“Collision at The Calypso Club – T’was the Night before clark” A Wakefield Doctrine Fable

Our Story Begins in the Corporate Offices of a Large Multi-National Corporation. The Full Name of this business entity, while still bearing some remnants of the Founders and their Original vision, had long since changed and mutated as the Company grew and expanded, developed and changed, and grew, especially grew. The name of the Company was now an international hyphenate, boasting a pedigree that required more than one language to fully appreciate.

The employees simply called it ‘the Company’.

(Introduction)

You are a clark and have been invited to a party being thrown by a friend at work (this friend is a scott). ( “Hey! I decided what the hell, you only live once….today’s my birthday… I reserved the private function room at the Calypso Club tonight… throwing myself a party! I need you to come to my party!! I won’t take no for an answer, what do you say?” ) You like this friend at work, it’s Friday morning so you find yourself saying, ( “Sure, that sounds good. I would like to do that thing. Put me down on the Guest List”)

The first 7/8ths of your work day  is spent enjoying the prospect of going to the party. You feel good about saying yes to your friend. You think to yourself that you really do deserve some un-structured time away from work instead of the same old visit to the family on weekends, and maybe this weekend you might not even do that, but instead just call them and talk on the phone. You actually feel excited about the prospect of meeting new people (something you haven’t done since getting your current job).

The last 1/8th of your work day is spent wondering if you really want to go out tonight, after all you do have  a pretty busy schedule after work ( no matter what they say, you know that you are not a hermit, recluse, nun or monk, but there seems to never be enough hours in the day to do all the interesting things there are to do and besides there is that resume that is nearly ready for final edit and if that is not a life priority, it is hard to imagine what is, so first things first…get that resume finished and get the job you know you should have and then there will be plenty of time for going out at night and all that stuff!)

The final 1/12th of the last 1/8th of  your work day is spent laying the ground work for a ‘no show’ at the party. ( “The party? Yeah, totally looking forward to it! I may be a bit late, there is a call I promised a relative I would make, they are overseas so the timing is critical. Sure I’ll bet you see me there, maybe a little late, more towards 9 than 8:30. No! I surely will be there!” )

The first 1/3 of your time at home before having to leave for the party is spent alternating between being comfortable with the decision to ‘give this one a miss’ and, at the same time feeling like there is something wrong with your decision. You decide to take a logical approach and, after getting some reading done, make a list of the pros and cons of going out tonight.

The last 1/3 of your time at home is spent wondering why you are finding yourself having to make a decision that you thought you have already made… you retrace the events of the day, with special attention to the exact circumstances of being invited to the party. You know that you like the friend that invited you, but you are not sure that they weren’t inviting you just because you walked up to them while they were talking to some of your other co–workers and maybe they felt that it would be rude to not invite you and besides there are some people at work that this friend seems to hang out with who are not very nice… so maybe, at least this time, it would be best to stay home. You know that if they invited you once, there will be other times… yeah that sounds like the most reasonable course of action.

The final 1/12th of the last 1/3 of your time at home begins with the thought… “god! it’s happening again!”  Your confidence in your decision to not go to the party begins to lose all credibility.. you stare at the clock… you look around at your place and think, “no! not this time. Maybe I am sort of doing it all again, but I will walk out that door and go to that party tonight”  …for the moment, there is quiet resolve and you walk out your door and head to the Calypso Club

( while in another part of the building)

You’re a scott.  You have your weekly staff meeting scheduled for 3:00 pm. In your Company, these meetings are seen as examples of how to research, plan, organise and execute a Staff meeting so that it is productive and everyone leaves feeling confident they are valued members of your team. Your Meeting Agendas are regarded as proof of what careful planning and meticulous research will produce in team morale building meetings.  You accept the approval of your superiors with grace and an inner smile,  knowing that ‘the Agenda’ is simply the cover, a diversion from the fact that what you do at these meetings comes naturally, and not from meticulous research and planning.

In the main work area, on your way to your office, you pass one of your newer employees saying to the group surrounding him,  ”today’s my birthday… I reserved the private function room at the Calypso Club tonight… throwing myself a party!”  You decide you need some amusement, so you stop, which causes everyone to quickly return to their desk, leaving only you and the  ’New Hire’, and you say. “Did I hear you say there was a party?” They look startled at the attention they are receiving, but recover quickly, “Yeah…. uh yes! the Company Policy doesn’t say anything about not having parties!
You say nothing. Enjoying the growing discomfort and uncertainty on their face. You can see the struggle going on inside their head…’do I run or fight it out?’ You say, “What time?”  Startled but with a look of relief they say, “8:30!”  As you walk away, without looking back,  you say, “I’ll be there!”

The first 1/8th of your work day  is spent answering emails and returning calls. You hate this part of your job.

The rest of your work day is spent solving problems and coaching your staff as they struggle with the workload. You love this part of your job.

The last 1/8th of  your work day is spent in meetings with upper Management. The CEO  is someone you respect and listen to, he single-handedly built the Company and though he has been said to be tyrannical, monomaniacal and abusive, you have a good relationship with him. The CFO, not so much. You find the precise, overly careful, fussiness of this Executive to be annoying, but you have resigned yourself to having to tolerate him. He totally loves you.

