’s totally not weird if someone is either a vegetarian or just orders a vegetarian meal one time but meat another time. Just because you eat meat, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a meal without it!

          2. Kai

            Yep–I’m from the south, and it’s common to get funny looks for ordering a vegetarian dish. I eat meat, but I’ll enjoy vegetarian dishes now and again, and it really is a strange thing for some people. You’d think that a dinner of rice and beans or veggie pizza wouldn’t invite questions, but that’s what happens…

            1. Cat

              Hah, at this point, I more feel that I have to rationalize it to my co-workers whenever I order a meat dish. “Well, I know it wasn’t humanely farmed, but when I cook at home, I do try to only buy meat from local farmers . . . . “

          3. chewbecca

            I occasionally order non-meat meals and the only time I’ve been looked at sideways was when we were in a BBQ restaurant.

            But, I also live in a Midwest city known for its BBQ. Anything other than “Gimme ALL the meat” kind of gets the side-eye.

            1. LucyVP

              A BBQ place or a steak house or something similar might be strange to order vegetarian at, especially if you approved the restaurant ahead of time.

              Most restaurants, no one would bat an eye.

        2. Celeste

          The only thing I can think of is that some people MAY feel that as it is a celebratory event, the meal should be a little more lavish. I admit that’s some pretty old thinking, when you consider that somebody may have dietary needs for their health which you know nothing about, and which they may not want to talk about.

          1. Judy

            The only other issue is if it’s a real “meat” type of restaurant, like a Brazillian Barbeque where there really isn’t much beside the cuts of meat they keep walking past the table with.

            Any other place, even here in “the middle”, there will be a few vegetarian items like salads and maybe one entree, plus if she eats fish, there’s usually a grilled salmon or tilapia on the menu. Most of the casual restaurant around here also have black bean burgers to substitute, also.

            I’ve not had soda except for the Mt Dew I chase my Excedrin with for more than 10 years. I usually order water or tea in restaurants. No one has questioned me about this.

        3. majigail

          I read this as she gave up several things… not just meat. I have a friend that gives up not only meat, but fries, chips, and alcohol. He adds something else to the list every year. I believe he’s up to 10 different things he abstains from during Lent this year. Several years ago, I gave up all processed food for Lent. If she’s given up more than meat, she may get questions. Although, even here in the heart of the Midwest, I’ve never given anyone any crap for eating a salad at lunch.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Yeah, I’ve never heard of anyone doing that either. If someone orders a salad, we just assume they’re eating light or they aren’t very hungry and leave it at that.

        4. Tris Prior

          I’m vegetarian and I also live in a large city where being veg is considered pretty normal. But when I visit my in-laws in a rural area, I do get grilled. And the few times I’ve been in the deep South, it was also A Thing. So yes, I think it is absolutely regional.

        5. LMW

          I’m in Milwaukee (a pretty meat-oriented city), I always order vegetarian (without announcing that I’m vegetarian), I’m almost never questioned. Unless I’m at a burger joint or something, and even then it’s rare.

        6. giggleloop

          I actually was questioned a couple of weeks ago on a Friday when I was not eating meat. I wasn’t offended, but I was a little taken aback because I wasn’t expecting someone to notice my meatless meal…. it seems so regular to me nowadays that people have special diets, and I live in a Catholic-heavy area.

    2. Amy B.

      Vegan Buddhist here; and going to lunch with my coworkers always turns into a discussion about “how in the world can you eat like that? I could never do that! BACON!” No worries though. I can find SOMETHING to eat no matter where we go.

      See if the place you will be going has an online menu and plan what you will be ordering ahead of time. It saves the stress of trying to figure it out on the spot.

      1. OP1

        This is a really good idea, on the online menu! I just looked, and was able to identify 2 dishes that I should be fine to eat. I think being able to just order, instead of having to search the menu nervously, will help a lot.

        1. Sara M

          I have many dietary restrictions, and I always look at menus before I go. This eases my anxiety because I can confirm there’s at least one dish I can eat.

      2. Elizabeth West

        That’s a great idea. It’s a good suggestion for anyone avoiding certain foods because health, etc. I can’t eat broccoli and everyone shoves it into all kinds of veggie dishes.

      3. giggleloop

        I have to stop myself from saying these types of things, to be honest. I always thought I was being appreciative of the effort someone puts into a special diet, but now I realize that it can come off as insensitive. I’m trying to do better!

        1. KellyK

          If you want to be appreciative of the effort, maybe a comment about how you admire that they stick to their personal convictions would be closer to what you’re trying to get across?

        2. Nichole

          Same boat. I have a few coworkers who are vegan, and it’s been a very educational experience. They’ve been very understanding as I learned the basics of veganism and stopped giving the automatic “that sounds gross, needs bacon” response at some of their more uncommon food preferences. Of course, I reserve the right to enjoy my ham sandwich a little too much when I get asked (jokingly) what animal I’m eating for lunch today.

    3. Sunflower

      #1- In most circumstances, ordering a salad or veg option will be fine and won’t cause any questions. And even if it does, having dietary restrictions for Lent is very common(at least in the northeast) but I can understand why OP is maybe nervous about this esp depending on past work environments.

      At my job, people are ALWAYS making comments on what I eat. My one boss seems to think I have an eating disorder and is constantly telling me I don’t eat enough at office dinners and tries to make me order more. My other boss doesn’t understand why I’m not ordering steak and lobster when I’m traveling for work.

      So I dread going out to office dinners and lunches because I know it will end up with someone making comments about what I’m eating- FWIW I am not self conscious about what I eat or anything so I can’t imagine how this would make someone who is body conscious or does have a type of eating disorder feel

    4. Cara

      I have been a vegetarian for most of my life and I never make a big deal about it. Sometimes I do have to mention it (like if I’m going to a dinner party) but at a restaurant? No. I just order something vegetarian. It’s really not a big deal.

