Ain’t No Party Like A Company Party…

…because a company party is a mandatory half-day of team-building exercises and enforced camaraderie. Hours that we are then required to enter into the HR system, under the “EVENT” category*

This year’s EVENT was held at a local inn whose lobby is refined and elegant but whose basement — where the party was actually held — looks like the site of the world’s grimmest Bible study session and smells like Legionnaire’s disease.

First, I arrived late because I had to drive the Flying Eggplant because the party happened to fall on the day My Fella always borrows my bus pass because his doesn’t cover the fare between the Duke and UNC campuses because our local transit system is as stupid as the state legislature that keeps trying to destroy it. Plus, I noticed JUST IN TIME that the car was nearly out of gas, not to mention that half the streets in Morehead Hill don’t actually connect to anything; they just END in a scattering of gravel.**

Then I had to find the right entrance, out of about 15 possibilities. Once the receptionist pointed me in the right direction, a member of the Party Planning Committee greeted me by slapping a nametag on my back and handing me a sheet of paper with detailed instructions on how to find out what my name was.

“Wait, what?” I said, as I tried to recall what, in fact, my name was.

Because I’m stressed out, coming down with something, and have been running on little more than coffee and aspirin for the past three days, the poor woman had to explain it to me, like, five times before I understood what she was talking about.

Here’s what she was talking about: everyone’s sticker bore the name of a character from a book. The goal was to discover your identity by asking questions — well, except for the obvious one, which is “Who am I?” However, lest I be tempted to cheat and sneak a peek at my tag, the instructions cautioned, A DEATH-CURSE WOULD BE PLACED UPON ME. (Courtesy of Dr. Frankenstein, apparently.)

Yes, you read that correctly. A death-curse. From Dr. Frankenstein. For looking at my own fake name.

Later, when I got up to refill my coffee, I noticed a nametag stuck to the back of my chair, which read “KATNISS EVERDEEN.”
And thus I became Katniss, the Death-Cursed.
(Also, I think I may have inadvertently death-cursed a couple of folks, by being like, “Hello, Miss Havisham!” and “Hey, Ponyboy! What’s up?”***)

Since I was late, I was at the end of the buffet line. Fortunately, I was not very hungry — I say “fortunately” because the guys in Tech had beaten everyone to the punch and devoured most of the food.

That’s when I had a brilliant idea: if only there were a way to attach chocolate chip cookies to active JIRA items, bugs might actually get fixed.

Anyway, I filled a plate with just enough lunch not to look anorexic and sat down in one of the two remaining seats, which were at the worst table, the one where everyone present occasionally looked up from their phones to talk about their expensive lifestyles.

“I’ve been meaning to go green, but I can’t decide if I should get a hybrid or an electric car?”

“I tried out Google Glass the other day. It was cool, but right now you can only get the titanium frames, which I just don’t like the look of.”

“My kids have at least one scheduled activity every night of the week! And that’s not even counting sports teams and music lessons.”

Now, I know that our salaries vary widely and I don’t necessarily begrudge these folks their success — well, except for my coworker D!ckh3@d, who has earned his name MANY TIMES OVER these past few years — but it was really tough to sit there and have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation because I can’t afford to do/buy any of the stuff they were talking about.

I tried in vain to introduce some more egalitarian topics — e.g. “This food is really tasty” or “So, Breaking Bad. Pretty wild, huh?” or even “Hey, who has a dog, cat, or other domestic animal that they just adore?”

Alas, no joy. Everyone ignored me and just continued tapping on their phones.

Suddenly, I was very self-conscious of the fact that I own 50% of a ’93 Honda Civic.

Suddenly, I felt weird about the fact that, after our monthly bills are paid, there keeps not being money left over to replace my four-year-old, dog-chewed reading glasses.

Suddenly, I was not so proud that I’d managed to score TWO free gyros by squirreling them away in my coat pockets.  Also, baklava. (Tho’ it did mean free lunch for My Fella and I, so SCORE!)

But hey, at least I can answer trivia like a boss.

An irrational fear of Hallowe’en? Is Samhainophobia. BOOM!

The raven that inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem? Belonged to Charles Dickens, now resides in the Free Library of Philadelphia. KA-POW!

A two-part question about Puritans, blah blah blah I stopped listening because my hand was already on the buzzer? Cotton and Increase Mather. Yeah, exactly. PWNED.

(Sure, I may only know two Puritans but they are almost always the right Puritans to know.)

Sadly, my Trivia-Fu was no match for…D!ckh3@d’s phone, which wins every single year because D!ckh3@d insists on cheating every single year, no matter how many people yell at him to stop. F*cker even cheats at “I Spy” by taking a picture with his phone. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT?!?! It’s a memory game, for f*ck’s sake!

Other stuff happened, too, but my aspirin was wearing off and my second cup of coffee had yet to kick in, so I don’t know, I think there were points and prizes awarded. Not real ones, more like the nonexistent and meaningless kind you “win” on British quiz shows.

Also — and I have no clear memory of this — I *might* have recited several stanzas of poetry as part of a surprisingly cutthroat poetry recitation challenge — tho’ not as cutthroat as bobbing for doughnuts, obviously. I tell you, those gluttons are in it to win it.

And…that was that. Now, hopefully, I can crawl into my bed and succumb to disease or death as they fight their proxy war inside my body.

*for which we are allotted a certain number of hours per year. Also, we have categories for “JURY DUTY” and “BEREAVEMENT,” which strikes me as kind of harsh, since both of those things by nature are theoretically open-ended.
**If your post-apocalyptic survival plans include luring cars down overgrown right-of-ways into isolated cul-de-sacs, cannibalizing the drivers, and then stripping the vehicles for parts, then may I highly recommend this neighborhood, one of Durham’s historic treasures.
***I am proud of myself for resisting the urge to say, “Hi Dorothy! Who’s your friend?” to a couple of tech guys who would NOT have taken it well.
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