…your time at home before having to leave for the party is spent… looking at the mess your place is, resolve to keep it cleaner, well neater at any rate, find what you are looking for, have a bite to eat, debate going to the gym, decide to use the expensive exercise equipment you own, start 3 games of online scrabble as you ride the stationary bike, alternating between texting your siblings at college, emailing your folks back home, quick microwave dinner, drink a coke, decide to go on a diet take work clothes off throw things over your shoulder looking for the shoes you really wanted to wear to the party thinking of that makes you look at the clock realizing you are late take a shower get dressed and run out the door

The final 1/12th of the last 1/3 of your time at home  ….with a sense of excited anticipation, head out to the Calypso Club

(our last ‘personality’ type)

You’re a roger.  You’ve worked very hard to get to where you are today, the (new) Assistant Director/Human Resources of a major Corporation, a job that has been your dream since you were in Elementary School. On trips back to the family home on Holiday, you listen to friends and people you have known all your life tell you how impressed they are with the success you have enjoyed. You smile and say the expected thing about how grateful you are for all their support, but at the same time, you take it all in stride, knowing that you are where you are supposed to be at this point in your life.

Your office is the envy of all the other mid-level Managers. You know that the reason that you have passed your contemporaries on the struggle to climb the Corporate ladder is that you can talk to people. While you take pride in your organizational skills, how you never forget a birthday or an anniversary of anyone you have under your care, you know that it is not just the meticulous personnel files nor the work week organizer, both contributing to your reputation as a formidably efficient Manager. You notice that your schedule ( the private one you have, not the one on the in-house network, the one you keep updated on your phone) is reminding you to visit the employee lounge on the second floor. These seemingly random visits are not just a part of your career strategy, you enjoy talking to most of the people who work in the building, whether it’s small talk about last Summer’s Company outing, or talking sports with the sports fans, it was all part of your routine day.

today’s my birthday… I reserved the private function room at the Calypso Club tonight”  The speaker is one of the new Interns. Fresh out of Business School, this one seemed determined to make his presence known in the Company.  Even as the new Intern starts to turn the attention of the group on your arrival, in a strong, authoritative voice you say, ”I believe that the Company Policy doesn’t condone or encourage having parties!
You let the shocked reaction sink in, but before you can follow-up on your statement, the new Intern laughs and says, “Tonight 8:30!”

The first 1/8th of your work day  is spent answering emails and returning calls. You love this part of your job.

The rest of your work day is spent devising plans, formulating procedures and protocols, researching the latest in testing and assessment tools for your Employee Performance Metrics project. On the two coffee breaks that you have programmed into your Daily Planner (10:47 to 11:15 and 2:15 to 3:00) you catch up on your  100 Years War Re-enactors group and send out another request to the Census Department for a copy of the Vital Records for Braxton County, West Virginia . You love  your job.

The last 1/8th of  your work day is spent in meetings with upper Management. The CEO  is someone you tolerate, the story you have heard from nearly everyone is that he single-handedly built the Company and even though he is tyrannical, monomaniacal and abusive, your position with the Company is a good opportunity. The CFO, is also at this meeting because of his  devotion and loyalty (to the Company) and his un-relenting focus on ‘the bottom line’ You find the precise, overly careful, fussiness of this Executive to be admirable,  you look up to him  as a role model and standard of professional excellence. You can’t stand him.
A strange thing happens as you leave the meeting, the CEO turns and says to you, “...that new Intern on the second floor. Your latest hire? Good job! I passed him in the parking garage this morning and he actually invited me to go to some party he’s having at the Calypso Club! That kid is going to go far in this Company.”

…your time at home before having to leave for the party is spent… reading your mail. Finding some new bills in the mailbox, you pour yourself a cup of coffee, take it over to the dining room table and settle in for some relaxing reconciliation. Looking up, you notice you are (nearly) late. Deciding that the party is a good career opportunity, you decide to go with ‘professional causal’ while standing in front of your closet.  ”J Crew St Vera, don’t fail me know”, you start laughing and realize that as long as you stick to the plan, things are going to work out just fine.

The final 1/12th of the last 1/3 of your time at home  ….with a sense of determination mixed with optimism and a sense that all in all, things are looking good. You head out to the Calypso Club

Chapter 1

i.

Sam drives past the Calypso Club and can see that the parking lot is already half full, “early arrivals and the people who never leave” is the thought that goes through Sam’s mind. Still not a surprise, as the invitation said 8:30 pm the clock in the dashboard is showing  8:50 pm. Continuing past the lot,  Sam is looking for the best place to park the car. It needs to be a parking space that will be easy to drive away from, even if it is not in the actual lot. The important thing (about the parking space) is that Sam doesn’t try to leave and find that a late arrival has blocked the exits. Sam decides to park on the street, half a block away.

