A few nights ago we had the infamous company party.
You can imagine the drill: a massive gathering, with (ex) colleagues from different areas of the business, people you have not seen for a long while and people you did not know worked there alongside you. People that you wonder if it is the same person you see day in day out and people you just avoid.
As usual, torrents of alcohol were flowing their way with waiters neatly lined up at the entrance with long flutes filled with champagne so when you come in the bubbles can start to get to your head and more waiters were walking around with full trays – just in case you “missed” the line up at the entrance, or that first flute was just to quench the thirst -.
As I walked in and avoided the line of waiters all together – I do not drink alcohol – I asked one of the waiters if there was any chance to get a non alcoholic drink. Oh boy, his face! I did want to ask if he had seen a ghost but I confess, I am quite used to see those expressions of “oh shock horror, a non alcoholic drink!! Arrgghhhh!!!” so I smiled briefly and said to him not to worry.
The venue for the company party was huge, and soon I spotted where the bar was – I saw the crowd of people around one space, so no trouble to locate the bar – so I made my way, in the hope to find something without alcohol to drink. Problem was, the queue was immense with all the people who preferred something else to drink instead of champagne.
It is important to mention that I was on a tight schedule here; I went to the party because I already said to my friend I was going to go, but in truth all I wanted was to head home, pick up my son on the way and enjoy what was left of the night with him. So, in my books, waiting for god knows how long for a non alcoholic drink was going to be a waste of (precious) time. So, my leave was going to be far earlier than everybody else’s.
So, forget all manners – I thought to myself – face (ignore, more likely) the awkward looks and just do what I have to do : Reach to my little bottle of water that is in my handbag at all times. At this point I seriously questioned what I was doing there. Had a sip of water and started to look for my friend, who appeared out of nowhere – yes you guessed – with a flute of champagne.
You just arrived – I said to her – oh yes! How did you know? She answered – well, you have a glass of champagne in your hand…. to what we both laughed and carry on talking whilst more waiters were walking around with champagne, and stopped (without fault!) when they saw I did not have a glass of any sort in my hand.
My friend and I quickly realised that the amount of appearances of trays with champagne were completely outdone by the amount of trays with food; which was a shame because I was a bit hungry and I could have done with a little something to eat before arriving home. To put it in the best possible way, imagine locusts over a fresh crop. Got the idea?
The few glances I got over these trays, the food was certainly “minimalistic”: mini hamburgers, canapés of some sort, some of those heavily decorated with chillies and more canapés. In my humble opinion – and my friend’s – that kind of nibbles could be fine for a small gathering. But for this party? I don’t think so. They were catering for people who came straight from work and more likely did not have anything to eat for most of the day. I’m not saying they should have served fish and chips and quarter pound burgers (although that sounds great!) but at least something a bit more substantial and something that you did not have to ask what on earth was that.
You know, you just don’t want to ask, you don’t want to look as if you are someone with an uneducated palate (to say it mildly) or to say it plainly, as in the tale, you don’t want to be the poor cousin who has never been in the city before (The Aesop fable). Also no one wants to feel the looks when you ask “what is this?”.
Some of my colleagues said that the food was minimalistic and presented in a very fancy way to give the party some style and class, if you want to call it that; I would like to call it “whoever organised the party did not know or did not think straight”. Why do I say this? I tell you: because the people who normally organise these sorts of parties do not have the first clue as to the sort of people they are dealing with.
Don’t take me wrong, I do not, I repeat, I do not mean any demeanour to my fellow (ex) colleagues, but truth is, the people who organise these are sitting down in an office for 8 hours a day, doing everything via the internet and eating their sandwiches from a fancy shop; they do not have the first clue of what it is like to wake up at 02:30 to catch a 03:30 bus to get into work at 04:30; to cook your food at home and take it with you, because the cost of a meal at any nearby place costs the same to prepare 2 meals at home.
So, with this thought in mind, no wonder the food was what it was (yeah, fancy perhaps, but just that, fancy) and the overall feeling from my (ex) colleagues was that the party was no more than a clear and loud “meh” – if any could make the effort to say the “meh” loud and clear.
Point being, no one would say anything, not a peep. Only through the grapevine (as usual) and whispering, just in case the not very positive comment falls to the wrong ears, and you know how it goes.
As you can imagine the night went on and the chat with my friend too; so did the champagne and the trays with food, and some empty beer bottles started to appear (but did not last long: the waiters were making them disappear) and my time was up to leave the party. I did not manage to say my goodbyes because the mass of people engorged my friend and I was really in a hurry.
I wanted to go to pick up my son. And go home.
As I was on the underground, I thought about the party, and I came to the conclusion that the only ones who did know how to party where the Romans. Food was lavish but not scarce. If the idea was to give the party some glamour and sense of high fly / posh / glossy style, well yes you got it, but not to everybody’s liking. My stomach was rumbling so I concentrated on my newspaper so not to think too much about the food subject.
Finally I got to pick up my son, and go home. When we got home, I prepared our usual toast with butter and a slice of cheese, a cup of tea for me and a glass of milk to young sir, low lights and classical music on the background. And believe me, that was the best meal ever. The best time, the best party, at home with my son.