The Award for ‘Pathetic and Desperate’ Goes To…

Awards.  Recognition for achievement.  For goodness.  For professional and community accomplishments.  For being a “good animal”.

Awards Banquets.  Rubber chicken and peas.  Cash bars.  Enthusiasm for deserving friends and colleagues.  Casual adults awkwardly formalized for a special event.  

Last week, a friend was recognized with a prestigious organizational honor – Technical Fellow.  Wanting to cheer him on, i was happy to buy my ticket to show my enthusiastic support!  Despite the glitches getting out the door, i arrived on time.  Right at the start of the cocktail reception.  i’ve found it’s always best to drink a bit at these things…

Hoping to block a table for our cheering squad, i was surprised to find “assigned” seating.  Crap.  i went to my table – Lucky 16 – and tossed a napkin over the back of the seat to nail down the best seat, closest to the bar.  And proceeded to wander off, congratulate the winner and his family, and grab a drink…

The venue filled.  Tongues were loosened, backs were slapped, and festive gossip exchanged.  Time to sit down – and my first chance to meet my table mates for the evening.  Je-aysoos Ke-rist on a Podium!  On my right?  A annoying former colleague with his third wife.  His second wife was a pretty good friend, and i hadn’t realized they divorced.  Awkward.  On my left?  Our organizational corporate development officer (CDO), who was physically wrapped around her apparent date for the evening – the Operations Chief from Organization Y.

Looking over at the next table, i noticed my office folks – people i truly enjoy!  A Redneck PhD who is our division Tech Director.  Snarky, direct and big fun!  Oooh – an empty seat next to him!  On the other side of the vacant seat?  The Big Man!  PhD Physicist from Alabama – who is always a delight!  DOUBLE CRAP!  Too rude at this point for me to get up and move…

The formalities began, and it wasn’t until the invocation that i caught my tactical error.  During the prayer, while others had their heads bowed, i was staring blankly into space, humming a Joe Cocker tune, and thinking through my “to do” list for the next day*.  And noticed that i was at Table 17.  Furtive glance to my right… That empty seat?  An abandoned blue napkin was perched on the back.  It was mine.  DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!  Stuck… Trapped, like a politician in an airport toilet stall…

The meal might have been pleasant.  Colleague to my right was fine – we talked about past projects, his new wife seemed bright and engaging.  To my left?  Ms. CDO was incessantly groping her date – a tall ‘suit’, who couldn’t be a bigger professional zero if he were made of cellophane.  Ms. CDO?  Divorced mother of several.  Doesn’t just sweat desperation – it comes from every orifice, Ebola-like. 

We had one brief conversation about a year ago – regarding being single and mid-40’s.  i mentioned that i was having a good time dating many gentlemen and doing my own thing.  She wanted to meet for lunch – because she was having a hard time meeting men.  Tempting to tell her to stop bringing her living room furniture along on the second date and perhaps things would go a bit better…  Somehow never managed to get that lunch on my calendar…

Mid-way through dinner, i was compelled to send an e-mail to my friend, the goose-slayer.  “I paid $33 to watch CDO eat dinner with her arm wrapped around the thigh of your counterpart in Organization Y”.  His reply: “Ha!  I got that for free at a formal dinner last week”.

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* i’ve already conceded eternity in hell.  why fake it?