…sitting in the car. Sam smiles and laughs, not being a person who socializes  with people from work ( Sam’s thinking is, “8 hours every day with these people is not enough? The thought of leaving the office after a full workday only to spend another 3 or 4 hours in a bar talking about the people at work, with the people at work…nah… too much to do to waste time like that…)
The smile leaves Sam’s face, “Then why am I here, in the car, dressed like it matters, going to a party for someone I barely know?”
Sam’s life hasn’t been all that bad, for the last few years, it’s even been kind of  …stable, with a job that has lasted more than a year!  Sam’s degree is in Early Childhood Education and has almost a Masters Degree,  but there was that interruption that required leaving 2 semesters and somehow never got back to finish. Sam honestly believed that you had to explore all of life’s options early, when you were still young, because eventually real life would appear and then everything would become predictable, reliable and possibly even boring. Sam knew that when the right job came along or the right opportunity or the right person, then everything would make sense. But until then, there was so much to do….

“...so why“, the voice in Sam’s head, a voice that never, ever stopped observing (and commenting), assessing (and commenting) judging (and commenting), hoping (and criticizing) fearing (and trying to explain), “am I still sitting in the car?”
There was a party going on at this very moment in the Calypso Club (Sam has over heard the Monday Morning tales at work… “he was so drunk that they had to carry him to…and the police showed up”). But Sam was still sitting in the car, waiting for the (hoped for) enthusiasm to appear.

Sam sits back in the driver’s seat, eyes closed and relaxes,
“You could go home, it’s not as if anyone in there is watching the door for your arrival. Hell, by not showing up, either no one notices and then you can let it go or they do notice and there will be something to talk about at work. Plus…. this isn’t really your style, a ‘birthday party’ the new Intern is giving for himself! Who does that kind of thing? But everyone was all excited about the idea, no one said anything about it being lame… wouldn’t be surprised if there is a stripper hired… oh shit! I saw something on youtube, where it is supposed to be real funny to get the party goers up on stage, be a part of the show… this new guy seems like the type who would think that would be fun
Looking in the rearview mirror one last time, Sam gets out of the car and walks towards the Calypso Club, pointing the remote back towards the car hearing the arming beep. (Sam smiles thinking of the scene in  the movie ‘Desperado’ where Antonia Banderas and Salma Hayek walk in slow motion towards the camera with a huge explosion behind them, never slowing their pace, not even turning around.)

A half-smile appears on Sam’s face at the image…”Just like Antonio and Selma…” laughing, the nervousness is replaced by a cautious excitement and Sam steps through the doors of the Calypso Club.

Seeing that the host (the new Intern at work, who actually is throwing this party for himself) standing at the door of the Function Room, greeting everyone,  Sam hangs back. Not wanting to have a lot of attention, at least until it is clear how the party will play out, Sam turns and sees a woman approach, the head of the Department that Sam works, her name is Alex… Alex something. And she immediately becomes the center of attention, even as she walks through the door (that Sam is still holding open). This is the opportunity to get into the party without undue attention

ii.

The double doors of the entrance to the Calypso Club are glass and Alex can see a sign on a tripod just inside the lobby, obviously there to direct the party guests to the private function room, (the ‘Samba Room’).
Smiling, Alex thinks, ‘It’s been way too long since I’ve been out for fun… too much career and corporate ladder climbing, lets see what the night has in store!” Laughing she reaches the doors which are being held open by someone she recognizes from work, her own Department in fact! Alex thinks, a little surprised,  ”Isn’t that Sam? an interesting guy,  that quiet thing he does at the office, no way it’s for real”

Good Evening,  Alex”  Sam says as Alex reaches the top of the stairs. With the approach of his very attractive, yet somewhat out-of-place Department Head,  Sam recognizes an opportunity to get into the party with the minimum of attention.

“Why thank you Sam, you are so very kind” Alex notices that, even though Sam is clearly focused on her (as she would expect), there is something else going on. No immediate complimenting her on her appearance, none of the tiresome inflating of the chest or stiffening of the back, Sam very clearly found her attractive…but she could not mistake the look of humor, showing in his eyes. Accustomed to be stared at by men (and some women!), the way that this otherwise un-remarkable person was looking at her, made Alex reassess her expectations for the evening’s activity.

Walking through the open door, Alex touches Sam’s outstretched arm lightly and was rewarded with the expected  response, stiffening of the muscles in his arm, obviously increased attention, but it was quickly covered up…“this might be a fun evening after all” Alex laughs to herself.

Walking across the lobby, the click of her heels serving as announcement of her arrival  ’God Bless Louboutin!’, Alex smiles and steals a glance in the mirror that lines the wall, the cocktail dress she purchased just for the party fit perfectly, “My God! I’m hot!’ Nothing that living an evil life and spending $500.00 for a dress can’t do!”
Laughing, Alex advances on the host/guest-of-honor, Jimmie, who is standing next to the doors to the Samba Room. Behind the closed doors, the party is, from the muffled sound of too loud music, in full swing.
Quick‘, Alex thinks, ‘this is the newest Intern in your Department, the CEO seems to be very impressed with his work, make it work for you’.

Jimmie! How good of you to invite me!” Alex extends her hand, instinctively recognizing the fact that, if she didn’t assert her dominance now, nothing of the evening would be worth the effort that would be required  of her next Monday, as she tried to manage her Department, an office full of bright, ambitious, aggressive, overly self-assured professionals, including the young-man-on-the-move standing in front of her.