      And almost every restaurant has vegetarian options, so you don’t need to request a particular place if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Sometimes people like to tease me by threatening to take me to a steakhouse, and I love to call their bluff. You can put together a great meatless meal from the sides at a steakhouse (like a baked sweet potato + veggie side dishes).

    5. Mephyle

      I am flabbergasted by the idea that someone would be called on to justify what they order. I order what I like. I don’t order what I don’t like. I happen to be a vegetarian, a large part of which is so that I don’t have to eat things (meaty things) that I don’t like. It’s amazing to me that there are subcultures where you are called on to justify not ordering food you don’t like!

  8. Erin

    #1 – Just go and order something vegetarian and if anyone asks, and you don’t want to explain, just say something along the lines of “I just feel like trying it today” or “This looks appealing” or something similar.
    People go to restaurants and try new things all the time. :)

    1. Chocolate Teapot

      Sometimes a vegetarian option might seem better than the meat option, or there’s the good old “I need extra vitamins today” excuse if pressed.

  9. Kerry

    Thanks for writing about the fasting question! It is a funny one. I fast about ten days a year (the Jewish fast days) and although a fast day only coincided with a work social event once I felt pretty awkward about it. It was an impromptu team lunch, and I said I’d brought a lunch and then hid in a break room on the other side of the office for half an hour. Not my most adept moment (I blame low blood sugar…)!

  10. Chinook

    OP#1-fellow Catholic hear and I agree with AAM. I was able to do just this when we had a big staff lunch on Ash Wednesday and I was fasting. It was in our conference room, so I quietly let the woman ordering the food know I wouldn’t be eating but would be joining them. I then showed up with a mug of tea and a positive attitude. Whenever I was asked why I wasn’t eating, I said I was fasting and changed the topic. In my mind, I did want my food intake to be the focus of discussion just like it shouldn’t be if I had allergies or was a vegetarian.

    Now, if the temptation of being around a forbidden food, think about it is a type of penance. That is the only way I could resist the giant, homemade nanimo bars at another business lunch.

      1. Chinook

        Plus, they were a part of a. “Taste of B.C.” lunch at a high end hotel and I was stuck having an oatmeal cookie. Many people knew I am willing to be bribed with chocolate, so a few people made comments pointing them out in a helpful way. I can’t think of a non-religious or non-allergy reason to turn them down.

        If you are making them, be warned that they take time and the setting is each layer is important. There is also a mint version out there. The authentic recipes come from Nanaimo, British Columbia.

        1. Cath in Canada

          Mint Nanaimo bars?! That’s just wrong!

          I once heard some American tourists on a BC Ferries sailing discussing the “finding Nemo bars” they’d tried in the cafeteria! I know the pronunciation (Nan-EYE-mo) isn’t the most intuitive, but it still made me smile

      2. So Very Anonymous

        Weirdly, I’m from the midwest, not Canada, but grew up eating these all the time because my mom had a recipe for them — we called them “refrigerator bars.” I’d never heard of anyone else eating them until my boss at my old job brought them to a work potluck, and my Canadian colleague recognized them right away as nanimo bars. My mom made them with a TON of butter and wheat germ in the bottom layer (you know, to be healthy… ;) ) She doesn’t make them anymore because my dad can’t have real butter, and I’m guessing butter substitute wouldn’t do it.

    1. Jean

      Oh my, oh my, I just googled this confection. It looks absolutely DIVINE. I also enjoyed the fact that the mother of So Very Anonymous added wheat germ to the bottom layer. Healthy indeed. One should always reinforce the nutritional value of one’s butter intake.

  11. Rachel

    OP #1, there’s plenty of middle ground between “making a big thing of my religion” and never mentioning it. My entire office knows that I’m an observant Jew. I miss work days for holidays and don’t check email at all on those days. I don’t eat non-kosher meat, so I’m on the list of people who need veggie food for our monthly staff lunch. I can’t work late on Fridays, because I gotta get home for Shabbas. Next Monday, I’m working remotely so that I can be in my parents’ city already for the Passover Seder that night.

    But I’m not making a big deal out of it. It just is- like how our president has to leave the office by a certain hour to get the train so she can have dinner with her kids, or how someone might have a regular doctor’s appointment, or an observant Muslim would fast during Ramadan. It’s something your coworkers might want to be aware of for getting to know you, and occasionally for scheduling purposes, but no big deal. Some people are religious.

    That being said, if fasting for Lent means that you’re eating pescetarian, then what’s the big deal? Go to lunch, order something you can eat. No one is paying attention to that, plenty of people don’t eat meat.

    1. KellyK

      Totally agree. When your religious beliefs become relevant to work, because of scheduling or food or other logistics (or in chatty, getting-to-know-each-other conversations), it’s not making a big deal to bring them up.

    2. OP1

      The fast I’m following is a lot more restrictive than pescetarian — I’ve mostly been eating alone because people have remarked on my meals, and it makes me feel awkward. I mostly worry about coming across as a wild zealot or something, which is not my intent.

      I think part of why I’m concerned is that I have heard at least one person talking about an observant Jewish coworker with some eye rolling overtones, about how he “understands religion,” but he “lives in the real world,” and some restrictions are just unrealistic in reality. I worry that people will think I’m weird for a non-required fast, which is not required by my religion, but which I’ve committed to and which is important to me

      1. Chinook

        OP1 if that person who “lives in the real world” makes comments to you, keep in mind that she is expressing her personal beleifs and they shouldn’t affect you unless they are in a position of power (and if she is, she could be coming close to religious discrimination). You could also politely point out that your “real world” involves religious commitments that don’t affect her might lead to an interesting conversation. When I fasted during the staff lunch, it triggered conversations at the other end of the table about different religious traditions and expectations (which I stayed out of to keep from being seen as a zealot).

