The Cubicle Cliché: The Corporate Christmas Party or Why It Isn’t Any Fun When You Can’t Drink Alcohol Too
So in order to fit in with the “I STARVE FOR MY ART” motif, I’ve been catering. This paints the completely stereotypical picture of the young actress in the big city who waits on other people while they themselves wait for their “big break”. Frankly, I’m not waiting for a big break. I kind of just want enough money to pay off my parents’ mortgage and fly my mom to the Vatican on a holy pilgrimage. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask. Seriously.
Tuesday night I was called in to cater Japanese make up company Shiseido’s corporate Christmas party. It was held in a three-story brownstone which sounds really chic, doesn’t it? Until you realize three stories = running up and down three flights of stairs holding trays of irritatingly fancy food. So fancy that it in fact doesn’t taste that good. Think salmon and asparagus wrapped in a crepe with dill creamcheese. Um. Ew? (This is just my opinion of course and let’s remember that I find salmon to be the most vile thing one could ever ingest–the wealthy NYC elite however, find it thrilling.)
I arrived at four and wandered around setting up the tables for the fortune teller and the tea leaf reader. (UM. WHAT? Yes. At this corporate Christmas party, not only can you drink to your heart’s content and dance and sing karaoke but you can have tea leaves read!) The little WARNING bulb went off in my Catholic head because fortune tellers and tea leaf readers are on the list of Things That Are Satanic and Forbidden according to my mother.
Other items on this list include: playing with/looking at/thinking about a Ouija board, tarot cards, reading your own horoscope and anything to do with astrology. These things are scary and pretty much satanic and evil because you are opening doors to the Underworld. Or purgatory. Shit, now I’m getting my religions mixed up. ANYWAY.
PS/Sidebar/Off Topic: I have to say that this one time, I was playing with my neighbors at Abbey Camillary’s house and she whipped out a Ouija board and even though I KNEW IT WAS WRONG, I was tempted. And I should’ve gone home because that’s what my mother said to do in that type of situation but I STAYED. I stayed and yes, I put my own fingers on the secret little white triangle, knowing for sure I was going to hell. AND THEN TO MAKE IT WORSE, I decided to purposely move it in order to scare the crap out of my friends. Abbey asked about some spirit and how we would know it was there and I made it spell out “BECAUSE I CAN FEEL YOU” which sent Abbey and Jamie and Sheri and Samantha SCREAMING out of the room and downstairs to her mom. Also? Afterwards? I think Abbey needed her inhaler.
Of course I never owned up to doing that, until now. (Though the following Easter, I did confess it to the priest. I think he was trying not to laugh but oh the guilt. I was crying so hard I was hiccuping.) I’m not a vicious person mind you, but I think I thought I was getting revenge for the time Abbey made me ask her father if “flying buttress” was a real thing. I thought for sure that they were setting me up because really, “buttress” could not be real. But I asked him anyway while he was watching a special on the Playboy channel and sipping a Manhattan on the rocks and he gave me a real “You are a dumb person” look which I really hated. Because I was 10ish and how was I supposed to know flying buttress was a REAL THING?
I think what I’m trying to say is that as soon as I heard of the fortune teller/tea leaf reader I should’ve BOLTED because the signs did not look promising. Also? My boss is crazy and speaks in run on sentences and is completely disorganized and let’s just say they have medication for people like this. With ten minutes to go until the party starts, she realized that she didn’t have any paper towels. She threw fifty bucks at me and said:
“Laura, I need you to run down to Greenwich Ave. Do you know where that is? Not Greenwich Street, Greenwich Ave. and 10th Street. Is it 10th Street? Yes. Okay. The paper goods store on the corner, get paper towels. Not ugly towels. Cream maybe. Yes. Cream or brown. No, not brown. Not the cocktail napkins okay? The longish things. The paper towels. For the bathrooms. Enough for two bathrooms. Okay? GO.”
SIGH. Hey it’s 20 degrees out and about 8 blocks away but heyyy at least it’s not setting up tea leaves, right? Nothing satanic at the paper goods store. By now my tummy is rumbling and there is really nothing worse than catering on an empty stomach. And of course I tried to stuff myself with food around 3 pm before I left but now it’s nearly 6:00 and gosh darnit I am STARRRRRRVING. So, on the way to the paper goods store (where there were NO cream towels, so I chose royal blue and maroon) I happened upon a pizza joint and promptly ate two pieces of pizza.
Later, when all the wait staff would pass me and roll their eyes and whisper, “Aren’t you STARVING?!” I would sympathetically nod but really, I was lying because mmmmmmmm PIZZA! Also? My boss opened the bags of paper towels and shrieked, “YOU CHOSE BLUE!? GOD LAURA!” Um. And maroon? The maroon is pretty!! I SWEAR!!! And then, “LAURA. YOU NEED TO START PASSING FOOD. NOW.” As if I’m the slacker because I just walked a gazillion blocks to get you ugly PAPER TOWELS?!
The majority of the people at the party are Asian, due to Shiseido’s Japanese base. (Actually, I have no idea if that has anything to do with it at all but, hey, good theory, no?) ANYWAY, people are loving the stupid salmon rolls but more than that, the open bar. The DJ is playing some music and people are lining up to have their fortunes told. (I figure I do them a service by saying a rosary as I walk by, albeit silently.) All of a sudden the music stops and they announce–KARAOKE TIME. I realize karaoke is meant for cheesy things like corporate events but also more importantly, really really drunk events. I realize that I now have to suffer through drunk Asian karaoke while completely sober. The words “torture” and “agony” come to mind.
