Friday, December 14, 2018

Lucky suit


Paul sent a text cancelling the slot car idea. He’s succinct in texts so I don’t know why. I didn’t have time to follow up with him because Eve and I were up to our ears in prepping for the office party.

Our office doesn’t have a big holiday party this time of year. Instead they throw a dinner in the spring for employees and guests. This is the first year since I’ve worked there that we've had an office party. Eve and I wouldn’t mind if it was the last time.

The seven-person committee fell apart quickly. Two people didn’t participate at all, one dropped out earlier this week and one--Susannah of all people--was such a pill about everything that Eve and I decided to pull it together ourselves and let the other two could do as much or little as they wanted. That’s why the two of us were tied up with it most of the day. We had to get the room rearranged and decorated and get the games ready to go before the caterers showed up. Rearranging took time because it’s a large conference/training room with free standing tables wired together in pairs to provide electrical outlets for computers. The first thing we had to do was diagram how it all went together so we could get it back together again, and that turned out to be a bigger deal than we expected. Susannah peeked in a couple of times and flitted back out saying she would be back after all "this nonsense" was sorted. She was against rearranging and decorating so...attitude. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I am. At the same time, I think it came together as well as it did because Eve and I worked on it together. We tend to be on the same page and working together doesn't become stressful.

Susannah returned after the caterers arrived, and she pitched in from that point on. Fortunately, she was on board with the games and served as MC.

Turnout wasn’t as high as it could have been, but we knew scheduling something for the end of the day on a Friday was risky. Those who came seemed to have a good time. It took some gentle persuading to get enough people for the games, but once the games started, everyone got into it. We played a series of Minute to Win It style games. We were all surprised by one of our coworkers who is really mild mannered and quiet but who loves games apparently. He didn't want to let his teammates play any.

The games wrapped up a bit before 5:00. The nice thing about holding it at the end of day is no one lingers.

Once we had the food put away and the decorations packed, our director told us to leave the rest until Monday. I didn’t argue because I had another party to get ready for.

One of the partners at Blaine's firm always hosts a holiday party for the other partners and selected others. In other words, it's a dressy, grown-up affair where no one is going to be asked to shake 200 gumballs from one pop bottle into another.

I’ve been stressed over this party since I found out about it. I’m not gifted at small talk and don’t enjoy being around people I don’t know, plus I worry a lot about whether I’m dressed appropriately, so I placed this party under the category My Idea of Hell on Earth (right below twice weekly lawn mowing during periods of 24-hour daylight in Alaska).

Once I made it home, I had little time to redo my hair and makeup, get into the dress I bought for this party—red with some sparkle around the neckline—and force my feet into ridiculous shoes. I was starting to second guess all of my choices when the doorbell rang. Blaine is always complimentary but this time it was the look that crossed his face when I opened the door that told me I’d gotten it right.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a pang of relief when it looked like I might slip on the icy street and break my head open like a watermelon at a Gallagher show. But Blaine hooked my arm with his just in time to keep me upright. I decided if he could do that, he could do it again figuratively. My plan became to stick to him like a dryer sheet.

The house is in the old money district. It isn’t on one of the tonier boulevards, but it’s still impressive--a three-story brick home with pretty dormers, a sunroom and, in back, the original carriage house. The area was developed during the Depression when labor was cheap and those who hadn’t lost their fortunes saw an opportunity to go big. I was anxious to see inside. (I love seeing inside houses.)

The interior didn’t disappoint. Leaded glass, marble fireplaces, polished woodwork. Floor to ceiling built-in bookcases and china cabinets. Stubby back hallways used mostly by those circulating trays of wine and hors d'oeuvres. The Christmas decorations were lush and perfect, absolutely styled by professionals. A pianist played the baby grand. It was a new experience.

I did a good impression of a dryer sheet at first. Let me tell you, with the things going on nationally and a few things happening locally, it was a fantastic time to be surrounded by lawyers. The conversations were interesting.

I was pulled away by the hostess. I had met her--and all the others for that matter--at the office party last week. She remembered what I did for a living and wanted to introduce me to someone--a retired attorney turned author. I had never met him but knew who he was. I told him I had been a faithful listener to a radio program he was part of in the late ‘90s where he and another man discussed local politics. It was on the community radio station so the listeners probably numbered in the dozens. He seemed pleased I remembered it.

When he retired, not long after that show ended, he began writing. Although I’m aware of his last book and have had it on my library to-read list since it came out, I haven’t read it. Locally, it was a bit controversial. In the ‘50s there were two people who went on a killing spree. One was executed and the other served time and was released at the end of her sentence. There was always a question about whether her involvement was voluntary or coerced. Many thought--and still do--that she deserved to be executed. In his book he argues her innocence. Even after all this time, the question of her innocence is a hot button for anyone who remembers that time. It happened before I was born so to me it’s no more than an interesting piece of local history— I have no emotional stake in it.

We talked around the fringes of what happened and why he had felt compelled to write the book. I said I’d like that case to be retried in a mock trial. How differently would the same evidence be presented and argued today, and would a jury that wasn’t emotionally affected return the same verdicts? We were discussing that when Blaine came by. They knew each other, exchanged a quick hello, and the conversation continued. When a couple approached to say hello to him, Blaine and I slipped away.

Blaine said into my ear. "I enjoy watching you when you're deeply involved in a conversation."

I'm not entirely sure what that looks like. I know I was feeling wired in part because the office party, which must have caused more stress than I realized, was over, and this party wasn't going too badly.

The wired feeling only intensified after we left. "Did you have fun?" I asked in the car.

"I have a hard time thinking of this as a 'fun' party. I enjoyed myself enough. What about you?"

Feeling ornery, I answered, "I had fun looking at you. I checked out everyone--just to be certain, mind you--and you were by far the best dressed and most handsome."

"I'll consider this my lucky suit."

He certainly should.


  1. I'd definitely rather mow twice weekly than go to that party, but it sounds like you survived and even enjoyed yourself a bit. Brava!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad it's behind me.


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