Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Nightmares Part III: Holiday Dinner With Clients

Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

Monday, 1pm

Tonight we are taking one of our clients out for dinner for the holidays. Nice, right? Well, they are located in New Jersey, so that’s where we’re headed.

In an effort for everyone to travel together, and so that everyone can imbibe and enjoy themselves, my company has hired a van to drive us roundtrip. It has a wet bar, lights that change color and a bathroom – everything a party van needs besides a dancer's pole (which would have been put to use as the evening progressed – more on that later).

With the worry of driving in someone else's hands, I am ready to party.

I start the night off with a pomegranate cosmopolitan. It was pink and fruity and went down like water...the best combination for a drink if you ask me.

The clients are late. So I have another.

Really do these people have watches? I absolutely must have another until they get there.

Three cosmos in and the clients have arrived. Time for appetizers! And a glass of Pinot Noir!

I wash the first glass of Pinot down with another, and a small slice of bread.

We’re having fun, now!

I’m making small talk with the client and the conversations are flowing as smoothly as the vino.

Our dinners arrive and so does my third Pinot. MMMM.

The night wraps up around 10:30 or so and we all pile back onto the party van. I have a full belly and a good buzz as we make our way back to the highway.

When we pull into a gas station I don’t really think anything of it, until I see the hood of the van open.


The President of the company is out there with the bus driver, taking a look at things. No offense, but I don’t think that a marketing agency President is going to be able to fix our van. Instead he comes back with this: “Turns out we have a broken fan belt and can’t drive the bus. A replacement bus will be here at 1am. Who’s going to go and get beer?”

Half an hour later, Jeff returns with two six packs and two bottles of corked wine. Let the party begin!

I spend the next two hours drinking, playing a very G-rated (thank God) version of “I Never”, attempting charades (seriously, who was going to correctly guess “Bridge To Terabithia”? I mean, have these people ever played charades before?), and painting the girls’ nails.

Surprisingly, time flies. (Guess I was having fun. Who knew?)

An identical twin to our broken bachelorette van arrives promptly at 1am. We gather up all of all belongings (leaving behind dirty napkins, empty beer and wine bottles and some people’s dignity) and hop on the new van. I assume the same seat on the bus; close to the front so I can see out the windshield and hopefully avoid motion sickness.

We are ready to go we see the drivers open up the hood of the new van. We MUST be on candid camera. Where's Allen Funt hiding, in the bathroom?

Then, to make things worse, the driver starts up and moves the first van. WTF? I thought that one was broken? If someone tells me we’ve been sitting in an On The Run gas station parking lot in the middle of New Jersey (aka, the Armpit Of America) for the last two hours I am seriously going to lose my f*ing mind.

Higher powers sense my stress and the drivers close the hood and join us on the van. We start her up and we’re off!

It is an hour and a half drive back to the office. I am ready for a nap. But I have no chance of falling asleep, because:

1. The bus driver has developed lead foot and we are traveling at lightning speed to get back to Connecticut (I attempt to avoid car sickness but every time I peek out the windshield I either see our van barely avoiding sideswiping another car or moving quite freely and accidentally veering over the white lines of our lane. Basically, I am more afraid of watching us die than vomiting, so I stop looking)

2. The radio is loud. Ear-piercing loud. Volume is on 10 out of 10. Oh, and for some reason NO radio stations want to come in, so we are listening to dance songs mixed with static. Did I mention it was loud?

3. Our van turned into a dance club. “Where was there room for dancing?” you might ask? Well, there’s PLENTY of room for dancing in the two-foot-wide aisle that runs between the seats. And there’s even MORE room for dancing when one of the girls is suspended in the air, holding the railings above her head with her legs wrapped around a dude’s waist. You can actually save lots of dance floor space this way.

4. People keep falling on me. Apparently, after a loooong night of drinking, it’s hard to keep your balance when you’re boogieing in a van that’s careening down the highway at 80mph. There is a possibility that you will lose your balance a little, and fall down like dominoes onto the laps of those not dancing (Hi! Ouch! That was my f*ing foot, asshole) and then onto the dirty van floor in a pile.

We make two quick pit stops before we’re back at the office. The first is to let the President out in Stamford at his car, and the second is two exits later to let off the driver of the rescue van (who, btw, rode the whole way back sitting on the steps of the van while our original driver took the reigns) at the end of the exit ramp in the middle of nowhere.

When we finally pull into the company parking lot at 2:30am, I am exhausted. The bus driver appears to be a combination of tired/incredulous/pissed off, so I try to cheer him up a bit.

Me: “Thanks for everything and getting us back here safely.”

Him: “You’re welcome. I’m really sorry for what happened.”

Me: “Why are you sorry? You didn’t break the belt. Did you break the belt, Felix?”

Him: “No! I didn’t break the belt!”

Me: “Then no worries. Stuff like this happens.”

What a relief to get into my (extremely cold) car. I feel the fatigue take over my body and I put the key in the ignition.

I don’t even want to think about the 45 minute drive that I still had to make home, on a very curvy highway with no lights that is littered with deer. Or my alarm going off in a few hours.

I. Must. Get. To. Bed.

((btw, so you know I'm not entirely crazy, there was NO treadmill for me the following morning))

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