After I accidentally fired myself last week, my friend Joey invited me to a networking event to make new professional connections. I thought going was a pretty good idea, considering (1) the strong likelihood that I’d soon be unemployed and (B) my ongoing, desperate need to make a complete ASS out of myself in a roomful of strangers.
(Which, as it turns out, I totally accomplished… just not in the way I expected.)
The event was held at Mangia Pizza. And you won’t understand yet why this is important, but there are actually multiple locations of Mangia Pizza in Austin, Texas.
(There are at least two that I know of. That I know of NOW, I mean.)
I was running late because I hadn’t officially been fired yet – a situation that was swiftly and dramatically rectified a few short days later.
(Saving THAT little nugget of gold for another day, but until then here’s a fun little teaser…
Boss Lady: I know I said things were cool but I changed my mind for no reason and now I hate you more than ever! Fuck off and die! Go away forever!
I walked into Mangia expecting to find a large group of people I didn’t know all turn around at once to stare at me and make me feel horribly awkward and uncomfortable.
(Which, again, is EXACTLY what happened. It just wasn’t the group I expected.)
Walking through the restaurant, though, I didn’t see a large party anywhere. I asked the host if there was a separate area for events; he nodded as if he knew exactly what I was talking about and quickly led me to a large set of double doors. He pulled them open with great pageantry — effectively bringing ALL activity in the next room to an abrupt and utter HALT as all eyes turned to…
(Let’s call this Awkward Horrible Moment #1.)
This was clearly the party room, and there was only one party in attendance – a table in the center with about 15 people seated and one woman standing, giving a speech. I didn’t recognize anyone but then, I hadn’t expected to – well, at least no one except Joey, who was nowhere in sight. The nice lady standing stopped mid-speech, warmly waved me in, and showed me to an empty seat, where I sat as quickly and quietly as I could. I gave smiles all around and received several in return. Everyone seemed so nice! I was looking forward to “connecting” with all of them!
Nice Speech Lady: (smiling at me) Okay, so now that everyone’s here…
Me: (smiling back, then looking around) (She seems nice. Where’s Joey?)
Nice Speech Lady: …I just want to say that…
Waiter: (whispering) Would you like something to drink?
Nice Speech Lady: … I know we are all really going to miss Nick and his smiling face…
Me: (whispering back to waiter) Sure! How about a Dr. Pepper? (Wait. Who’s Nick?)
Nice Speech Lady: … so Susan and I tried to think of the perfect going away gift and finally we came up with the funniest thing…
Me: (confused) (Going away gift?)
Nice Party Lady: (pulling note cards from bag) … we made these hilarious note cards from old IBM time cards, which we all know Nick just LOOOOVES to make fun of!!! Hahahaaaa!
Other Party People: HAHAHAAAA! HA HA! HAHAHAAA!
Me: Uh… ha? (No seriously. Who the fuck is Nick?)
Nice Speech Lady: But seriously, Nick, I just want to thank you for your years of hard work…
Me: (texting Joey: Hey, where are you? Who is this Nick guy?)
Nice Party Lady: …and for being such a great sport…
Cell phone: New text from Joey! I’m here at the table! Nick? I don’t know a Nick.
Me: (OH. MY. GOD.)
(It can’t be.)
(Oh SHIT it is.)
(I AM IN THE WRONG PLACE. THESE ARE THE WRONG PEOPLE.)
(What the fuck do I do? I have no idea. No idea. No idea.)
Cell phone: New text from Joey! Where are u? U didn’t go to the wrong Mangia did u? U know there’s more than one LOLOL
Me: (TOO LATE TOO LATE TOO LATE MORE THAN ONE MANGIA TOO LATE FUCK ME TOO LATE)
Nice Party Lady: …and because you’ve just been so great to work with, Nick…
Waiter: (delivers Dr. Pepper) (ignores my pleading look) (leaves without saving me)
Nice Speech Lady: …We just all really wish you the best of luck, Nick…
Me: (suddenly VERY thirsty) (sucking life from straw) (wishing desperately for booze)
Nice Speech Lady: … and thank you for all your years of service! We’ll miss you!
Other Party People: (clapping enthusiastically) We’ll miss you, Nick! Best of luck, big guy!
Me: (clapping nervously, looking for emergency exits) Yay, Nick!
(I have NO IDEA what to do right now. I have never seen nor read anything in my life that would prepare me for this moment. There is NO graceful exit. No easy way out. NONE. NONE.)
(Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK WOW.)
Nice Speech Lady: Everyone let’s raise a glass for Nick!!
