Monday, December 28, 2009

"Office" party recap

Mark your calendars: Dec. 23, 2010, is the tentative date for when I’ll be hosting my second Pond Office Party.

I didn’t want to issue a blog invitation for the first, held Wednesday last, because I didn’t want any of my friendly international readers to feel obliged to drop what they were doing and zoom clear to Latrobe for my little party.

And, yes, I was nervous it would be an abject failure. This fear stemmed from a friend, a big shot New York advertising executive, who told me it would be an abject favor.

“So, you’re having a little ‘office party,’ are you?” he sneered. I could tell he was ridiculing me with little air finger quotes when he said “office party” because he told me over the phone, “and I’m doing little air finger quotes when I say ‘office party.’”

I had to admit it was a social risk. I “work” all by myself in a little “office” above The Pond, Latrobe’s friendliest neighborhood tavern. People like my friend think my “work” involves juggling, chipping golf balls, tossing balled up waste paper at a hoop-high trash basket and decorating my “office” with streamers of cut out paper dolls.

If no one showed up, I’d be a laughingstock. If people did show up, they’d see my juggling bags, my hoop-high waste basket filled to the rim with balled up papers and the walls decorated with cut out paper doll streamers.

They’d see my entire “career” was surrounded by sarcastic air finger quotes.

I asked my wife if she wanted to get a sitter and join me. She said she was “busy.”

She didn’t need to put any air finger quotes around busy. I think it chagrins her every time she steps into my “office” that she didn’t marry a plumber. I can’t blame her.

Heck, there’s a lot of times I wish I’d married a plumber.

I wasn’t surprised. Her default answer for my every suggestion is no -- and that’s been good for our marriage. In fact, the only times I can remember when she responded affirmatively to any of my suggestions led to us being saddled with two cranky children so I wasn’t about to argue this one.

Still, my default is fun. I wanted to party. I printed up a colorful invitation and left it downstairs at the bar. It read in festive fonts:

Merry Christmas!


4-6 p.m., Apt. 2

All Friends and Honest Strangers Welcome!

Games, prizes . . . smokers welcome!

Come for the Fun! Come for the Pizza!

Come hear Bob Dylan sing your favorite Christmas Songs!

Come and enjoy my new haircut!

It would be a catered affair. I bought industrial sized bags of chips and a bag of pretzels. Libations would include Crown Royal, Wild Turkey, Yuengling beer and cold tap water. A friend promised to bring fistfuls of cigars.

As you can surmise from the unrefined fare, my target guests were all the boys from the bar. We spend a lot of happy time together, but we vary bar stools so infrequently it’s almost like we have assigned seats. Our routines need disruption.

Right away, three good buddies showed up with their sweethearts. They brought their females, I think, so that one day if their misbehavior led to stormy relations, they could point to me and justifiably say, hey, at least I have a job and am nothing like Rodell in his little “office.”

A few more friends drifted in. Things were going great. I was juggling and people seemed to be enjoying my new haircut.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but my wife and our two little dears.

I knew instantly it was a party killer. People may say they like children, but no one really does and that’s particularly true of every one else’s children.

You can’t tell a kid to shut the hell up, buzz off or go change their own damn diapers. At least I can’t.

Nobody likes to see children at an adult party. The sole exception is the Von Trapp kids from “The Sound of Music.”

Really, it’s a great movie with some of the most catchy and exuberant songs ever performed. But I’m always struck by the “So Long, Farewell” scene where the Von Trapp children stage an elaborate departure song and dance at the formal ball.

The adults in the film seem teary eyed at the sentimental and pitch-perfect performance of the adorable little children. They’re perfectly charmed.

That’s not like real life where the appearance of children can extinguish the momentum of a really rocking party.

And that’s what happened with my first Pond “office” party. The adults had to curb their urges to swear, tell dirty jokes or act like the carefree children we all yearn to be.

The real kids acted like real kids. They monkeyed around on the furniture, played with the juggling bags, swung the golf clubs, and generally behaved the way their father does when he’s alone in his little “office.”

The low point for me was when our precocious 9 year old heaved a heavy juggling bag and struck me in a place no man likes to be struck. My guests seemed to enjoy my pained grimace even more than my new haircut.

And while it cheered my heart to see them, I knew word would get down to the bar and depress the attendance and that’s just what happened.

Still, I judge the party a true success. About 20 or so people drifted through at one time or another. We all had a good time and enjoyed some Christmas cheer.

Next year, I vow things will be different. Starting today, I’ll be drilling our daughters to rehearse “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” in preparation for next year’s office party.

I hope you’ll plan on being there.

I’m a man who understands the subtle differences between being “annoying” and “entertaining.”

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