The thought of seeing his boss outside of the suit and tie world of the M&A Department was on Jimmie’s mind the entire day. Even though some of his co-workers referred to her as ‘the Dragon Lady’, Jimmie was looking forward to the meeting. ‘Hey, it’s outside of work and she is kinda hot. …besides the CEO thinks I’m great, this might just be fun‘.
He was not prepared for the woman walking toward him… walking like she owned the place, sweeping in through the double doors… Jimmie felt that familiar sense of excitement (‘the hunt is on‘ as he used to tell his friends in college). Grinning, feeling like he was back in a Student Union mixer full of freshman co-eds, Jimmie started his move. Extending his arms out from his side, the universal sign of an impending hug, (‘hey, I didn’t force her to come to the party!  she came on purpose’),  only to see her, in mid-stride raise her right arm, extending her hand… offering her hand!

..forward momentum ceased, Jimmie found himself reaching for the perfectly manicured hand that was being offered to him. For no reason, the movie ‘the Godfather’ came to mind.
Laughing to cover up his uncertainty, Jimmie said, “Er hey! I didn’t think you’d come! Welcome to my party, Ms….Mz...”

Jimmie, don’t be silly! I have a name! Alex, please! you need to call me Alex!” seeing Jimmie begin to make his move and then be totally shut down made Alex feel very good. ‘I’ve  been cooped up in that office much too long, forgot how much fun there is to have…‘ Alex smiled to Jimmie and stood in waiting, front of the closed doors.

Well, would you like to introduce me to all your friends? Alex felt the old excitement grow as Jimmie threw the doors open and stepping to the side so that she could make her entrance.

(Sam reached out behind Jimmie and held the door. Jimmie totally oblivious had already stepped into the room, just behind the woman that everyone seems to be staring at… “perfect!” thought Sam as he slipped on behind the two, ‘this might not be a bad evening at that‘)

iii.

“…and the hiring Committee said that they had never encountered a candidate for the position who was better qualified. I knew that my academic record showed well, but they really seemed to be impressed and so I got the position, which was more than 2 years ago. They say that if the CEO acquires the new Company, he and his CFO will most likely move their base of operations out to the coast and I will be asked to step in as the acting CFO.

Mel was glad he was invited to this party. When he first arrived, he had doubts that it was such a good decision. The host, who actually arranged for his own birthday party, stood outside the function room (the Samba Room) and seemed an interesting enough person, in a loud, immature sort of way. Preferring to get to any function exactly on time, Mel initially felt a bit dismayed at how lame the people seemed to be.

…and when I told them that there was no way I would accept...”    Mel stopped mid-sentence, as everyone in the group surrounding him started turning away.  Almost as a group, they were looking towards the double door entrance to the Samba Room. Clearly something was going on, he could see people leaning towards each other, elbow-nudging and whispering, in that ‘this-is-private-let-me-tell-you-a-secret’ way of talking that he hated to see in other people.
Setting his half-empty plate, (the Hors d’oeuvres were passable, the Brie was laughingly  sub-par), on the condiment table that he was using as a makeshift lectern, (the sugar packets were very useful in illustrating the field of competition that he had to overcome to reach his current position), Mel pushed past the new Intern from the Accounting Department and stepped in front of a young woman from the Research Department ( He made a mental note to talk to her later. She was very attractive, in an odd way and seemed to be very bright, but hardly spoke above a whisper. Mel thought that she might be worth investing some time in,  he couldn’t remember her name.)
Mel reached the outer edge of his group in time to see a woman standing just inside the entrance area of the room. She was stunning.
There was an energy coming off her that Mel couldn’t recall ever seeing in a person. (A memory of a trip to the Zoo when he was 7 years old flashed through his mind. He was standing in front of the big cats area and feeling let down and very disappointed that there were no lions or tigers fighting in the open area. Holding his mother’s hand and standing where he could see the whole area, only the moat and a fence down about 15 feet from separated them from where the lions were supposed to be and he couldn’t see anything. Just as he started to complain to his mother, something moved and he realized that there was a lion sitting under a bush the whole time.  Once the lion moved, he could not take his eyes off her. Finally, the lion got up and walked back into the fake cave enclosure, but not before making eye contact with the 7-year-old child. Mel never forgot the way he felt that day when he made eye contact with the lion.)

“…is that Ms. Delgiudice?!”  ”…no, way!”  ”damn, you know that is her! ..”dude, your Department Head is sorta hot,”  ”what do you mean sorta, Esé?”  “no, our Department Head clearly is, in fact, smoking hot…”

Dismissing the growing chatter that was springing up, all focused on the newest arrival to the party, Mel turned back to his group. Somehow, the group seemed to break up into smaller units, people pairing off and moving in a ‘slow-motion-pinball’  kind of way, towards the front of the room.
Mel spotted the girl from the Research Department, standing in the exact same position she was in before the group began to disintegrate. She was looking around the room, but her eyes were moving at a different rate than her head, and she seemed to be smiling. Not at him, not at anyone apparently, simply smiling.

