Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hung Up

Last Saturday night I walked to the subway half deaf, dripping drunk guy sweat, singing the new Madonna song in cowboy boots and tights and a K-Mart skirt I scissored to near obscenity (and accidental asymmetricality) and sweatshirt I bought for three-fifty at a Goodwill. Roughly six hours later I was rifling through a folder of work papers in Penn Station, looking for the correct envelope to save my reimbursable receipts and getting ready to board an Amtrak to D.C. for a huge medical conference.

Straddling adolescence and adulthood so thoroughly is starting to do a number on my metaphorical hamstrings.

An event that has been documented in several other places, last Saturday's MisShapes saw Madonna guest-DJ a large chunk of her new album. I was lucky enough to have found coattails to ride right through the doors and into the party, which was unbelievable when Madge was there, but equally fun even after she had left the building. I danced with some dude so drunk he yelled "IT'S LIKE THE BACK OF A RESTAURANT IN HERE" in my ear, which was at least comprehensible syllable-wise (though the logic train had clearly derailed at Coronaville).

Brad and I headed home around two-thirty in the morning. The rain that had beaten us up on the way to the party had stopped, which was a mixed blessing since I knew I was leaving too late to be able to take a shower before my trip. This is how I wound up smoky and slightly beery, having forgotten both my cell phone and iPod, sitting on the floor of Penn Station at eleven in the morning trying not to fall asleep for fear that I would be mistaken as a vagrant and shuttled off to some shelter. "No," I would say, "I'm supposed to be on my way to a medical conference! I'm a professional! I'm white-collar!"

"Yeah," the cop would say, "that's why your boots are covered in Pabst. Get in the car. We'll get you some soup."

I made it to D.C. in one tired piece, albeit a piece whose hair was absolutely slick with day-old "molding paste." I grabbed a cab to my hotel, found my boss, got my room, and had a quick meeting with one of our authors. So began two days of pasting faces onto the vague conceptions I'd created of people I'd been e-mailing back and forth with for a year. Most turned out to be your basic academic type, complete with requisite firm handshake and gold framed specs. Many were very nice. I did a lot of nodding and pretending I knew what acronyms stood for, and a good amount of smiling and half-promising I could do something about the nine-month production cycle. I graciously accepted a koala from a doctor's pocket as he grabbed a croissant and made a mad dash for another meeting, as if the exchange were as natural as asking the time. I met an author whose last name is a euphemism for the male genitals and did not snicker. I did not, however, receive a one of the complimentary messenger bags reserved for MEMBERS and not CORPORATE SPONSERS. I tried not to hold this against anyone.

I was mostly there to keep my boss company and help out with the breakfast we hosted for contributors to our books. Again, this mostly included a lot of handshaking and smiling, though this time interspersed with directing people toward the scrambled eggs. The breakfast was two hours long, but it wasn't until the end that my boss and I sat down to ingest as much complimentary French toast as we could humanly contain. There were a few straggling invitees with whom we sat while we ate and maintained a mostly normal conversation.

Midway through my seasonal fruit bowl I noticed the genitally named guy looking at me in a way that was unreadable and out of the ordinary. Eventually I was able to discern that he was just that sort of guy who was always about ten seconds behind the conversation because his brain (and apparently eyes as well) isn't in the right place. However, because I am dramatic, I decided that his look was actually one of deep and unspeakable desire. He wanted to take me upstairs to his room and have sex, probably extramarital sex, possibly animalistic extramarital sex, with me.

It was a conscious decision on my part to interpret the "...uh...what was I going to say...?" look as anything other than what it was. I felt justified, however, because it was the corporate breakfast equivalent of playing that game where you can only walk on the furniture in your house because the floor is lava!! and you'll die if you touch it. There are certain times when boredom takes hold and willful denial of actual facts becomes provisional entertainment. It was much more fun at that moment to imagine myself as an other-woman-to-be than to stay stuck in the reality that I was an assistant sitting across from another person with an advanced doctorate and tenuous grasp of social decorum. It was more fun to make my life double and diverge over coffee than listen to the conversation about healthcare reform--while Real Life Kathy would tip her cup to sip her last sip, steal a box or two of Cheerios, head back to her room to take a nap, and watch a Seinfeld rerun, Bored Phantasm Kathy would eat her strawberries in an unknowingly seductive manner, find a room key in her pocket, and have a torrid affair with the kind of man she doesn't even find particularly attractive but who would stop women like her mother, who would still throw their underwear at Robert Redford or Sean Connery, dead in their tracks, and whom making jealous is a fantastic prize.

In real, real life, I didn't even steal the Cheerios. I did take a nap, I did watch Seinfeld, and then I had some excellent tofu at a Thai place. Then I went to bed, headed home, and went back to work. The trip, for me, was a strange alternative to my usual nine-to-fiver, but stranger still to me is the idea that there are people who spend great portions of their time traveling to and from meetings just like that. I know I turned into a total five-year-old while I was in my hotel room; I jumped on the bed, I took a bubble bath, I ate Pull and Peel Twizzlers in my underwear. Is it unreasonable to imagine that such buttoned-up professionals do the same? Or, better, that they turn into seventeen-year-olds and have sweaty affairs in D.C. this month, Phoenix next month, Brisbane the month after that?

It can't all be croissants and plastic champagne flutes. There's got to be a leopard print thong somewhere in the mix.


Blogger katy said...

Ironically not but 30 minutes away from your convention we were having a convention of our own at a similar hotel.

I did much the same thing as you this week...during my trips to each room to "make sure everything was in order" I took the opportunity to test out the couches, forage through the freebie baskets and sneak pieces of hotel candy into my pocket.

However, one of our VP people did grab my arm at the end of the day and pull me close to tell me what a wonderful job I was doing taking care of them all. I'm convincing myself that he was only caressing my bicep because my jacket was soft and velvety...not because he wanted to help me test the green leather couch in room 296...

The people I meet who travel a lot are VERY lonely.

Next week I'll wear a leopard thong just for you. know what I mean...

12:39 PM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

You had couches in your rooms? I'm totally defecting to your convention next time.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous anonymousmom said...

ah, how sad when it sinks in your half adolescent/half grown up brain that real life is so freakin' boring. the half adolescent never goes away, it's always lurking in the background, ready to fantasize at a moment's notice.

you could try licking your lips in a totally accidental seductive manner and see what happens...

4:15 PM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Yeah, but now I'm back in my cube and all I'll get out of that is chapped lips. C'est la vie.

4:20 PM  

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