So, it turned out a couple people didn’t show for our corporate golf outing, so I got shut out of chauffering the boys around in the Beer Cart – fine with me. I hung out at Borders for a couple hours, then met up with the Boys at the steakhouse.
The Boys arrived an hour late (I was liason with the steakhouse), drunk and in highly good spirits. It doesn’t get much more surreally interesting than hanging out with a bunch of drunken executives (the least senior of which makes just over 90K a year) at a posh steakhouse while running up an exorbitant bill on a corporate card.
I was worried that this would be one of those staid, fake roundabouts with smily, boring people. I need not have worried. Only about fourteen people showed for dinner, which ended up being a perfect batch. Blaine was in high form, drunk and expositing football stories. Ned, the Big Cheese from our group, was just as sloshed and fun (and everyone was very careful with their hands – nobody put a hand on me anywhere but my arm or shoulder, though Yellow ended up sitting next to me, and had his arm on the back of my chair for some minutes, which nearly set off my “pissed off” radar. But all in all, I appreciated being treated like a real person).
As they all arrived drunk (lots of cigar smoking and beer drinking on those golf courses), I had to do a lot of catching up. Pete, who works with the firm we’re partnering with, ordered the wine. I sniffed and sipped the first glass and was surprised at how good it was. These are a bunch of blue-collar background types who’ve worked their asses off and done well. Very few of them actually came from old money, so I wasn’t expecting fireworks when Pete ordered.
Turns out the wine was $85 a bottle.
It *better* have been damn good.
The damn good wine flowed all night. We took out at least a case and a half, and wiped out the restaurant’s whole supply of the stuff.
I got a great table, Ned on one side, Yellow on the other, sitting across from Sarah, who’s one of our on-the-ground construction managers, and Bettie and Pete, who both work with our partner company. Everybody was damn fun. Yellow took the opportunity to announce to the table that I was selling a book — I knew I should have shut my mouth in the car during our three and a half hour drive down to the golf course. He kept prodding me for more information about my books. After admitting that I had wall maps, languages, and had, in fact, written eight previous books before trying to sell this one, he announced:
“You’re a Trekkie!”
“No, Yellow. No. Some kids had ballet lessons or football practice. I wrote books. We all have our things. What the hell do you do every night?”
“Probably fuck around with my motorcycle.”
“See,” I said. “We’re all weirdos.”
After Yellow’s speech about my writing at the table (we’d pushed the round table between two longer ones, so we were all at one big table), he sat back to watch the conversation fly.
Ferdinand, a big mucky-muck from our corporate offices, was very interested in what I was doing.
“He wants to know how the company’s computers are actually being used all day,” Yellow said.
I think my biggest gaffe of the night was saying to Ferdinand, “So, you grew up in Switzerland –”
“Sweden,” he said.
Blah. I knew that. But hell, if that’s the biggest gaffe of the night… I didn’t even hit on anybody. A night when I don’t hit on anyone present is generally considered a successful one (though Yellow was looking damn fine the next morning in tight, long sleeved white shirt and baggy gray cargo pants. But my twinges of attraction for Yellow are few and far between. Most days, I just think he’s damn funny).
After dinner, we migrated to the bar and drank still more wine, and smoked cigars.
“I’ve got to see Kameron smoking a cigar,” Ned said, doling them out.
So I smoked cigars (god only knows how expensive they were) and ended up talking with Bettie and Rhea. Rhea’s also working with our partner company. She and Ned have known each other for something like 20 years. You can’t throw a rock around this business without hitting someone you’ve worked with before.
I think Rhea’s damn cool. She’s gotta be over fifty, has bleached short hair, a deep tan, and wears skimpy shirts that show off her bellybutton ring. And she’s wildly successful. She apparently got her engineering degree in 1978, and was the only woman in her class.
“I wasn’t trying to make a statement or anything,” she said, “I just really wanted to be an engineer. My dad was an engineer. I never really wanted to do anything else.”
She also imparted a valuable bit of information to me – when I told her and Bettie that I didn’t make enough money to afford a cell phone, Rhea leaned into me and said, “You’ll be all right. Blaine *adores* you.”
I had suspected I had a pretty secure job place, so long as Blaine could afford me. Now we just have to sign another contract, and I’ll be taking advantage of this liking to get myself a frickin’ reasonable wage (like, say, *double* what I’m making now).
After we wiped out the last of the restaurant’s case of our chosen wine, we migrated back to the hotel. I tried to flick the ashes of my cigar out the window of the car and ended up losing the whole damn cigar. That was one of those stealthy, “Gosh, I hope no one noticed that” moments.
By this time, it’s after midnight, and we’re all plastered. Those of us staying at the same hotel congregated in the lobby’s bar, and I had another cigar, and part of a glass of cheap wine which then made me sick. Blaine was in fine form, likely talking more football stories, though honestly, I don’t remember actual conversation topics from that point in the night. He and Ned finally bowed out, as they had an earlier flight back to Chicago, and the rest of us said goodnight.
The next day, at breakfast, Yellow said, “Kameron, you must have talked the most of *anyone* all night. I knew you were going to have a good time.”
I’ve found that the older I am, the more I know, and the more I’ve done, the easier these social bullshit things are. And, let’s be honest: I really liked the people. I thought Bettie and Rhea were awesome, Ned treated me with total respect, Yellow kicked up conversation about my writing and his motorcycles, Blaine was just a big sweetheart puppydog drunk (which I suspect is his default form), Pete and Bettie had great stories, Sarah and Garret (our construction managers) spent an hour before the dinner talking shop with me while we waited for the drunken golfers (I really need to know more about the actual groundwork than I do), Rhea was just a frickin’ powerhouse, and everybody was really easy going and cool. I had a great time.
At the end of the night, Ned handed me the bill so I could add on a little extra tip to the automatic one and write the new total before he signed it (he was toast, and had forgotten his glasses). I was a little dumbstruck at the sight of the bill total. I’ve never seen a dinner bill with that many digits. I was also pretty drunk by this point, and my math was off. I undertipped by at least $40, but seeing the “automatic” tip added in ($400), the thought of writing more hundreds underneath it made me vaguely nauseous.
When we moved to the bar and I caught site of the bar tab as I handed it off to Yellow (almost $300), I realized how addictive this sort of life could become for people. I mean, I was sure as hell fired up about it. Wouldn’t it be great to be like Blaine or Ned, and do these things all the time? Order $85 bottles of wine and sign off on dinner bills that cost more than most undergraduates’ first cars? Hob-nob all night with movers and shakers in companies worth billions of dollars?
It’s gotta be addictive.
Me, Yellow, and Dee (our lead architect for the project) drove back the long drive to the office, and then I went straight home, packed for my Vegas trip where I’ll be meeting up with my writing buddies (let’s talk about my real addiction), and slept for 12 hours. Seriously. I was so exhausted and hung over I thought I was going to fall over.
That was damn good wine.
And, surprisingly, damn good company.