      2. Colette

        You don’t actually have to mention Lent at all if you don’t want to – you could just say “I’m fasting this week” and either ask to reschedule or find something you can eat on the menu. Plenty of people do cleanses or fasts without a religious reason.

        (I do agree that you’ll be much more conscious of it than the people you’ll be eating with, unless you order a glass of water or something that is definitely not food. If that’s the kind of fast you’re doing, just ask to reschedule. Lent is almost over.)

        Having said that, if someone is making snide comments about coworkers’ religious beliefs, that’s out of line.

      3. LBK

        If he feels the need to bring it up, you could always say something that acknowledges that it’s not an ordinary meal and you’re intentionally stretching yourself. Ex: “Well, I thought I would challenge myself a little this year, and so far it’s proven to be very possible. I wouldn’t do it forever, but it’s fine for 40 days!” and then just carry on eating.

        1. Jillociraptor

          I’m an ex-vegetarian, and this was the best way to shut down that weird need other people have to justify their eating habits even when you’ve said literally nothing about it. Just a totally neutral, “Oh, it hasn’t really been a problem.”

          HOW DO YOU NOT EAT BURGERS. “Oh, it hasn’t really been a problem.”

          I COULD NEVER NOT EAT BACON. “Oh, it hasn’t really been a problem.”

          Don’t engage, don’t justify, just remind them that this is a normal part of your life by treating it like it is.

          1. KJR

            I just LOVE this. For the past 7 years I have followed a very “weird” diet that works for me, but I get SO many comments about it. I will be using this from now on, thank you Jillociraptor!

          2. LBK

            I would be so tempted to reply to “How do you not eat X?” sarcastically. “Well, I don’t eat burgers by not picking them up, putting them in my mouth, chewing and swallowing them. You’d be amazed at all the things you can not eat using that method! Here we are having this conversation and somehow I’ve managed to not eat my shirt, your notebook, this laptop…”

            And I say this as a devout meat-lover who only made it 3 months as a vegetarian before I missed steak too much and caved.

            1. Laura

              I get the “HOW CAN YOU NOT DRINK COFFEE?” and “HOW CAN YOU NOT DRINK ALCOHOL?” Thing a lot, and I think I will use a variation of that

      4. Rachel

        I just want to clarify: is your fast so restrictive that it would be hard to order food at a restaurant? Or would your food just be out of the ordinary for you/folks you work with? Because while I’m not catholic, and not in your situation, I really think that if there will be something you can eat, then there won’t be a fuss. “Why did you order that?” “It’s what I felt like eating today.” Done. Whatever. Anyone who pushes past that on food choices is being rude.

      5. Us, Too

        As someone who has had some strange dietary practices by many people’s standards, I can give you some pointers on phrasing to help in these situations.

        You don’t have to say you’re fasting – that’s YOUR private information to share (or not) as you choose.

        Most of the time if you don’t bring it up, nobody else will, either. In the event someone comments on it, keep your response upbeat and brief.

        For example:
        Colleague: whoa, just lettuce for you today? Aren’t you hungry?
        Me: I know, right? A giant salad is just what I wanted, though, so go figure. Hey, by the way, did you get that email about the ….

        Colleague: Why do you only eat lettuce?
        Me: (LOL) I am lazy and opening a bag of salad every day is my go to for work lunches. Hey, by the way, did you see last night’s episode of….

        Colleague: You’re not going to order lunch? What’s up?
        Me: Bad timing and worse memory. I forgot we were going out to lunch today and had a late breakfast a couple hours ago. Don’t let me stop you from enjoying your lunch, though. Speaking of lunch, did you see last night’s Top Chef? They made a peanut butter and spaghetti taco!….

        1. Cat

          I generally agree, but in the last case, I think everyone’s going to feel kind of bad if the person in whose honor the lunch is given isn’t eating anything. If there’s nothing that the person can eat, I’d ask to reschedule or ask for a different restaurant.

          1. Us, Too

            Agreed, but I think OP mentioned that he could order a salad or vegetarian dish. So hopefully that option would not have to be executed upon for the specific lunch. (But I have had to deal with the extreme “water only” team lunch and it is incredibly awkward – a white lie is best here).

      6. TL

        As someone with a lot of food allergies, most people don’t really notice when you eat out if you order something strange (unless you’re ordering just sides, but I love me some sides, so that’s easily explained away.)

        Really, as long as you’re quiet and cheerful, it shouldn’t come up as more than a “that’s what you’re getting?” “Yup, I know it’s weird but it hits the spot! So delicious! How ’bout them Spurs?”

      7. Aunt Vixen

        “understands religion” but he “lives in the real world”

        Wow.

        I mean that as Carolyn Hax would say it. Which is to say that I’ve come in to reinforce the point for OP1, if it wasn’t clear from other commenters, that that sort of attitude – toward choices you make that affect others minimally if at all – isn’t worth worrying yourself about, because wow. Inappropriate much? I’m sorry, I can’t seem to actually string a sentence together from how offended I am at this guy’s eye-rolling judgment of other people’s religious observations.

        My mother is a little bit the same way. My fiance has an aunt who keeps kosher in her home but doesn’t insist that food she eats elsewhere be prepared in kosher kitchens, just that it not be actually forbidden – that is, we don’t have to buy meat from a kosher butcher, or keep the meat and the dairy separate, but she will choose one or the other and not eat both at the same meal, and avoids pork and shellfish and so on. My mother has made comments that make me think our tendency to keep this aunt’s needs in mind is silly. Sigh. Or, my fiance’s mother doesn’t normally keep kosher, but she does avoid chametz during Passover. So when I was trying to find baking ingredients without corn syrup or corn starch, so these future in-laws could partake of what I made with them, my mother (who is not observant of any religion and only restricts her diet according to what upsets her stomach) thought I was making unnecessary work for myself. “What, she keeps kosher seven days out of the year?” Yes, Mother, and it’s not up to us to decide whether she should or should not do this. Augh.

        tl;dr My mom might have some boundary issues that make me a little annoyed. Sorry about that.