Mel walks over to where the girl is now standing by herself and says, “Hi! I’m Mel, this is getting to be a pretty good party, no?” Despite being the only person within 15 feet, the girl seems, somehow startled at Mel’s greeting. She looks at him, looks down to her left, a very fleeting smile passes across her face and she looks up and, compressing her lips in an odd smile/grimace, says, “Oh yeah!, hi! I’m having fun and you?” There is a moment of silence, both in the room and between Mel and his new companion.

Ms. Delgiudice is really something, isn’t she?” the girl is looking towards the new center of the party, on the other side of the room as people headed, much as do moths.  ”I just interviewed with her, trying to see if I could move from Research to her Department, and she was very encouraging and I think that maybe that is really where I belong, if I am going to stay with the Company.”

Mel smiled…

(…to be continued)

Chapter 2

excuse me…is something wrong?
Sam was happy and relieved to have made it into the Samba Room without being seen, everyone’s attention, as he anticipated, was focused on the entrance of his boss and that new intern, Jimmie (‘…host and guest of honor, damn! how do they do that?’). Standing safely in the corner just to the right of the entrance, Sam could see the entire room. A bandstand/stage at the far end of the room, the bar was set up halfway along the wall opposite his current position, which was at the head of the buffet table.  A row of white linen tablecloths  and stainless steel serving dishes, the food appeared un-molested, most dishes still covered.  Sam always made it his first priority to understand the layout of the room, where the exits and the bathrooms were, what the most likely (social) convergence points were, only then was it safe to decide what to do about the people. Sam knew that, paradoxically, this spot adjacent to the entrance afforded him the maximum cover, while still permitting a complete range of options. The only problem was that he was not alone.
There was a woman, standing at the ‘rolls and salad’ end of  buffet table, seemingly engaged in arranging the condiments. Despite the inadequate air conditioning, she was wearing a slightly worn cardigan sweater over a  black and pink print dress, and Sam noted, she seemed to have a lacy handkerchief tucked in the cuff of her right sleeve. Moving back towards the wall, Sam could see her in profile, it was  Jen (or Jennie), the Office Administrator. Responsible for everything from paperclips to Post-its,  she,  (Jen or Jennie), was the person every employee had to work with, that is, if they planned on staying at the Company . She took her position seriously and personally. Jen (or Jennie) felt that she owed it to her employer ( she actually thought of the CEO of the Company as her employer ), to make sure that the material and supplies that she was responsible for did not go to waste. She was feared by the newer employees and grudgingly respected by those with any amount of time invested in this Company. And, at the moment, she seemed to be arranging (and re-arranging) the baskets of rolls and aligning the salad tongs, and …crying.  When Sam spoke, Jen (or Jennie) turned to him with an expression on her face that could only be one of relief, somehow that changed to a guarded, but slightly fearful look of assessment as she recognized Sam (‘…come on, Sam this is not worth the effort’)

Alex Delgiudice always enjoys the moment of entering a room, and tonight certainly was no exception. The room was crowded as she walked through the door and it was clear that everyone there found, with her entrance into the Samba Room,  a focus. She felt the energy, the attention that was almost palpable. Alex was the focal point, not just for everyone to look at, but she immediately became the organizing principle, the topic of the conversations of nearly everyone at the party.

( “..no frickin way!  yes, that is her!  Wow!  That Jimmie, aye carumba!  muy potente!!!  Look at the shoes, can you believe it!  That is soo…hawt,  wow and you say she runs the whole M&A Department?? Yeah, I heard she worked under the CEO himself when she first joined the company…if you know what I mean…  How cruel!” )

Violet had surprised herself by standing with a group of people she didn’t know, some were from the Research Department where she worked, but quite a few she only knew from the cafeteria. She had just made her escape from that guy, (Mel?),  telling him that she really had to use the ladies room. He seemed like a nice enough guy and she let him make her promise to find out who the host of the party was and how he managed to escort Ms. Delgiudice. Violet, felt a little guilty about leaving Mel, standing by himself. Once she got away from him, she decided that she might stay at the party just a little longer, no sense going to the trouble of getting all dressed up and then just going home alone…again. She moved in the general direction of the crowd of people who gathered around the M&A Dept Head, Ms. DelGuidice. Violet decided that if she did nothing else tonight, it would all be worthwhile provided she found a way to talk with her hoped-to-be-future-boss before the end of this evening.

Mel stood by himself in front of the bar and surveyed the room. He made a note to himself that he made another good decision (to attend this party). Scanning the room, it looked like everyone from the Company was here! The Host, this Jimmie guy, was clearly a very popular person. Mel marveled at the audacity necessary to, not only arrange for your own birthday party, but to manage to get this many people to show up! Impressive. Looking over in the direction of where the Head of the M&A Dept was being surrounded by partygoers, Mel made a mental note to get over to say hello to Alex. He planned on making the opportunity to get her aside and see what she was like, outside of the business formal office environment at work. He looked around the room for the girl he was just talking to, wondering if she would remember to bring him something back from the buffet table, not seeing her, he moved to join the small group that was standing and watching the band set up on the stage at the far end of the room.

