Monday, December 23, 2013

Fuck It, Dude, Let's Go Bowling.

Having not had a job in the U.S. for over a decade, the entire prospect of a company party amused me. Having spent some time watching The Office, I figured I had a vague sense of what might happen, but really, no ideas. Then of course there was an emailed announcement for which an RSVP was required. Bowling.

This was somehow not expected.

Fortunately I liked bowling. I was familiar with the apparatus of bowling and was aware that bowling, unlike Nam, had rules. Also, if you crossed the line you must mark it zero.

Bowling would suffice, so to prepare I did heavy-weighted kettlebell swings, thinking that would keep me from having a sore arm the next day, and otherwise mostly forgot about the event until it was upon us.

The holidays in the states bothered me for some reason. Aside from the impending sense of dread that I always felt around the holidays related to all that deep family trauma, I rather enjoyed living in a country where you could see a mechanical Santa Claus acting as a pork restaurant mascot in the middle of July and no one thought anything of it. It would always amused me when I worked in the coffee shop to hear some battered Korean rendition of a holiday classic until it dawned on me (six songs later) that someone had put on the Christmas C.D. in the middle of August.

It was as if, while abroad, there was no threat to it because, well at least Korea did not take Christmas very seriously. I was okay with that. It helped me to take it less seriously. The Irish and his ridiculous Christmas parties didn’t hurt. Being able to sling food to a bunch of strangers while drinking the “good” booze was always a lot of fun. I also found his joy for the season to be infectious.

The building I worked in had a forty-foot tree in the lobby. The thing was massively huge, and on my way to the office on Friday there was a man dressed in a Santa suit at the top of the escalator, handing out candy to all the commuters on their way in. There were bells and lights and jingles and what not. It was all very cheerful and festive.

I didn't care for it.

On the day of the holiday party I prepared for bowling. I packed my gym gloves, put my "Pins Falling Down" track on my CD player, and walked over with the rest of the office crowd. For the most part I had worked in this office now for close to four months. I knew four people total out of a group of roughly thirty. I was hoping to meet and talk to and learn more about others while bowling.

At the lanes, I looked around and tried to figure out how it would work. Once drinks and a touch of food had been secured I went over and talked to the very cute chick behind the counter and figured out how to get shoes. The cute chick behind the counter made me wish life was more like the L Word, as I would have liked nothing more than to ask for her number without it being creepy. (As I was in that building every now and again I still might, but we shall see.) Either way I tried some non-creepy flirting while getting my shoes, which was well received.

After that, it was on with the shoes and on with the game. My team consisted of me and a Shimer student that I worked with against three people on the other side. My partner in crime bowled straight into the gutter for the first three passes.

“It’s cool. At least it’s getting to the end,” I remarked.

“Um, you don’t have to try to make me feel better. I don’t care.”

“I’m mean...look I’m an educator; I’m used to providing positive feedback and encouragement.”

“You can stop.”

So I did, and mostly focused on my own bowling. Which was going fairly well. I picked up one split, had two strikes and overall did not gutterball unless I was trying to pick up a spare.

Of course, what I should have possibly considered more was the fact that not less than two months ago I had sprained my wrist pretty fiercely while doing push-ups. Apparently doing 200 push-ups a day for four days in a row on top of benching a lot of weight could cause things to go awry. While the wrist had healed, I had not expected it to suddenly start throbbing during bowling. I mean, I had been swinging 35lb weights to prepare for this.

It was not enough. By the end of one game my wrist was snapping back and forth and my entire hand had swollen up. I took a break from bowling, returned shoes, flirted some more, put my Docs back on and then tried to mingle with the office.

I met two people. We mingled awkwardly. I could usually talk to almost anyone. Having a vast capacity for remembering random tidbits of information from all over meant I could usually lock onto something to talk about with people; however, to no avail, I was simply not able to engage.

My wrist swelled up more.

Finally it was 4:30 and we were allowed to go home.

I grabbed a taxi, driven by a nice Ukrainian, and we discussed the holidays while I wended my way to the train. The lights buzzed and sparkled as we drove around downtown Chicago. Tis the season.

I still didn't care for it.

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