        Back to work: I know, having said Just Ignore Him, Not His Business above, that it’s not always that easy to ignore people whose business things aren’t. I can swat down my own mother, but when you’re new in a workplace it may be a long time before it feels right getting into it.

    3. Elizabeth West

      It’s something your coworkers might want to be aware of for getting to know you, and occasionally for scheduling purposes, but no big deal. Some people are religious.

      Yes, and that’s fine. At Exjob, we had a bunch of customers on the East Coast who closed on Jewish holidays (and Canadian customers whose holidays were different as well). I just made a note to check when I had to ship to them so packages wouldn’t arrive on days I knew they would be closed. It was actually quite handy to know that ahead of time.

  12. Barbara in Swampeast

    #1 – The consensus seems to be that you shouldn’t worry about it if you do go during Lent. Unless you work for a company with a strong religious connection, I think most people won’t even notice. I’m a Baha’i and during our month of fasting I had to go to a lunch meeting. Fortunately the discussion happened after everyone was done eating so I just showed up after the food was done. A couple people asked why I hadn’t had lunch, I explained about the fast and everything was fine. And it was for a religion no one there had heard about before.

  13. TotesMaGoats

    #1-Totally agree with what others have said. This isn’t a big deal. I’ve got a couple people in my office who fast for Lent or do meatless Fridays or any variation on that. We talk about it and know who is doing what to plan our various lunches out.

    My comment is more that it’s sad that you even had to worry about it. I get that we shouldn’t go to work and proselytize. And given the sensitivity of the subject, being heavy handed about your beliefs can be a problem. But have we really gotten to the point that you can just say, “I’m fasting for Lent” (or fill in your religious observance) and not worry about it? I guess I’m lucky that my staff and I can talk about these sorts of things and it not be an issue.

    For a while it was “So and so is meatless on Fridays for Lent.” or “So and so is fasting for Ramadan.” We just adjusted accordingly when ordering out or planning for events.

      1. Persephone Mulberry

        I totally want to screen print a goat on the other side. Or underneath the “Totes.” And it will be my own little AAM inside joke.

  14. BCW

    #5 Maybe I’m biased because I take that line to work everyday, but I hope she doesn’t find another good job ever. I’m all for 2nd chances, but this basically was her 2nd chance. I also think if she did something bad outside of work it would be different, but this was on the job. She had fallen asleep on the job previously. When people’s safety is on the line its just unacceptable. She luckily didn’t seriously injury anyone, but she cause 9 million dollars worth of damage! If I were an employer, there is no way I would trust her to do anything in my company.

    1. Colette

      There’s a fairly significant difference between “not finding a job where she’s responsible for others’ safety” and “not finding a good job ever”.

      1. Ruffingit

        THIS. I don’t think we should black ball people forever from finding a job. What should she do then? Live off the government? I’d rather have her working.

        I realize you said “good job” here indicating that perhaps she could find a job, just not a good one, but I’m thinking she might be able to work teaching in the safety industry. Sort of the idea of “I did something really bad, here’s how to avoid it yourselves…”

        1. BCW

          She didn’t even show up for her hearing though. I don’t think she’d have very much credibility teaching safety since she wouldn’t even show up to take responsibility for her actions.

          1. Ruffingit

            Agreed. When you have mitigating evidence such as that, then sure perhaps she shouldn’t be teaching. I do think though, as a general rule, that blackballing people from working good jobs isn’t the best way to go. Individuals may deserve it depending on circumstances, but not everyone who does bad, very bad, things does.

      2. Mimmy

        Exactly. I think the key for her would be to show prospective employers, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she can take responsibility for her own actions. It won’t be easy though given the circumstances.

        1. Mimmy

          To be clear: I don’t think she has any real chance of ever working in the transportation industry again.

    2. BCW

      Well, I didn’t mean she should never work, but the amount of jobs I think she can handle would be very low. Even still, I stand by the fact that if I was a manager, I don’t think I’d have very much trust in her to be responsible.

      1. some1

        Well, I wouldn’t hire to baby-sit young children or drive a bus but for a lot of jobs I don’t see the risk.

        Sure, if you are a data entry clerk who sits at a desk all day and you fall asleep on the job…it’s reasonable to fire you for that, but no one could die.

    3. LCL

      She won’t get another driving job, but she will probably get a job on a maintenance crew somewhere. If she had the experience I would hire her for a maintenance job.

      The accident was a 3AM accident, when human performance and alertness is at it’s lowest point. This is a huge issue for shiftworkers in all industries. Some of the really bad industrial accidents attributed to human error are what some of us call ‘3am accidents’. Bhopal was a middle of the night accident. So was 3 Mile island.

  15. Employment Lawyer

    Re #1:

    No, no, no.

    No religion in the workplace unless ABSOLUTELY needed.

    If you give up food for Lent, you should just give it up. Order a salad; order falafel; order a veggie burger. But don’t explain why. Your business is your business. Not to mention that “ordering a salad” or “ordering a veggie personal pizza” are perfectly normal things for meat-eaters to do.

    It is always a bad idea to give religious explanations when a non-religious explanation will suffice. Avoid them when possible.

    1. Joey

      What?! Who cares if people know you observe Lent? Unless Lent is a foreign concept what’s the big deal?

    2. Cat

      I disagree with this. No proselytizing in the workplace, but you’re allowed to mention religion.

    3. TotesMaGoats

      Really?? Religion is a part of lots of people’s lives. Just like their hobbies, kids and other pursuits are. Why should you have to cut it out of conversation, especially in this context? She’s not trying to convert anyone. And I would hazard a guess that, at least in the US, Lent isn’t so foreign a concept that it’s going to weird people out.