Mr. Mikado starts off the sing-a-long with “Walk The Line”. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Johnny Cash infused with Asian flava but hey man, it’s brilliant. NOT HALF SO BRILLIANT HOWEVER as a particularly intoxicated rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” by a man known only as Mr. Shoe. Mr. Shoe does some sliding back and forth while he sings, slurring his words into the microphone and trying his best not to fall down.
It’s around this time that I realize I stepped in something with a pasty texture and it is stuck to the bottom of my shoe. The waitstaff can’t figure it out and neither can the chefs. I’m perplexed because it won’t come off and yet it’s sticking to the floor every time I take a step. “OH!” exclaims my boss as she laughs in my face, “It’s SUSHI! You stepped on SUSHI!” which cues the entire staff into hysterical laughter as I stand there and try to pretend that I am not getting made fun of. The sushi is still on my sneaker as we speak. The rice is caked on fairly well and is now mixed with a combination of wine, gum and dirt. MMMMMMMM. Funny.
The company, Shiseido, is made up of mostly women as well as a few gay men. However, there is one straight man to be found who is relatively cute. He is in the process of getting hammered and decides it would be an appropriate time to sing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. His voice is actually on key for the most part and the crowd is screaming along with him. I’m extremely tired from running up and down three flights of stairs. (Apparently, I am in the house where The Real World NYC: 2 was filmed. Is this supposed to make me feel better? Because I couldn’t really care less at this point.)
After his rockin’ Rolling Stones cover, he chugs an Amstel Light.
“Nice song,” I mutter, amused.
He stares at me, completely drunk and miserable.
“I meant every word,” he slurs. Um.
“I meant every word. Nothing’s going right for me. Nothing. I. Can’t. Get. No. Satisfaction,” he spells out for me.
“Right.” I smile and hold out my tray. “Mini creme brulée?”
He glares. I excuse myself and start cleaning up martini glasses while the president of the company belts out “Sweet Caroline”. There’s nothing left to do but hum sweetly along. And think about the flat tire on my car that needs to be fixed. And so, the party wraps up around 11:30 and I get home wayyyyy late, the sushi squishing on the sidewalk. (Alliteration: Friend or Foe?)
The next evening I’m back to catering at another corporate Christmas party. This time there is more alcohol, more men and now spouses to boot. One lady decides to drink ten martinis. Ten. One man decides to elbow me in the face while talking on his cell phone, spilling salmon wraps everywhere.
“You should be more careful,” he says before getting back to his cell phone conversation.
I realize that these people are heartless because they spend all day inside in a cubicle. But really? You should be nice to the people who are carrying around trays of food while you get to drink copious amounts of alcohol.
There is a heavy set man sitting alone in the corner, in charge of sound. He keeps winking at me and stealing red glasses of wine from the open bar. At one point he waves me over.
“You smile is so beautiful,” he says in broken slurred English.
“You know what the difference is between a pretty face and a sexy woman?” he asks me.
Sigh. “What?” I say, trying to be polite.
“You.” He says.
I try to make sense of this and can’t. I also can’t resist pointing out his poor grammar.
“That doesn’t make sense,” I say.
“You asked me what is the difference between a pretty face and a sexy woman. There has to be an answer. You can’t just say “me”. That implies that *I’m* the difference? That doesn’t make any sense. You need to formulate a better answer than that because really, you’re just going to make women confused.”
“Oh,” he says, taking a sip from his wine glass. “I was trying to say you is a pretty face AND a sexy woman.”
“Oh,” I say. “Well then you should say something like, ‘You are the perfect combination of a pretty face and a sexy woman’. You know? Like that.”
“Ohhhhhh,” he nods. I walk away. He later tries this trick on another caterer. I mean I guess I didn’t HAVE to help him with his cheesy pick up lines but really, what would you do. Honestly.
It’s another late night and ten-martini-Jane is falling all over the place as her friends desperately try to get her to eat some lobster croquettes. Ladies, it’s too late. No amount of lobster puffs are going to make your friend any less plastered. TEN!? TEN MARTINIS!? I mean I almost want to compliment her. If I had ten martinis I would most likely be hospitalized. She deserves a raise. Or maybe a free gift bag.
There was a funky international band playing really trippy music so naturally, they are in a back office drinking wine by the bottle with the VP and rolling a ridiculous amount of joints. I’m cleaning up as best I can and cursing silently because really, can they go smoke pot somewhere else so I can go to bed? The drummer sees my agitation and says, “SOMEBODY wants to go home!”
I say, “Yeah. That’d be me. But it’s all good.”
“Joint?” he offers, holding a little thing in his hand that I learned in DARE was VERY VERY WRONG.
“Um. No thanks.” Point for me! Saying no to peer pressure!
The vice president of the company says, “Are you sure, sweetie?”
“Maybe later,” I say and shrug. It’s not that I was seriously considering it, it’s just that I was too tired to think of something witty to say.
I was just SO annoyed at all the drunk and high people. No matter what they say, it isn’t any fun when you can’t join in. NOT THAT YOU NEED TO BE DRUNK TO HAVE A GOOD TIME ALL YOU YOUNG IMPRESSIONABLE READERS. I’m just saying when I hear dance music and see people eating and drinking, I want to get ON that. I don’t want to walk around and offer them food and have them hit me in the face with elbows.
I guess what I’m saying is that catering is nowhere near as bad as waiting tables. But it’s still SERVING people. It’s still a degrading and thankless job in the end. Though it makes for good stories.
I CAN’T GET NO
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m superior to all things living and shouldn’t be putting up with this CRAP.
Is that going to be a problem?
Sushi? Anyone? Anyone at all?