Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Party People

Our DJ just loves us, truly.  He does a lot of private parties, weddings and such.  He also does a lot of corporate gigs.  I'm picturing a room full of Certified Public Accountants shaking what their mamas gave 'em.  Once a year he comes to us and everybody -- including the DJ -- gets to have a good time.  We have a good time.  It's called the Annual Employee Banquet.  There's always catered food and it's always pretty good.  (Gotta love a sauce station and a dessert table.)  There's beer and wine.  We make a few little speeches -- I made one this year -- and then the executives hand out prizes; for years of service, Employees of the Year, nominated by all of us and picked by the previous year's winner, and then a raffle or two, even door prizes.  And then, my dears, we dance.

Every year our DJ comes back and plays requests and all the usual party music.  Likely and unlikely folks hit the floor, dance with people from other departments, other branches of the store, coworkers they see all the time, everybody.  Not everybody dances, but most of us do.  I do.  Some of us even dance pretty well.  I don't, but I enjoy it.  Fuck it, it's fun.

Young people dance with old people, men with women, women with each other, boys dance with me, it's a pretty impressive mix.  I've danced at least a little with well neigh every executive in the company, one time and another.  I've danced with people I don't even know.  I've seen grandmothers bust a move.  I've seen some real beauties dance like complete fools and I've seen some very respectable moves from persons otherwise so shy that, as my grandmother might have said, they wouldn't usually say boo to a goose.  It's a big bookstore, a pretty substantial local company, come to that, and it never feels more like a family than when the best and the worst of us are mingling moves under the rented colored lights.  (Hell, this year we even something of a contretemps, though the details of that are nobody's business.  I'm just saying, what's more like a family celebration than that?)

I wish my now rather ancient camera took better pictures, because I would really rather like to be able to make out a few more faces.  Still though, now that I look at this snaps, I think they actually rather capture the slightly boozy, bumpin' spirit of the thing all the better, don't you?

I heard and read more than one news story last week about the scandalous waste of money on "team building" exercises, expense-account hotel suites and the like at IRS conferences.   I should think that what they should be embarrassed about, besides the bill, is how utterly lame and unfunny it all sounded, no?  I used to know a couple of people who earned their livings giving corporate seminars.  Nice people, you understand, well intentioned and fundamentally sincere.  I even attended a couple of these things in a previous life. I must tell you, everything I ever heard in those  events was either painfully obvious or plain bullshit.  I don't think most people really need to do "trust-falls" or take turns on a zip-line, or listen to some agonizingly interactive lecture full of sports metaphors in order to learn to like and respect one another or work better together towards a common goal, etc.  I think what people need is to break bread now and again, clap when somebody wins movie tickets or a new bike.  I think people need now and then to get a little drunk together and make silly jokes and flirt and wear their good clothes out of an evening in the company of their company.  I think people need to dance.

I don't suppose this would work for everybody.  Not everybody in the company comes to this thing and not everybody who does comes every year.  I try to though.  I enjoy it, and not just the dancing.  I like the silly door prize give away, and the kind things said of one another and way my dear friend J.'s face lit up this year when she was one of the people chosen as an Employee of the Year.  She's one of the lights of my working life, and a good friend, and she is also a damned good bookseller.  I was thrilled for her.  Everyone who knows her is.  She deserves all the love and respect we can wrap her up in every day, plus whatever extra we might manage on a night like this one.

That's the genius of the thing; that it all comes from a quite genuine emotion.  Nobody loves everybody they work with.  Nobody should have to.  What we all need to do, and do more of, is try to show each other a good time now and then, maybe dance with that person who messed up that order, or bring a round of mini-cheesecakes for the table, even one for the guy who wasn't much help with the shipping snafu, whatever.  Everybody's human.  That's the reminder.  And no one is more human, my dear than when everybody is dancing to Brick House, by the mighty, might Commodores.

And for that, please remember to thank our friend, the DJ.

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