      1. De Minimis

        Some people also won’t let it go unless you explain it. This happened at my work last Friday, staff were preparing a breakfast for patients and my boss kept badgering one of my Catholic co-workers about why she wasn’t having any sausage, so she finally had to tell him about Lent. This is the Bible Belt so the concept can be foreign to some people especially those who live in areas with few Catholics.

        If it’s a restaurant situation though it will probably be easier to handle.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Ugh, I hate it when people do that badgering thing. It’s none of their business, but they just won’t leave it alone. So rude. Many times, it’s not like they’re concerned; they just want to KNOW. And it was your boss too–even worse.

        2. TotesMaGoats

          I grew up in the bible belt and even though most protestant denoms don’t observe Lent, it’s not a strictly Catholic thing. They’ve probably at least heard the word and know the concept. Or they should. I grew up in the tiniest of towns in South Carolina (there were more deer than people and I’m not kidding) and knew what Lent was even though we didn’t observe it.

          1. De Minimis

            At first I thought you said “Protestant demons…”

            In fairness, I was probably wrong to say she had to explain the concept of Lent…I imagine he knew what it was, he might have just not been aware that some employees were observing it or how they would go about doing so. I grew up in a very small town with no Catholic church and although I knew about Lent, I was not aware of fasting or avoiding meat on certain days until I moved somewhere with a large Catholic population [to the point where the supermarket sales circulars will announce special Lenten sales.]

              1. TotesMaGoats

                LOL. My pastor and I put the deacon’s meeting on our calendars as “Demons meeting”. It helps us chuckle through what can be an unbearably long meeting.

        3. the gold digger

          When I was in junior high, we lived in Lubbock, right in the middle of the Bible Belt. I was in orchestra and we had to pick a night for rehearsal. Monday was out because of basketball practice, Thursday because of whatever. I finally raised my hand and said, “What about Wednesday?”

          Every head in the room swiveled to look at me in horror. There was dead silence.

          Then someone finally said, “But that’s church night! Don’t you go to church?”

          And of course I didn’t go to church on Wednesday because Catholics don’t do that!

    4. In progress

      If someone is fasting for Ramadan though people are going to notice that you are declining food for a month? I’d think briefly mentioning it would make people feel a lot more comfortable (assuming they weren’t prejudiced-but you can’t do anything about that anyway)

      1. In progress

        Wanted to add that this uncomfortably reminds me of how people assume you’re “shoving your sexuality down their throat” just for mentioning you’re anything other than straight. That isn’t a conversation I want to get into here. Just noting that.

      2. TotesMaGoats

        In this particular case, the Ramadan faster wasn’t permanently located at my building. It wouldn’t have been obvious to us that she was fasting unless we saw her every day. Except…we all knew she was Muslim and that she observed that particular holiday. We knew this because we all talked about our lives. She had shared about growing up in Turkey and how her faith shaped her life. Just like everyone else in the office did.

    5. some1

      So if someone went to a religious-affiliated school, and a co-worker asks where they went, what are you supposed to say, “Um, I can’t tell you”?

      Yes, I realize not everyone who attends a religious school is of that faith (especially university and higher level) but I live in the same city where I grew up and went to Catholic schools K-12. When I was growing up I had very few classmates who weren’t Catholic, and it’s natural for coworkers to ask each other where they went to school.

    6. OhNo

      I’m also going to disagree with this. While you shouldn’t push your religion on people in the workplace, obviously, there’s no reason why you can’t mention it if it comes up in casual conversation.

      And besides, why lie about why you’re not eating certain things? That’s like saying a vegetarian should never, ever, mention that they’re a vegetarian, and should only ever say that they “feel like a salad today”.

      Besides, this seems like a pretty easy, casual way to bring it up. That way, if OP needs accommodations or to take time off work in the future for religious reasons (I’m thinking of a coworker of mine who took an hour off in the middle of the day on Ash Wednesday to go to a service), the boss and coworkers are already aware of the reason.

    7. KellyK

      I really strongly disagree with this. If nobody asks why you’re ordering a salad or not getting dessert, there’s no need to bring it up. But having religious beliefs is not some horrible taboo that you should feel the need to lie about. (And treating religion as some unmentionable thing is rather insulting to coworkers with deeply held beliefs.)

      Mentioning that you’ve given something up for Lent or that you don’t eat beef because you’re a Hindu should be as unremarkable as mentioning that you’re not a fan of spicy food or you’re allergic to strawberries.

      And I’m someone who prefers a really strong separation of work from religion and politics. There was recently an email to all asking for prayers for an employee’s friend’s sick kid, with a ton of replies to all about how they’d be praying, and I found it really inappropriate. (I did, in fact, say a prayer for the kid, but I didn’t broadcast it over work email, and I found the implication that all your coworkers would share your religious beliefs really clueless.) So I’m not the person who wants to put Bible quotes in their work email and make every conversation about God. But even I think your recommendations are way over the top.

    8. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      So, if someone asks me why I don’t drink coffee, you think it’s better for me to lie to come up with an explanation when a simple “I’m a Mormon” would suffice? Yeah, no. I’m not going to push my religion in your face (I don’t go around announcing my religion when it’s not warranted), but I am going to respond truthfully when asked.

      1. some1

        Totally. I would rather know so I didn’t feel like a jackass if I kept asking if you’d like coffee.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          Exactly! Although if you kept offering, I’d probably start ordering some hot chocolate or herbal tea, which are both allowed with my religion.