Other Party People: (raising glasses) Here, here, Nick!!
Me: (raising glass, deer-in-headlights) (Just go with it, Beej. Just go with it.)
(smiling) Here, here, Nickster!
Other Party People: (drinking to Nick)
Me: (sucking from straw with the strength of a thousand Hoovers, wishing I could suck myself right out of this room right now)
Me: (One day this will be funny, Beej. It really will. I swear it will. Just get through it. You can do this. When she sits down, just calmly excuse yourself and walk out. It might be a little awkward… okay, definitely awkward… but what else can you do?)
(Just wait. Breathe. She’ll sit down, everyone will start chatting, and you’ll just quietly get up, act like you’re going to the bathroom and never come back. They won’t realize until later that they didn’t know you. It’s perfect. The perfect plan.)
(Okay. I can do this. Go ahead, Speech Lady. Sit down. Sit down. Sit.)
Nice Speech Lady: (sitting down)
Me: (looking around, waiting) (YES. Go ahead, Party People. Start chatting. Start chatting. Chat.)
Other Party People: (silent)
Nice Speech Lady: Why don’t you say a few words, Nick?
Me: (There is no god.)
I suppose I could tell you all about Nick’s speech, and how excited he was to be moving to Wisconsin with his wife (yay!), but a little nervous about the house she bought because he hasn’t seen it yet (gasp!) and also kind of dreading the long drive up there with the two dogs (hee hee!) and more than anything, sad to say goodbye to all of his friends at IBM (awwwww!). But instead I’ll just tell you that Nick talked for a long, long, long, long, LONG motherfucking time. And the entire time Nick talked, I felt more uncomfortable than I have ever felt.
In my life.
And believe me when I tell you –
THAT is saying something.
It was also around this time that I noticed the guy next to me starting to steal glances my way. He was clearly trying to figure out who the hell I was. But I just kept clapping and laughing along with everyone else and let him wonder, because Nick was talking and I’d be damned if I was going to ruin Nick’s party!! He’d already been through so much, with the wife and the dogs and the house and OY!!
I would have stayed there forever, listening to Nick. Because as uncomfortable as I was, Nick’s speech was the only thing standing between me and coming clean. And I knew it.
But the thing is, this guy sitting next to me was curious. Too curious.
And Nick DID finally stop talking. Within seconds:
Guy next to me: (leaning in, smiling, extending hand) Hi. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Mark.
Me: (firm handshake) Hi, Mark. I’m Beej. And you’re right, we’ve never met. (deep breath) Because I actually don’t belong here at all.
Mark: (smile falters, looks confused) Pardon?
Me: (Well, fuck it. Might as well just take this bull by the horns.)
Yeah. You’re confused, Mark, I know. Let me just explain. You see, this is not my party. You are not my people. I do not work at IBM. I have never met Nick. I have to go.
Mark: (smile gone) Wait a minute — you just sat here the whole time and didn’t say anything?
Me: (Bull is angry. Abort mission. ABORT.) W-w-well, I didn’t want to ruin Nick’s party.
Mark: But you ordered a drink! Were you even going to pay for that?!
Me: (defensive) Just a Dr. Pepper! It’s not like it’s booze, or anything! (But boy, some booze sure would be nice right about now)
Lady on my other side: Mark? What’s going on?
Mark: This woman doesn’t know Nick.
Me: (dying) I really should be going.
Mark: She isn’t with IBM.
Me: (dying dying dying) I’ll just go now.
Lady across the table: What’s happening, Mark?
Mark: (loudly) She doesn’t know Nick!
Nice Speech Lady: (catching on) She doesn’t know Nick?
Me: (getting up, taking empty glass) Well you were all just so nice and welcoming and I thought you were my group and the Mangia guy seemed so sure but then you were talking and Joey wasn’t here and once I figured it out I didn’t want to interrupt Nick because he’s such a nice guy and with those dogs and that wife of his, and new beginnings and all… ohmygod I’m so sorry I’ll pay for my drink so awkward I don’t know what to say…
Mark: (crossing arms across chest, looking angry)
Nick: (looking confused)
Me: (backing out of room) (running into chairs) (waving at Nick) Best of luck, Nick!
Nick: (still confused) (waving) Um, okay, bye!?
Lady on other side of table: Who was that?
I don’t even know what else there is to say, except this:
As soon as I was in my car I called my mom and told her the whole thing, and this was her reaction: “Well, maybe you should apply for a job there. I mean, with Nick leaving and all, you KNOW there’s an opening.”
And that right there is proof that I come from pure awesome.
The end.Stumble it!