I went into to New York City last week to attend the holiday party of an association of which I had been a member for many years.
After I was no longer working, I let my membership lapse. So I plopped down 85 bucks to attend as a non-member thinking it money well spent to touch base with old friends and network in the forlorn hope it may lead to employment.
The party was held at the shopping mall of the Time Warner Center in the showroom of a consumer electronics company. I was later told by one of the attendees that this is the latest trend in event planning: holding activities in commercial sites like stores and malls. I guess it makes sense because no one is using the stores anyway.
I made my way through the holiday shoppers and tourists and went up the escalator to the party site. I picked up my name tag and checked it out. In big letters it said “Gerald” and on the line below my full name. In the space where a company affiliation appears it had my name again. At least it didn’t say “Consultant” which is badge-speak for “Unemployed.” I scanned the crowd for familiar faces. There were few because, in a cost saving move, our group was co-sponsoring with several others. I spotted our Executive Director, a man I have known for 20 years, and went over to say hello. As I approached he smiled the tentative smile of the lost as his eyes went straight for my name tag. Either he was checking out my unique badge, or it was a case of out of association, out of mind.
It was an unpromising beginning. I wandered off to the men’s room. To get there you have to leave the cordoned area and mingle with the Uninvited. After washing up, I searched for a paper towel or blower. On the wall was a gizmo that resembled the kind of pants press you occasionally find in hotel rooms. I reasoned that this must be a hand press. I hesitated to put my hands in the device as I feared it would grip me and I might not be able to figure out how to release it. I would be trapped in the men’s facility. I had a flashback to the first grade when I inadvertently locked myself in the boy’s room stall and Sister Anita Therese had to crawl under the door to get in and release me. I will never forget the sight of her habit encased head glaring up sternly at me from the bathroom floor.
I dried my hands on my handkerchief.
As I was leaving, a homeless man was entering. He must have been going in to wash up and try out the new hand press because it was obvious from his cachet that he had already taken care of business.
Back at the party, I headed for the bar. My friend, David, greeted me there with the sobering news that they were not serving red wine. This is our libation of choice at these gatherings. I asked the bartender for an explanation and was told that red wine could not be served because it might stain the floor.
This left us bemused because the floor appeared to be some sort of industrial grade composite stone that people nowadays insist on having on their kitchen counters and the exact same stone that is used throughout the mall. If red wine can damage the material, I shudder to think what would happen if the homeless guy, a veritable walking sack of stone staining toxins, downloaded upon the stuff.
After chatting with old associates in the bar area, David and I wandered into the showroom where the younger attendees were playing with the many devices and gizmos on display. Since I couldn’t figure out the hand dryer, I thought it best to refrain from this activity. The last thing New York needs is another black out.
I asked a friend where she got the stuffed animal she was carrying. As a new grandfather, and an unemployed one, I am always on the prowl for free toys. She said if you have your picture taken with Santa he gives you a toy. After determining that I didn’t have to sit on his lap, I submitted to this procedure. Santa asked if I had been good and what I wanted for Christmas. I gave him an honest reply: a Porsche Boxter. He gave a jolly ho-ho and said: “Everyone has been asking for peace and prosperity. Finally someone has asked for some good shit.”
The resulting picture of two red faced, bearded, overweight, old men was too terrifying to ever show my grandson, or my wife.
I shoved the stuffed toy in my pocket and went forth into the cold New York night.