      2. Laura

        I wish people wouldn’t ask why someone chooses not to eat/drink something. I don’t know, it just seems so nosy . Like if someone asks if you’d like coffee, and you say no thank you, that should be teh end of it. If they keep insisting “I don’t drink coffee” should be enough. But then people ask why, and that sounds so pushy. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol, because I don’t like the taste of either and think life is too short to drink things you don’t like the taste of, but I hate when people ask me why. Often because they react like “i don’t like the taste” is either impossible or not a good reason. Those people would probably understand a religious reason better

        Somewhere like where I live, where there are very few Mormons and most people wouldn’t have met one or know that Mormons abstain from coffee , it might still be taken weirdly, but it’s definitely better to be honest!

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          Yeah, people probably shouldn’t be asking why, but they do, so it’s better to be honest if at all possible. On the other hand, sometimes an explanation is needed even if it isn’t asked for. I went to a conference once where a guy had bought a bottle of wine during a social hour and kept offering anyone and everyone who walked by a glass. I’d met a friend (who was also Mormon) and so was standing near him while we chatted. He kept offering me a glass, even after repeated “no, thank you”s. So I finally told him that I don’t drink because it’s against my religion. He finally stopped asking me.

      3. H. Vane

        Not to mention the whole happy hour thing. I tend to skip since I find it awkward to be standing around with a cranberry juice while explaining to people that no, I don’t drink for religious reasons. But I feel like I’m probably limiting myself/not being social with my coworkers since it’s pretty much the only type of after hours socializing that they do. It’s kind of sad.

      4. Employment Lawyer

        No, I don’t think you should lie.

        However, as a general rule, the fact that you are a Mormon should not be anyone’s business. It should not affect how you are treated at the workplace; it should not affect how you are viewed; it should not have any effect at all.

        But it will! In the aggregate, we treat people differently because people have UNCONSCIOUS bias about folks.

        Like it or not, there are things which people associate with “Catholic who doesn’t eat meat during Lent” or “Mormon who doesn’t drink coffee.” If you’re comfortable with that, disclose away. If you want to be viewed based on what you produce at work, rather than on people’s assumptions of what a “mormon is like,” then disclose.

    9. fposte

      I’m another disagreeing with this. I understand that from a legal point of view silence is the only true safety, but I think that it’s actually beneficial on the human end for people to share this kind of basic information, and that the risk is mostly theoretical, so the good outweighs it.

      1. KellyK

        From the employee point-of-view, where does the legal concern come in? (Seriously, I’m curious.) That seems odd when religion is one of the few things you *can’t* legally be fired over.

    10. Mephyle

      What about the people who do a sort of “secular Lent” – I see a surprisingly large number of these. They observe their religious friends observing Lent, and they are attracted by the concept of giving something up for a set period – they decide the exercise will do them good. So they, too, decide to give something up during the Lenten period, just not with a religious idea attached to it.

      I do agree with this, though, 100%: Not to mention that “ordering a salad” or “ordering a veggie personal pizza” are perfectly normal things for meat-eaters to do.

  16. Ruffingit

    #4 – Retirement party

    I wonder if some of the problem is this: He did leave on great terms and still goes in to help and teach on occasion…

    So he is still there helping and teaching, which may be leading some people to think “Oh, he’s still here, we’ve got time for that retirement party thing…” as opposed to him not being there anymore at all. Just speculating. In any case, if the wife is going to plan a party, presumably she would invite the manager of her husband since he left on good terms. Perhaps the act of calling that person and letting them know a private party is being planned might make him say “OH DAMN! So sorry. I’ll get on that right away.”

    1. Cat

      This makes sense to me – we have done reasonably after the fact retirement parties for people because they hadn’t had a bright line retirement date; they just stepped back their work until we all realized they were functionally retired, and then sometime after that we had the party.

    2. EvilQueenRegina

      I think you might be right. That’s one reason why I ended up abandoning the idea of my leaving party. Initially, it didn’t happen because my office move happened so fast that there wasn’t a lot of time to plan, then on the first morning of my new job we all found out that an ex-coworker had died over the weekend so I didn’t think that was an appropriate time to be talking leaving parties.

      But by the time people had got their heads around that and moved on a bit from it, I’d found out that the work I was going to be doing in New Job had me in close contact with people from Old Job still, so even though I wasn’t seeing them every day I was still sort of there and a leaving party seemed a bit daft.

      In my last week at Old Job there was a bit of talk about me having a joint leaving lunch with the temp but then she ended up getting extended for another two months so she cancelled it, then when another admin left a few weeks later she spoke vaguely about a joint leaving lunch, but the problem was that a lunch in Old Office isn’t practical for me now because with the time it would take me to get there from New Office, I’d only have about 5 minutes there and have to leave again – I explained this and just got no response.

      I’m trying not to mind at the moment that I recently found out that after the lunch they offered me that I can’t do, the admin organised a night out for Horrible Coworker who’d screamed at me over her getting into trouble for her unauthorised absence/not cancelling my holiday for her training that may not even have coincided with it and that she refused to do anyway once she found out it didn’t/other things too numerous to mention. The admin were the people I was least close to anyway and the people I’d want the celebration with are the ones I’ll still have dealings with anyway.

  17. Joey

    #1. Since when do you have to announce a reason for not eating meat, desserts and certain beverages during Lent? Just order something else. I would think its kinda weird for someone to question you unless you’re eating at a BBQ place that serves nothing but those things.

    1. Scott M

      I don’t think that you should have to explain. But people will notice. Think of it this way. Suppose someone went to a lot of trouble to pick a particular restaurant that’s famous for thier meat dishes (BBQ, Mexican, Brazilian Steak house). And then they get there and the employee doesn’t try the best thing on the menu, which they want them to try because they want them to agree that this was the BEST FOOD EVER (and that the lunch planner made a good choice)!

      Yeah, silly, I know. But some people put that much effort into a company lunch.

      1. some1

        Some people will notice and some people won’t. I’ve had female friends announce their pregnancies and confide that they thought I’d suspect when we went out to dinner in a group and they didn’t order alcohol or some food pregnant women shouldn’t eat, but I never notice stuff like that.

