Bad Company

This is a humorous speech I plan to give on Monday night. I’ll try to think of a better title, I promise. Constructive comments appreciated. Enjoy!

Good evening, fellow Toastmasters and honored guests. It’s September now, almost fall, and before too much longer the holiday season will be upon us. Ahh… candles, trees, tidings of goodwill to all people… and my personal favorite, company holiday parties!

Now, those of you who know me know that I’m not just a Toastmaster – I’m also a businesswoman. I’ve worked in corporate America long enough to know there are certain expectations when you’re attending a company-sponsored soiree, which is why my advice to you, if you’ve been invited to one, is this: proceed with caution. We’ve all heard tales of people (or their spouses) getting just a little tipsy and making complete fools of themselves at parties, but I’d warn you that even something as seemingly innocuous as how you (or your spouse) dance can make a lasting impression – for better or worse –  on the higher-ups. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Shortly after I earned my first degree, I wound up working at a technical recruiting firm in Sausalito – my first real, REAL job. I was young – twenty-two to be exact – as were most of my coworkers. Our boss was a man named – and I’m not making this up – Roger King. He and his wife (again, not making this up), Kathy Lord, were titans of business during the height of the dot-com boom.

My first year at the company, Roger and Kathy decided to throw a holiday shindig fit for, well, a King. Held at a prestigious winery in Sonoma, the evening promised to be a night to remember!

Now, let me reiterate. This was a period of time during which the economy was good. My coworkers and I were young, and we were having our company holiday party at a winery.

The party got underway and, soon, so did the dancing. I got up a danced for a bit, then I sat back down and decided to people watch for a while.

Now, when people are sober, they dance like this: [demonstrate]. Feet nailed to the floor, you might twist your body from side to side. Arms going a bit. You might even talk to your neighbors: “Hey! How are you??”

When they get a little alcohol in their system, people resemble those inflatable windsocks you see at auto sales. They kind of look like this: [demonstrate]. They get louder too: “Wooo-hoooooo!!!!”

When you have a situation like, um, a free, open bar during your holiday party, all bets are off.

Anyway, back to my company party. After a few bottles of wine had been consumed, things were raging. Roger, most of my male coworkers and my coworker Susan’s boyfriend, this guy named Andy, got up and began to dance together… as in arms around each other, leaning on one another for support. Singing along with the music, LOUDLY.

Someone – don’t really remember who started it – decided to lead the group in the can-can, that iconic dance performed in gay Paris during the heyday of the 1800s. Have you ever seen a group of men in suits and ties doing the can-can? Me either… until then.

They looked like a group of windsocks that were about to take flight. When one of them did a high kick, they ALL did a high kick, every one of them nearly stumbling and falling over… although thankfully none of them did, because they all had their bros holding them up.

The entire group decided to go for a really high kick when, before everyone’s eyes, Andy’s prosthetic leg – which I personally had no knowledge of – detached and flipped through the air like an acrobat, end over end [demonstrate]. It was like watching a car accident in slow motion. Finally, the leg came to rest, in the middle of the floor. You know that scene in what seems like just about every movie when the record player scratches and the room is completely silent? Yeah, THAT. Then, after what seemed like a small eternity, the entire place erupted. Recuiters, administrative staff, managers, waiters, bartenders and their dates all, with tears rolling down their cheeks, laughing at the poor guy.

Susan scrambled to her feet to retrieve the leg and re-attach it to her boyfriend. They sat down, the dancing stopped and the party went on. No one was hurt, but that image was etched into my mind forever.

It was on that night that I learned a very valuable lesson about company holiday parties. Don’t overdo it, and don’t get too wild. Heed my advice and keep both feet on the ground and you will have a leg to stand on!