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December 9th, 2005

ITSA party...

This evening, I went to a work-related pah-tee, which was listed on my calendar as ITSA Party. <singing>It's a party and I'll go if I want to.</singing>

I don't work in the ITSA organization, but even those who do don't seem to be very clear on what ITSA stands for. The IT is definitely for Information Technology. The S is probably for Service. The A seems to be for Actually, as in "Actually, I have no clue what it stands for." [Which, grammatically, should be, "Actually I have no clue for what it stands." But I digress even more.]

I was to meet Mary, my "date," in the hotel lobby at 7:00. Both of us are very J on the Myers-Brigg assessment:

Judging Characteristics
Plan many of the details in advance before moving into action.
Focus on task-related action; complete meaningful segments before moving on.
Work best and avoid stress when keep ahead of deadlines.
Naturally use targets, dates and standard routines to manage life.

so it was very disconcerting to both of us when 7:05 arrived, and neither of us was where the other was.

As it turned out, we had been snared by the age-old "two-entrances-so-two-lobbies" trick, and were each waiting for the other, shifting from leg-to-leg, drumming our fingers, and sighing, saying, "It's so unusual for [John][Mary] to be late."

While waiting, I watched many, many people return from a table from which they'd received a "gift memento," with no place to put it. In most cases, the man of a couple would take these gifts out to their car, which I ended up doing with Mary's and mine later on.

Not having a place to put things would become a common theme this evening.



This next section, I'm going to call the Poo-Poo-Platter-Poo-Poo-Planning part of the party. That's some serious alliteration.

The room in which we were to have dinner was just huge -- it must have had at least 100 tables in it, each of which sat 10-12 people. I'm thinking it was 12, because the place-settings were quite close together. When we first got there, however, we were not allowed in this room; we just caught glimpses of it as the organizers and hotel workers went in and out of it.

The, I'm guessing, thousand-plus people who were to fill up that room eventually, were now temporarily detained in a holding tank about one-eighth the size of that room, if not one-tenth.

We were each given a ticket for a free drink (beer or wine) to start off the evening, and after that one, you could take advantage of a cash bar. They must have had about eight little mini-bars, some of them "Beer and Wine Only" stations and the others "Full Bar" stations, along the, what was but a, corridor, really.

Arranged such that some bars were on one side and some on the other, the corridor was practically reduced to a hallway.

Along one of the walls, was one, yes I said one, table with hors d'oeuvres on it. The line for this was so long that it crossed in front of one of the bars, which caused all kinds of confusion in that area.

"Are you in the line for food?"

"No, just getting a drink."

"Yes, I'm in the food line."

"No, go ahead."

"Excuse me."

I'm no event coordinator, but even I could see that 1) the traffic pattern was not well thought out, and 2) is it realistic to have one food table for so many people?

After crossing the bar line like a scab, we made it to the food table, where we found food in this order:
  1. sliced cheeses
  2. white chocolate- or yogurt-covered pretzels
  3. the chocolate fondue fountain
  4. bread cubes (presumably for the fondue before them)
  5. the crackers (presumably for the cheese at the beginning of the table)
  6. Spanakopita, and
  7. stuffed mushrooms (of which there were about six left in the pan when Mary and I finally made it to them, and for which there was only room left for two on our 4-inch diameter plates anyway).
Okay, so the food was a little out of order. The bigger problem was that there was nowhere along the way to set your drink down as you tried to fill your plate. They had a second white tablecloth sitting on top of the one actually covering the table, and it was all bunched and swirled up, making it very decorative, but rendering the table completely dysfunctional to use, well, as a table.

We negotiated that the best we could, only to find that now that we had our drink in one hand, and a (truth-be-told, sparsely) full plate in the other, we had nowhere to put one or the other down to actually be able to eat the stuff. We migrated to this glass table that was against the wall, and maybe, 8 inches wide.

Mary and I managed to set our glasses down -- so that we could eat our food -- before the table quickly became the place to put dirty dishes, as there was no obvious place for those, either. Needless to say an 8-inch wide table about 5-feet long, for hundreds of dirty dishes, filled up pretty quickly.

Who plans these things? This is in an Embassy Suites, by the way, not at a Motel 5-and-a-Half or a Pink Roof Inn.



The gates to paradise were finally opened, and our party scurried in, like book club members at a 3-for-1 book sale, to find some prime real estate for dinner.

We chose the back, left corner of the room, a table next to a Christmas tree that sat in the very corner.

It ended up that no one else sat at our table, which hurt none of our feelings, and in fact, was not unlike how we almost always take over the kitchen table at Sharon's and Joe's annual March Madness Party, which this past year was held in April.

The meal was good. After removing the crumbled blue cheese topping, I doused my salad with enough ranch dressing to render any leftover crumb undetectable, causing me to use more dressing than I normally would have. That's my story, and it's sticking to me.

The bread and butter was killer, and I was surprised to find a meal of beef instead of chicken, and even more surprised to find it quite tasty.

In spite of the unavailability of a divider plate, I did manage to keep my potatoes from touching my vegetables -- which were asparagus spears and carrot sticks conveniently encircled by what looked like a cock ring made out of zucchini squash. Talk about subliminal messages.



The live band played mostly cover music, and a very, very wide variety of it. They were actually quite impressive.

Late in the evening, I did the Electric Slide, where I was pinned between two men, who may have been straight, but sure couldn't dance straight. I'm not sure that they ever really got the notion that in a line dance, everyone moves in the same direction at the same time.

Being on either side of me, they were constantly bumping into me until I felt like we were playing pinball, and I was the ball. One of them had on so much, of what my dad calls, "foo-foo juice," that I wanted to use my favorite line on him, "Nice cologne. Must you marinate in it?"

All-in-all, though, I did enjoy doing the Electric Collide. Really!



It may not sound like it, but I did have a fun evening, and I am grateful that someone (was it Suzanne?) thought of the idea of using this party as a good way for the book club to have a night out as we try to do regularly and at least once sometime around the holidays.

Thanks for having me as your date, Mary, and for encouraging me to write about the evening.

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