Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Hot To Handle 

“Do we define ourselves by our failures or by our successes?” asked Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, in this morning’s team meeting. “Let’s start with you, Tim.”
This, presumably, in the fallout of the Fleetwood Fudge Festival fiasco.
“Hold on there,” I replied. “You can’t expect me to remember all my failures,” intending it as a joke, which was a failure in itself.
She wrote something in her notebook, looking rather pleased with herself, and allowed a weighty silence to dangle in the room.
“But to answer your question, erm…” and I was about to launch into some spiel - about how it’s better to try and fail than not try at all; that failure is as valid a learning experience as success; some waffle along the lines that everything fails until it eventually succeeds, and there’s no shame in that; that you can define yourself however you want to, so long as you’re not a miserable git about it – but Creepy Keith from Accounts gloated into the room and stole the spotlight.

He was preening because he’s taking Advantage, his lady friend from the Runcorn and Widnes area, to the Accounts department Christmas bash at Chicken, a new restaurant in town where everything is made from chicken – everything - right down to the cutlery and tablecloths. The waiting staff have to wear skimpy chicken costumes, and anybody who objects is ridiculed for being a chicken, so they’ve really covered all the angles.
“Who organised that?” Stella asked indignantly.
“I did,” he smirked. “Advantage can’t wait to meet everybody.”
“Yes. And I don’t suppose you can wait to show her off,” snapped Stella. “That's so unfair. Fuck you, Keith.”
And with that the meeting was brought to an abrupt close. One minute she's up, real happy up, and the next she's at the bottom of a deep, dark hole. That's how it is with her sometimes. We were sent back to our desks without so much as a bourbon. That's bourbon the biscuit, obviously.

Nobody at Company X has ever managed to pull off a departmental Christmas night out before. Any night out, for that matter. They said it could never be done, that there simply isn’t the enthusiasm for social activities. And now freaking Keith has managed to persuade the other freaking deadbeats from freaking Accounts to go out for a freaking meal. She was freaking livid.
She spent half an hour in emergency crisis talks with her friend Becky, which seemed to pick her up somewhat, then spent the rest of the day trying to find some eatery that wasn’t fully booked for Christmas. Preferably it would be Chicken, and more crucially, it would be before Keith’s night out. We were all going out whether we liked it or not.

“Oh well,” I consoled Stella, after the going home bell had rung and everybody had cleared off home. Only a few cars remained dotted around the car park. “You failed but at least you had a good try.”
“I could have killed Keith this morning. He does it just to hurt me.”
I'd spent all afternoon trying to work out what had happened there. We stared out of her window at the tail lights going nowhere on the bypass, flickering like Christmas tree decorations.
“Chicken would have been no good for me anyway,” I said eventually.
“Oh I absolutely love chicken, Tim,” she said. Her face brightened a little. “My friend Becky’s Chicken Breasts En Papillote are to die for.”
“But I take your point about Keith,” I said. “What he said you'd said was just not true.”
“She rubs olive oil into her breasts then likes to waft them around under my nose. She knows it drives me wild.”
“I hate people putting words in my mouth.”
“Becky says I can put them in my mouth anytime I like. Well, actually she makes me wait.” She sighed a dreamy sigh. “They're too hot to handle when she first gets them out.”

I wasn't sure if now was the time to say something.
I hesitated.
Her phone bleeped.
I wanted to say something like, “You know, if you still want a team night out, January's a good month. Everybody needs cheering up in January. And maybe, well... I don't know, but maybe you'd like to ask your friend Becky along. Meet the team and that. Maybe she'd like to come out too,” but when I turned around Stella wasn't there. I squinted into the moonless gloom and saw her shadowy outline skipping across the car park, skipping like a child, towards the gate where her lift was waiting, her lift waiting patiently in the enveloping darkness to carry her home.

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