Friday, August 29, 2008

The Company Party

Last week I found myself surrounded by grown men and women who needed to have the rules of softball explained to them. Such was the office summer party in Europe. 

"Yes, but how do you know who's on your team?"
"So after I hit the ball, I just pick one of the bases and run to it?"
"I only have one glove for catching. Don't I need two? No? Okay."

To be fair, if we'd decided to have a game a cricket at an office party in the States, we'd be just as clueless. But as an American, it was a little like receiving instructions on how to use a spoon.

Having missed my last four Y&R summer parties in Chicago, I was happy to attend this one in Geneva. But when I realized they'd hired coaches to teach us how to play softball and ultimate frisbee, it occurred to me these weren't going to be the typical team-building exercises.

We were bussed to an athletic field where we were introduced to our coaches who started us out on a run around the field and a series of stretches. The last time I did this in earnest, no one outside Arkansas had heard of Bill Clinton. I guess loosening up prevents injuries, but I felt like I was doing Japanese corporate calethenics.

Our Danish fast-pitch coach gave us a brief history of softball before sending one team to the outfield. Because I'm American I was asked to bat first. Funny the pressure that's created when you're suddenly the ambassador for your country. Pop fly. Caught barehanded by my creative director. A Brit. Embarrassing? Yeah, a little. But nothing compared to seeing the adult men who followed me hold the bats like 7-year-old girls.

While I was playing shortstop, one of the graphic designers bunted (unintentionally) and I had to run past the pitcher's mound to retrieve the ball. Just as I'm feeling smug in my American athletecism, another coworker steps up to bat and the Danish coach says to me, "You might want to move closer. Remember to learn from your mistakes! You're getting the hang of it!" Maybe if I had worn my Chicago Bears t-shirt...

After a single inning of softball, it was on to 45 minutes of ultimate frisbee. I've lost weight in Switzerland, and I'd equated that with being in shape. Sadly, running to catch a plastic disc set me straight. I had visions of friends back in America saying, "Did you hear Greg had a heart attack?" "No! What happened?" "Well, he was playing frisbee..."

After these heart-rate-boosting events everyone smelled like used gym towels, so it was time to socialize. After a few drinks we did a race where we had to carry an egg on a spoon which we held in our mouths. Decidedly ridiculous, but it was at least predictable corporate summer party fare.

The next game was Full-Contact Name That Tune (not the official name, just an accurate description). A large Swiss cowbell was placed on a table. The first person to recognize both the title and the artist the DJ played had to run, grab the bell, ring it and give their answer. My biggest collision came on Eric Clapton's "Cocaine," when I thought for an instant that my jaw had been dislocated by the Swiss intern who grabbed the bell screaming, "Cocaine by Cream! Cocaine by Cream!" Points for knowing Clapton's former band, but, dude. Come on.

My team won, because I was the designated Quasimodo bell-ringer, and they were playing mostly American songs with an occasional British Invasion tune. The few songs I whiffed on were tracks like "Touch Me" by Samantha Fox. No shame in that.

By then our sweat had dried and it was time to eat. We had catered barbecue which was authentic right up until they served fruit and thinly-sliced goat cheese for dessert. Not sure that's something that was imported from Austin.

I spent the rest of the dinner talking to our French interactive guy, Frank, who kept telling me how disappointed his countrymen are with Sarkozy. "The French used to be poor. Now, they're poor and sad." I've decided that no matter what country you're from, you probably don't like who's in charge of it.

We ended with a rousing game of Pictionary, which incorporated the frequent appearance of NC-17 clues. (I was relieved when the clue I was assigned to draw was "black.") We boarded our chartered bus just before 11:15 pm. And, this being Switzerland, that's exactly when it left.

Despite my caked-on perspiration, I had a great time. I like my office, and I like my coworkers very much. Even the ones who hold their bats like pansies.

1 comment:

the medeiros family said...

Sounds like you represented the red, white and blue with honor! ;)
So how is the presidential coverage over there? As annoying as it here? Is McCain getting any air time at all or is all Obamavision?