Goddamn icing better not stick to this outfit!” Wondering why this job was so important to her friend, Meg stood in the kitchen prep area of the Calypso Club staring at the 4 foot birthday cake, a step-ladder standing right next to it. The top of the cake was open.
‘Get in cake …wait for the signal… jump up and yell ‘Happy Birthday”  that sounded simple enough. Almost the easiest $100.00 I’ve earned, Meg laughed to herself. Watching the busboys and cooks stare at her from the prep area, Meg thought how funny it would be if she made them give her a pastry bag to use as a prop.  ’nah, too easy. Get in, get out‘ the approach had always worked for her. If it weren’t for her best friend being in a jam… ‘but that’s what friends are for, right’? Meg knew that Zoey really needed to keep her job at the agency, so  when she got the phone call asking her to stand in at this birthday party…‘of course!‘ was Meg’s immediate reply. The relief in her friend’s voice was all the thanks she needed,  ’small payback for what she did last year,  I owe that girl my life‘.
Meg called the escort service and told them that she wouldn’t be available for the night.  Her boss was not happy. There was shouting, of course, she was expecting that, but when he said that the agency had a reservation request from the  CEO of one of the most prominent  companies in townand that Meg was perfect, the perfect girl for the job, she was almost tempted. But friends came first! Screw the old CEO and his cronies, let ‘em find a girl on their own!
Making sure the sous chef was watching, smiling to herself ( that trouble smile, her mother used to call it) Meg pulled at the top of her outfit and shouted, “hey! any of you guys here got some glue…or maybe a pastry bag?”

 

 

i

…Sam was beginning to regret his impulse to see if he couldn’t make this very clearly unhappy person feel better. ‘Why the hell do I do this to myself?’ Sam smiled as he ‘aimed his face’ in the direction of this Jen (or Jennie) person who had not stopped talking from the moment he had asked what was wrong. Apparently, if you believed what she was saying, everything was wrong. Jen (or Jennie) was in the midst of telling Sam how much she worked and how the people she tried to help refused to appreciate it! They didn’t know how difficult it was to make sure that the office supplies were used in the way that the Company had intended them to be used,

“…and then this girl had the gall to suggest that I should give her a new packet of Post-its, even though I knew for a fact that she had not used up the pad that she had in her desk! And when I pointed this out to her, she actually seemed to get upset with me!! I told her that I worked for hours at home on my list of supplies and the CEO of the Company himself once said that I was incredible!” Jen (or Jennie) pointed her finger at Sam, perhaps to emphasize how upsetting it was to be so under-appreciated. Sam noted, with a growing sense of un-reality, that throughout her tirade, this woman did not stop her arranging of the cutlery on the buffet table.

What is all that noise?” Jen (or Jennie) managed to interrupt herself.  Being careful not to allow his face betray his growing sense incredulity,  Sam thought,  ’in a case of interrupting yourself,  what is the proper etiquette of apologizing?’ Jen (or Jennie) was now standing at his side, a little too close for comfort, a little too couple-like.  There was something going on at the bandstand on the other side of the room, Sam could see the movement of the crowd, a new center of attention forming and there were now clumps of people gathering, like white blood cells attaching an infection.  Sam looked around the room, a bit desperately, for a person that he could graft onto this couple that Jen (or Jennie) seemed to be trying to nurture, like a mushroom in the dark corner of a basement. He saw a young girl standing on the edge of a group of 5 people, who appeared to be part of the group, but no one seemed aware of her standing there. Sam looked over towards the girl, hoping for some eye contact that he could use to excuse himself away from this Jen (or Jennie). Sam was really getting uncomfortable with how she would to stare at his mouth when he was speaking to her, ‘she’s eating my words!’ came into his mind just as the band started playing… ‘Hey, Once I was a funky singer, playing in a rock and roll band’ (‘Wild Cherry’ Sam noted approvingly).
Oh no not a 70s band!“, Jen (or Jennie) sounded hurt, as if the band’s choice of music was a personal affront, “that music is so old

At that moment, one of the kitchen staff stepped out from the curtains behind the buffet line, the door swinging closed slowly enough for Sam to see into the food prep area. What Sam saw was an attractive, animated girl in a very skimpy outfit standing next to a step-ladder that was setup next to a multi-tiered birthday cake. Because of the cacophony of the kitchen environment, all  Sam could hear was  the girl’s half of conversation,  ”…this frickin icing better not stick to my goddamn outfit! I had to put more down for the cleaning deposit than the rental was!”  ”…very funny!!”  …”no, I don’t think that they expect anything on this when I return it”  ”I don’t give a shit whose party it is or who’s relative he is… I’m getting paid to jump out of this cake and yell Happy Birthday… that’s it!”  ”…yeah, well then I guess your Birthday boy’s gonna be disappointed… he’s the one who ordered from the Junior Executive Services Menu, he shoulda asked for the CEO Special”  (lol)  ”…now somebody get over here and hold this frickin ladder

