Friday, December 19, 2008

OLD MEMES: Dinner & A Floorshow

A little over four years ago today, I was working a temp job in the mailroom of a somewhat-reputable financial firm. Luckily for me, that meant an invite to the company holiday party.

So there I was -- no shit! -- walking into my office holiday party Friday night, dressed to impress: my swing shoes under a black dress shirt & slacks, topped off by a purple blazer. Finishing the ensemble, at the request of my hot co-worker H, my black fedora. And the first thing I see upon entering the ballroom -- or rather, the second; the first was the open bar -- was a bunch of middle-aged white guys, dressed for a business meeting, staring right back at me.

I grabbed my first rum & coke -- or rather, my third; I'd warmed up with a couple in my $120 hotel room; more on that (and more semicolons) later -- and ducked out the door while the Average White Band contingent regrouped, and hoped nobody informed security about a Suspiciously Fashionable Brown Man running around. Then I noticed a group of about four guys sitting outside, smoking, like the guys at my high school dances who would do that to prove that they didn't buy into that whole system, MAN! I didn't know them personally, but I knew they worked in the mailroom.

"Come hang with us, man," one of them motioned to me, being careful not to drop his two beers. "We're cool." And indeed they were. I felt like I was in that scene from Titanic where DiCaprio parties with the poor folks below the deck while the jaded well-dressed bourgeois had their stuffy to-do upstairs. I wondered: were my new drinking buddies making a similar statement? Were they rejecting the polyester politics going on inside?

Sadly, no. In fact, some of them hadn't even gotten the memo about the dress code. So these poor schmucks had shown up right after work. In their Dockers and blue jeans. But after a minute or two, I learned they were getting more out of the party than our bosses. All I had to do was look up.

And there they were, in the middle window of the fourth story of a set of rooms behind the ballroom: a couple, en fragante delicto, lights on and all bets off. And the dude was putting in some serious work. "It's like One NIght In Paris and shit," somebody said.

Don't give me that look. You'd be looking, too, given the situation. Within minutes we went from "HOLY SHIT!" giddiness to critiquing them like they were figure skaters. A couple of women from another department joined us, and within seconds they were knocking the woman in the window for having "skanky hair." By my fourth C&C, the crowd would ebb and flow seemingly with each Skinemax-worthy thrust.

"Dinner and a floorshow, you can't beat it," I told a graying middle manager, who immediately nudged a buddy and repeated my joke, then asked me to repeat it. Having killed outside, I went back inside, where the crowd had gotten mercifully younger, though the communal tie fetish kept going.

"Look at you, pimp!" a former supervisor said upon seeing me. "You look like a hip-hop mogul!" Overall, the hat was the biggest hit with the stuffed-shit crowd, followed closely by the shoes and the coat, which I explained as a gift from my uncle, Don Cornelius. At some point all these compliments must've gone to my hat.

Maybe it was my BAC talking, but I ended up having a decent time at dinner. It helped that the office's top dog finished his address by saying, "Remember, drink responsibly ... but keep drinking!" The guy'd make a great journalist. My biggest disappointment, aside from the so-bloody-it-almost-escaped-from-my-fork steak, was not finding any woman drunk, er, sporting enough to join me for some swing-dancing.

H, who's engaged to a drum-and-bass DJ, refused, saying she "only danced to my music." (Of course, she was out on the floor shaking her gloriously ample tucchus to Kanye West later, but it's not like I'm bitter.) Likewise, a nice gal I met who looked even more like a gangster than I did balked after I told her the DJ didn't have any Squirrel Nut Zippers. I ended up joining my department for a round of uninspired attempts at rhythm. Seriously, ladies, tell me: is swing-dancing that traumatic? It's not like I sat anybody on a copier.

By the time the party wrapped up, the happy couple upstairs had gone another couple of rounds, as more onlookers, Suits and Temps alike, took in the spectacle. I felt a twinge of disappointment, knowing that what started as an inside joke had gone pop. But I was lucky enough to be there when the couple finally got dressed, and led a small group in a Slow Clap to cement their status as Office Party Urban Legends.

My plan for the evening started unraveling after the party broke up around 10 p.m. I had booked my room at the company discounted rate of $120, thinking I would use the time after the bash to recover, do some writing, and generally enjoy a mini-vacation. Unless some gal was drunk, er, loose, er, adventurous enough to shadowcast One Night In Bangkok ... or something. But instead, I found everyone milling around the increasingly overmatched hotel bar, as if we were trapped in some sort of endless Last Call. When I heard the company had opened a tab here, too, I joined the holding pattern.

So I milled around for a couple more hours, taking in the free booze and increasing despration around me, as another new friend, a Kenyan emigre who was somehow making $16 as a temp a month ago -- doing what I do now for $10 -- before getting hired on permanently, assured me that in Kenya, the party doesn't really get going until 3 a.m. Aside from that, I think I was in denial about the night winding down, except for the few minutes he and I and a cute-as-hell Indonesian girl in my department spent bitching about the World Cup draws.

The night's other big moment came a bit later, when a Geek Girl and a guy pulled up alongside me at the bar and ordered a round on the company tab. "We're from the New Jersey office," he explained.

"Harborside?" I asked.

"Er, yeah." They were actually two locals coming back from another party across the street, but figured they'd crash our non-party because, he said, "everybody's got a New Jersey office." The guy'd make a great journalist. As he explained the plan, I noticed Geek Girl, already sitting next to me, had kind of nestled against my leg. And somewhere, I heard Murray Head egging me on:
And if you're lucky then the god's a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

Geek Girl referred me to a communal blog called Metafilter, where she has a profile and tends to lurk. "It's like Fark, but better," she explained. Of course I'm considering joining. Alas, Geek Girl has been dating a guy for the past decade. But he was in Santa Cruz, she explained, "so I don't mind you flirting with me." She also loved the hat. I'm officially getting this thing stapled to my melon.

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