Reminiscing on a Corporate Christmas Faux Pas
Amid a deadline at work, I have the need to write about something other than work-related news items. If you'd asked me a few years ago that I'd be writing for a living, I'd have smiled and hoped you were right. I've changed the course of my career and am happy--for now. My first job out of college was for a Fortune 100 company, financial. A maze of cubicles and florescent lighting, I likened my daily routine to that of the movie, Office Space. I joined in September and by December, the office emails explaining details about office potlucks and holiday-themed field trips flooded my mailbox. I was horrified--was this it for me? Well, I supplemented my mundane daily routine with long weekends of alcoholic semi-binge sessions (a nicer term for being a "social alcoholic," as my mother labeled me), often accompanied by Rachel and Susie, my Chicago cohorts. As I hear of people's corporate Christmas parties, I recall that very first corporate party I attended and how I did everything you aren't supposed to do at your first grown up job.
The work day ended early, our manager summoning us to the nearby athletic club downtown to join in drinks and food. I'd just started that September, reluctant to make friends, certain I wouldn't stay there long. However, today was no day to be anti-social. The day still shining through the windows, I felt it was strange that carts of top shelf alcohol was being wheeled around, my co-workers helping themselves to generous servings of hard liquor. I was just getting used to post-college life and daytime drinking was usually a no-no.
Some co-workers ordered some lemon drops and ushered me over to the bar. I got carded. Everyone roared in laughter and for whatever reason, I felt at ease and that I could absolutely drink any of these pansies under the table. Drink after drink and making fast friends, we all decided to go to a bar. A girl from a different department at the firm--I had no idea who she was before then and I had no idea who she was afterward--and I bounced from the party and got in a cab. I thought we were going to another bar but ended up back at her lakefront apartment. I should have just called it a night right then, but that would make too much sense. She changed into a scandalous outfit (weren't we still meeting up with mostly male co-workers??) and shuttled back to the bar. We arrived and she bounced in and disappeared, myself being greeted by the saucy dudes and given a drink. For whatever reason (maybe the scared look on my face or glassy-eyed expression), the bartender eyed me and asked for my ID. We all laughed and I fumbled for my wallet...OMG it's missing!!
A normal reaction would have been to freak out internally and try to trace my footsteps. Instead, saucy me got wide-eyed and darted out of the bar--and then darted back in.
"I'm sorry, but if you don't have an ID, you're going to have to leave," said the bartender.
All of a sudden the table of guys started pumping their fists on the table, "She stays!!"
"She goes or I'm calling the cops. No minors."
I was 22.
Then things got loud...drunken testosterone decided it'd be chivalrous of them to berate the bartender and threaten to drink directly from the taps as payback. Meanwhile, all the noise--and the fact that I'd lost my wallet--left me feeling...vulnerable. Out of no where, my usual stoic self began to cry quietly. The guy who hired me, a thirty-something, came over and cradled me, caressing my head (to be fair, I don't think he was exactly sober) and telling me it was "going to be alright." Then the sirens came. All of a sudden a table was knocked over, everyone running, chairs scattered and I was snatched up by Justin, a preppy/burly co-worker, and carried out of the bar.
"It's the poh-poh!"
I have to assume this drastic reaction was due to the alcohol--or was I working with a bunch of psychos?? My co-worker placed me down in front of our building. It was just us now and I was horrified and embarrassed at the whole thing. For whatever reason (even though I'd been carded at the athletic club and hadn't returned to the office since before then), I agreed when Justin suggested he accompany me upstairs in search of it. He was quite tall and good looking enough (why I felt the need to confirm this with my single-self, I can't rationalize), so I thought, sure. It's a good thing I'd given his aesthetics the "OK" because we got in the elevator and he proceeded to makeout with me until we hit the sixth floor. The doors opened and I scampered out, swiped my card and surprise! No wallet.
I looked out my work window and could see the two police squads leaving the bar across the street. Guess I can't walk in front of that place ever again, I thought. Of course I couldn't find my wallet and Justin asked if I'd bothered to eat anything. I realized I hadn't eaten since breakfast so he suggested sushi. And just like that, I was on a date.
We went to the sushi place and I stuffed myself full of dumplings and sashimi. He seemed amused and it almost seemed normal, except for the fact that I was still wasted (although he thought I had sobered up by this point). I drunkenly lamented about my lethargic sense of being, my hate of cubicles in general and my penchant for whiskey. He even gave me a ride home and I was like, "Peace out, see you tomorrow."
I woke up the next morning (this is why it's bad to have work parties in the middle of the week) and shuffled into work. When I arrived I was swarmed by the females. "OMG the police came and everyone left because you didn't have ID?! Didn't you leave with Justin?? What happened??" Apparently, aside from the skanky chick co-worker with the fabulous lakefront digs, there were no other ladies at the bar that night. I looked super classy.
Hungover and red-faced, I just smiled and was like, "Nah, nothing happened. Justin just raped my face and then took me out for sushi." Realizing what I'd just said and that it was too late, I knew I had royally f*&%ed myself from there on out. A normal person would have sauntered over to Justin's cube and been like, "Thanks for the grub, I was totally sloshed." But instead, I proceeded to tuck and roll between cubes whenever I went near there and avoided him like the plague. I literally pretended like nothing ever happened. I never cried, the cops were never called and I did not engage in an unsolicited face-rape in the company elevator. I stayed there until November the following year under these pretenses. It was my goal that I would not stay at the firm long enough to see another Christmas party--and I did manage to leave right before the next one. Score!
You might wonder how I was able to live that down. Luckily, I was so good at pretending like it was all good and "who cares?" that no one bothered to mention it. I felt bad later on that I had ignored Justin like that--but then again that's how I always dealt with weird situations--just pretend they never happened (and hello, I was crying while being caressed by my director, the cops looking to arrest me for underage drinking and my co-workers for stealing beer--and it was simply a total face rape). Of course another reason why everyone let it lie was due to the fact there were a plethora of work boundaries that were inappropriately crossed and everyone preferred to keep it to themselves.