The waiter  was rapidly clearing the buffet table of empty serving trays to make room for the full trays of canapés that he set on the edge of the table where Sam and Jen (or Jennie) were standing. Sam saw his opportunity. Stepping towards the  swinging doors, he nudged the loaded trays, just a little, as he passed. The resulting crash of dishes and surprised laughter had everyone, including Jen (or Jennie), turning to discover the cause of the noise.
Sam stepped through the doors, walked towards the girl standing next to the Birthday cake and extended his hand, “May I be of assistance?
(As the swinging doors shut behind him), Sam could hear Jen (or Jennie’s), with a very ‘take charge’ tone to her voice, say,
“You had better get this mess cleaned up! We paid good money to come to this party and are not going to stand for second rate service. Do you even speak English! I think this is an insult! How could you do this”

Violet looked over towards the buffet table at the sound of the trays crashing to floor. She saw the Office Administrator (“was it Jen? no maybe it was Jennie…nah, no way she’s a Jennie” Violet thought.)  standing over a waiter who was frantically picking up food and serving trays from the floor next to the buffet table. The Office Admin was beginning to yell. The waiter looked like he was about to cry, until he heard the words, ‘even speak English‘, then he looked scared. Violet decided that even if nothing else came out of this Party,  she would be able help this poor man. She stepped to the right side of the table, crouched down and began to gather up little Ritz type crackers that were in small piles on the carpet. “Gracias“, she heard, the waiter was half under the buffet table recovering the last of the serving dishes.

No problema. Parecía que necesitaba ayuda”   Violet was careful to keep her voice low enough to escape the notice of Jen (or Jennie), who for some reason had her Blackberry out and was texting some sort of message.

Esa mujer. ¿Por qué es tan antipática?“, the Waiter spoke softly and immediately got up, and without waiting for an answer to his question, took the trays through the curtains and into the kitchen.

Violet stood up, brushed a bit of food from her dress, and looked around the room.

Where did he go?!” a voice, at once demanding and self-pitying, made Violet wish that she had helped carry the trays into the kitchen. Jen (or Jennie) turned to face Violet, raising the Blackberry in front of her, much as a missionary might hold a crucifix up before  the soon-to-be-converted pagans, confident that the power of the symbol would dispel any thought of questioning her authority.
“I’ve sent a scathing email to the owner of this place, with a cc to the Health Department. I think there might be un-documented employees here!”  her voice was increasing in volume and people began turn in their direction. Violet looked desperately for some diversion or distraction from the crowd of people.
Screw this, Violet thought, ‘I am not going to spend this evening being this person’s …hostage. I don’t care if everyone thinks I’m an awful person.”

Violet turned to Jen (or Jennie) said, “Hey, would really love to stay and chat, but I need to talk to Ms. Delgiudice about getting a  transfer  into her Department. You’ll be fine here and tell you what,  if I see Mel, I’ll be sure to tell him you need to talk to him”.
With that Violet walked away, toward the center of the room where Alex was dancing with some fairly old-looking guy that she did not recognize,
Go ahead, Violet, you want excitement? Just walk over there and tell the old guy that you’re cutting in” Violet laughed at her own thought, and continued to walk towards the dance floor.

Meg started to tell this new guy that she didn’t frickin need any help but stopped, something in his look of ‘amused concern’   …maybe there was someone in this zoo that might make the evening worthwhile

 

ii

“…and then my uncle Victor says to the Board, ‘…because he’s my goddamn nephew!!’ Jimmie was attempting to come across as being very sophisticated, but was, in fact,  answering a question that Alex didn’t really want an answer to,  ”and so here I am, a man on the move up in the Corporation!

Her eyes closing as she continued to dance, Alex began to regret saying yes when Jimmie asked her to dance. Feeling the attention of everyone in the room when she walked into the Samba Room, was good. It made her feel that old excitement, that sense of being alive in a roomful of people who were all potential conquests. But now, 20 minutes later, the initial excitement over, and despite closing her eyes in the hope that Jimmie would get  that what she wanted to do was dance, not talk, Alex could hear Jimmie’s’ whisky-scented words on her ear,

“...said, my uncle is watching my progress in the Corporation” Jimmie’s voice penetrated the illusion of privacy that her eye lids had promised.  Despite his unrelenting effort to impress her, Alex suddenly realized that she was totally enjoying dancing to the  set of music from the 1970s, ‘…can’t imagine why my parents seemed so down on the 1970′s , this music is perfect for fun-dancing’, Alex thought.
Caught up in the simple pleasure  of letting her body respond to the rhythms of the music, Alex found her mind drifting back to the years when she moved to the city, Wharton MBA in one hand and a job Offer in the other even with so much hard work required every day, she always seemed to have time on the weekends to spend with friends, when she moved to the city to start her career at the Corporation.  Elbowing aside her reminiscing, like a drunk at the bar when last call is announced, Alex thought she heard Jimmie say something that sounded like, “…are you serious?” Hoping to get  in one more dance before having to deal with Jimmie, Alex barely slowed her body as the band broke into an old disco standard, ‘Best of My Love’,
….in the split second of silence between the last note of one song and the first note of the next, she heard a decidedly contralto voice say,  “yeah, as a matter of fact, I am cutting in”.  By now the band was at full volume,  normal speech volume again impossible, so Alex simply smiled at the girl dancing in front of her.  Jimmie, looking unable to decide if he should be angry or intrigued, stepped away from the two women.