      2. Cara

        This is kind of a strained hypothetical. It reminds me of the “if you’re one of us, you’ll have a bite” thing on Seinfeld. Vegetarianism and other dietary restrictions aren’t uncommon, so if someone is really going to the trouble to plan an elaborate lunch so that the guest of honor will try one specific dish, that person would also check with the guest of honor ahead of time to be sure that is OK.

    2. KellyK

      You don’t need to preemptively announce it when you order, but people do ask. I don’t get it either—I figure adult human beings can make their own food choices without explaining them to me. But for a lot of people, “Why are you eating/not eating X?” is a pretty common question.

      Also, this is a welcome lunch *for the OP.* I doubt they want to go to a restaurant where there’s nothing (or very little) that she can eat (e.g., the BBQ place). Depending on how strict her fast is, it might be worth bringing up beforehand while they’re still planning.

      1. Judy

        I would really find it strange to mention one day that Wakeen didn’t have meat. I might find it strange for my husband to go to our favorite restaurant and not get lasagne, but only because it’s a significant pattern (like never in 10 years pattern). There was a time that 4 of us from work went out to lunch several times a week, and we could probably order for the others. But that also was a pattern.

        I’m not that invested in what other people eat, as long as they’re enjoying it.

        1. Ruffingit

          I’m not that invested either, but it does amaze me how many people will comment on food choices (and all other choices actually) that others make. Some people are relentless about it too. I personally cannot care that much, but other people are all up in the grill (if you will) of others. It makes me wonder sometimes what is missing in their own lives that they care so much about the choices of others.

      2. Del

        Also, this is a welcome lunch *for the OP.* I doubt they want to go to a restaurant where there’s nothing (or very little) that she can eat (e.g., the BBQ place). Depending on how strict her fast is, it might be worth bringing up beforehand while they’re still planning.

        I agree with this. My religion strongly discourages consuming alcohol — if my coworkers wanted to take me out for drinks to celebrate something, yes, I could technically order soda, but it would be an awkward situation, and I’d speak up about it in the planning stages and suggest alternatives.

  18. AndersonDarling

    #5. I’m glad someone asked about this. I have been wondering for a while how people who are fired find new work. This question was about a really terrible situation, but there are people who steal, have fights, sexually harass at work and they somehow find work again.

    If I was fired, I would think it was the end of the world and I would never find work again. But it may be because I work at up-n-up places that check references. I guess some people get fired all the time and it is just a regular happenstance to them.

    1. Sharm

      Me too. I am a bit of a perfectionist and always try to get recognized as a superstar at work (it doesn’t always happen, but I try!), and so being fired would just gut me. Again, not that it doesn’t gut others, but I have such a fear of being fired, and if I am performing at 99% one day, then that’s it for me. I guess in an employer’s economy, you always feel on edge.

      But yes, I always wonder how anyone who’s been fired, even for relatively minor offenses, is able to get back on their feet. Wouldn’t future employers always view that as a huge negative?

      1. Ruffingit

        I’ve been fired once and it really wasn’t that big a deal. It happened when I was really young (early 20s) and I was upfront about it with the next person I interviewed with. They didn’t care. The interviewer was a man about a year from retirement who had been fired himself a couple of times and had risen in his profession anyway.

        It happens, it’s not the horror people think it is really unless the reason is because you embezzled or did something of that nature. There are definitely ways to spin it and I’m sure Alison has covered those before. It happens, you move on. If every person who was fired couldn’t get another job, we’d have a ton more people on welfare.

      2. Jen S. 2.0

        For me, it depends heavily on the reason you were fired, AND how you handle it afterward. 15 years ago, I was let go after about 6 months from my very first job out of college, mostly for sucking at it. I didn’t embezzle, lie, or anything of the like; I just was — and still am — a terrible admin (being a good admin requires a skill set that I have never developed) AND a bad fit at that particular company. I made a big, fat, last-straw mistake, after showing very little aptitude for job the previous 6 months, and they let me go.

        I asked if I could resign instead of being fired, and they said that was fine. I had already been looking hard for something new (I KNEW I sucked at the job, plus I hated it. My days were numbered), but I needed something to tide myself over, so I took a few days off to lick my wounds, then went to a temp agency. When they asked why I was looking for work, I said positive things about the company I’d worked for, and then said something like, “…but my particular position wasn’t what I’ve been looking to do. I’m looking for a position that’s a better fit for my specific skills and interests.” (…which was the truth, if not the whole truth.) When they called my previous job, they gave me a decent reference (noting also that I resigned), which was nice. After all, they didn’t want me unemployed and broke forever; they just didn’t want me working THERE.

        I was able to get enough temp work that by the time I was at the reference-calling stage for my next full-time gig, I had them contact the temp agency for a reference instead of my old company. I also had references from my college jobs as well, so I’m sure I listed those first.

        During my job search, I made a point of applying to jobs where I was a TERRIFIC fit; that way that my resume and interview stood up to one lukewarm reference from a job where I was doing different work. Once I got my next job, I never had anyone contact that company again, and never mentioned in interviews why I’d left that job.

        All of that said, it was easy enough to bounce back when I was a 22-year-old nobody 6 months out of college. It would be a different experience now at the mid-career point, but I’d STILL have to find a way to put a positive spin on it while interviewing for my next job.

    2. Lindsay J

      I was fired and I thought it was the end of the world at the time. It definitely wasn’t.

      I found my new job like a week later, and they honestly didn’t care too much about the circumstances surrounding the firing. It was a different line of work, I wasn’t fired for any kind of gross misconduct (and honestly the firing was pretty unreasonable to begin with, but I didn’t say that I just let my interviewer draw their own conclusion about it when I described the situation.)