“… now, this evening has definitely taken a turn for the interesting” thought Alex as she  met the challenge in the attractive young girls eyes. Returning her smile, no longer wanting to hide behind closed eyes, Alex began to feel like she had made the correct decision again. ‘You haven’t lost it, girl’, Alex laughed inwardly, ‘back in the day, before you could afford the designer clothes and $500 shoes everyone  waited for you to arrive before the real party could begin… and seemingly out of nowhere, the thought formed in her mind, ” maybe the career success, the corner office thing is not the end all and be all, what good is the success, if I don’t have fun in life and have someone to share it with?”

Abandoning herself to the music, Alex felt like she was 23 years old again…

Meg stared at the guy walking towards her. Her first impression was that of a very well-dressed man, professional and confident. As Sam got closer, that impression…. changed.  The clothes were very expensive, but  worn and a bit frayed… and his shoes, Meg thought, “My God! those are Berluti!! what the hell...?”. But then, as he drew closer, she could see that the heels were a bit worn, “new soles and heels for that pair will cost more than I make in a week… well, maybe one of my ‘off weeks’ “! Meg laughed to herself.

I said, …if you’re not careful, you could pop out of the cake prematurely…do they have a signal to let you know when to jump up?” Sam was talking as he approached the scantily clad girl. She seemed hesitant to climb the stepladder that was set up to allow access into the cake through a round, manhole-like opening in the top…all and all, a very precarious arrangement. But there was something to the look in this girls eyes that made Sam think that it was not a  fear of heights, it was something else entirely.

“Well, ya know, I really kinda doubt that anyone in this crowd will be shocked by a premature pop-up“, Meg laughed and found herself relaxing from the very weird feeling that had come over her when she looked up at the top of the giant birthday cake. Hearing Sam’s laughter mix in with her own, Meg decided that, no matter how her performance in the cake was received, she was going to end up with something from the evening that she had not anticipated.

If you’d like and think it will help, when they wheel the cake out on the stage, I’ll shout out all the significant stats from this years’ League Baseball season” Sam offered as Meg began the climb into the giant birthday cake.

Trust me“, Meg smiled, “the girl jumps out of the cake at the right moment tonight…I know what I’m doing” Her smile faded as she crouched down in the hidden space, the look that Sam had noticed when he first approached returned to her face. Seeming to make a sudden decision, Meg stood back up and leaned close to Sam, who was stepping off the ladder, and whispered, “Do me a favor and wait for me after my performance, maybe we can go somewhere for breakfast.

Not sure why the girl felt the need to whisper, Sam whispered back, “…the Red Sox ranked second in the League for the number of games with a player left stranded on 3rd base“.
Meg laughed sharply and pulled the lid over the hidden access. As he watched, 2 of the Waiters maneuvered the wheeled table near the door that opened on to the stage in the Samba Room.

 Well, this seems to be going… as I planned?” Violet still somewhat in shock at the boldness of her actions, realized that she was slipping back into her more normal mental state, thinking and analyzing her own every move… “oh well, the benefits of mental laryngitis!” she thought, as she danced with the stunning woman, who was smiling at her as they moved to the music.   Feeling her confidence slipping away, Violet thought, “Fortune favors the bold…” and laughed out loud at how silly she sounded to herself.
Hearing the girl laugh, Alex forced herself back to the present. “You’re the girl from the Research Department, Violet isn’t it? I’ve heard some pretty impressive things about you”, Alex moved close enough to be heard without having to shout over the music.

Violet stared back at the woman who managed to appear so relaxed and at the same time totally focused on her, sensing that her own bravado was slipping away said, “Well, they’re all correct and if you give me a chance I can be your biggest asset”.
Alex, never taking her eyes off the young woman, smiled.

Mel was beginning to think that the party was going to prove to be a failure. Since the young girl from the Research Department abandoned him, he moved from group to group. No one was very interesting at this party, certainly no one who might be of help to him in his efforts to develop his career.
About to give up and leave, Mel noticed a small group standing at one corner of the Dance Floor, only 3 or 4 people, among them the Host of the Party, Jimmie.
Now there is someone who would be interesting to talk to, being a nephew of the CEO of the Corporation and all” this thought  was enough to cause Mel’s path towards the exit to alter itself, bringing him to the edge of the group.
Mel realized that this was not a group centered around the Host, it was a group formed around 2 women dancing… “nothing unusual in that” thought Mel, and then he recognized the two women. It was that young girl from the Research Department, he still couldn’t quite remember her name and Alex Delgiudice!

“Now the party is beginning to be worth my coming out tonight”, Mel thought, his confidence growing as he saw in his mind, the words of a poster that hung on the wall of his college dorm room,   ‘Success in Business begins with people’.

Moving next to Jimmie, Mel leaned over and said, “looks like someone needs to cut in and save Ms. Delgiudice from a boring evening”  and confidently walked up to the couple,

“Do you mind if I cut in?”

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(to be continued…)

 

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