      I do wonder about people who are fired for gross misconduct that haven’t seemed to change. I had someone call me as a reference for a woman who I had to fire for stealing several thousand dollars from me. I don’t know how you get past something that without a lot of time between you and the incident.

  19. Brett

    #4 Since the OP’s husband still has several close friends working at the company, I think one of those friends should go ask the manager when the retirement party is going to be held. They have a vested interest in knowing, and it brings up the question without the OP or her husband having to be directly involved.

  20. Mena

    #5: the incident mentioned happened in my city and I strongly hope she does not get another job in the same industry. Hoping she reconsiders her skills and interests and pursues a role that doesn’t have such safety implications for occassional carelessness.

  21. Artemesia

    Re the retirement party. It has been months. That ship has well and truly sailed. The way to have handled it was to have followed up within a week or two with ‘getting it on the calendar’. Now, it is clear no one is going to do it and it is rather late to be doing it yourself. If you think a party is a must now so long after the fact, then it will be up to family to provide it and pay for it. This sucks — but it is too late to do anything about it now. I have a couple of times in my life waited for someone to follow up on something like this; if it doesn’t happen right away then it isn’t ever going to happen. No one cares as much as the retiring person and his or her family — they haven’t given it a thought at work since saying ‘oh yeah, we will need to do that’ — and then doing nothing.

    1. Brett

      It has only been four months. Three to six months is typical for the retirement party in my workplace (and since a lot of people do put in 30+ years here, retirement parties are pretty common).

      I have no idea why it takes so long for the party to get thrown, but four months after retirement is not at all unusual (especially when the retiree is still doing some part-time work). I think part of the idea is to give the retiree time to get settled into their new job or decide to retire permanently; most retirees from my workplace go on to another job rather than outright retiring.

  22. Jill

    #1 – I wouldn’t sweat your fasting at all. So many people today are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, low carb, Atkins, Paleo and every other diet under the sun. Unless you’re in a small town with incredibly limited dining choices, what you order shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.

    Plus, most people eat lighter at lunch anway (ex. soup and salad) that you shouldn’t have to worry about anyone noticing a lighter lunch.

    I’d be more worried about having food stuck in my teeth in front of my new bosses than them commenting on what I’m eating. Ha ha!

  23. books

    OP 1 – unless you’re going to a Brazilian/Argentenian Steakhouse, I think you’d be ok just going to lunch and not eating meat.

  24. Maureen P.

    re: #4 – it sucks when celebrations aren’t evenly applied. At my last job, we had a lovely baby shower for 3 women who were due around the same time. I made hand-knit hats for each baby-to-be, even though I didn’t really know one of the ladies. When I announced my own pregnancy a few months later, it didn’t register a blip. No shower, no token gifts of contratulations – nada. Maybe I’m overly sensitive or unable to give a gift without expecting something in return, but I thought it was terribly rude.

    Any yet they did have a going-away cake when I resigned, so maybe they really hated me. Hmm, it explains so much…

    1. Ruffingit

      That sucks, I’m sorry. You’re not overly sensitive, it was rude of them not to do something for you when you were kind enough to make hand-made gifts for them. They suck, it’s not you. Just saying. :(

  25. Laura

    #5 – I haven’t read any of the news coverage (I’m in Canada), but if she’s a train operator, isn’t she likely unionized? None of the other commenters have mentioned this, but then again, newspapers don’t often mention it for stories like these.

    I worked for a few years in an employment and labour firm that represented trade unions, one of them being Canada’s largest rail union. We saw all kinds of situations like this – texting/sleeping/watching porn while driving a train, derailments, injuries, deaths, etc. – and the resultant terminations were nearly always grieved. More often than not the employee was reinstated into the railway – if not to their original job, then to another one.

    If this person is unionized, I don’t think she or anyone need worry about her finding work again – she almost certainly will.

  26. Rev.

    You learn something new every day. And I thought I was an expert on religions/denominations. Must research, thanks for the info.

  27. Ruffingit

    On the train driver – apparently there is a train driver’s union. Also, she had worked more than 60 hours in the 7 days prior to this accident. I think that is worth noting. Apparently, the Chicago Transit Authority has made some changes to their operator’s schedules in the wake of this crash.

    I’m not saying this woman isn’t at fault. I don’t know enough about this case to say that. However, 60 hours in a one-week period for that kind of job is way too much. I can definitely say that.

    1. Laura

      Excellent point. If her termination is grieved by her union, the number of hours she worked that week will definitely be a mitigating factor.

      From my understanding, train operators and conductors have a demeit system of employment (i.e., the action itself will not get you terminated, but the demerits will if they push you over your limit.) She may have her demerits reduced and be placed back into employment – maybe not as a driver, but perhaps a conductor – or, if her employer is determined not to reinstate her, they will make a very large settlement on her. She’ll be able to live off of it until she finds new employment.

      Such are the joys of unions…

  28. Layla

    #1 – I couldn’t imagine that you would have to say anything about it at all. You don’t have to explain your diet preferences.

  29. OP1

    Thanks to Alison and everyone for your input! At Amy B’s great suggestion, I checked out the menu online. It was tight, but there were a few things I can order without problems, so I’ll just plan on one of those. I agree with most of the commentariat that I am probably way more aware of it than anyone else will be, since I know all of the other things I’m passing up, and they’ll just see my order and assume it’s what I’m in the mood for. I’m a lot less worried now, and looking forward to it.

    Thanks for the advice! :)

  30. Vicki

    I’m not even remotely Catholic (raised generic Protestant). My elementary school did serve fish on Fridays and I knew that some people didn’t eat meat that day, but didn’t really know why. Other than that, my family’s Easter-time heritage is faschnachts for Shrove Tuesday…

    I’ve been enjoying reading the comments here. Most interesting!! (The part about not bragging or putting on a woe-is-me face makes a lot of sense.)

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