Saturday, December 03, 2005

Puttin' on the Ritz

Here is how I ended up out on the town Friday evening: I decided I would just ask people whether they'd like to hang out after work, and I started with the British chap who works around the corner from my desk. He's about my age and seems to have worked there for a little while, so I figured he'd know the neighborhood and know how to show the new guy a good time. Little did I suspect that he has a Mormon friend, and that they had already planned "a dinner" (his words) for the night. Now, the important thing to remember about him is that he's the office heartthrob, at least so far, and that his dashingly proper good looks have won the open admiration of the men and women of the office alike. He is always faultlessly appointed and speaks with a slight air of bemused distraction. I thought he was just being British. It turns out he is gay. I'm not the first one to miss it. More on that in a moment.

The next person I quarried was the former reporter of a little newspaper in northern New Mexico -- I won't name any names in this post, on the one-in-a-million chance I could get Dooced -- but he said he had "a thing" (again, his words) and that he had another thing after that, so no luck. I didn't really have a strategy any better than nabbing people as they crossed my field of vision, so I wasn't especially disappointed, although the British guy WOULD have been, how do you say, fun to get to know better. On my third try I struck paydirt with the new girl at the office, who said she and her friends were going out for happy hour after getting off (an unintentionally hilarious term!) and invited me to join them. I waited for everyone to finish their hard work while I prayed for return phone calls that never came, and finally we were on our way, having picked up a few extra members of our gaggle on the way out, including one of the senior editors. We walked and talked and ended up at Jaleo in Crystal City, which was delightful if a bit expensive (since we missed happy hour after some delays) and where I got to know the other guy in the office also about my age, who apparently has some sort of solid social alliance with the new girl, both of them having come on board a week apart and both being called "newbie" around the office ever since, to great fanfare and amusement. They both started calling me Fetch, as in "me a danish," maybe as a term of endearment, probably because they fear that I will upstage them. I told them my office nickname is going to be Hercules, not Fetch, and they both cowered and started to wail.

The Guy -- for now I will call him G and her NG -- told me a funny story about the Brit that went something like: "I was at a party with him and I had made a few joking comments that he misunderstood as sexual interest. He was there with his boyfriend and took me aside to tell me he was with THAT guy and was I okay with that." You sort of had to be there, drinking sangria, to understand why it was so ribald and amusing, but I think you get the gist of it. Anyway, the editor made a very nice gesture and a lot of friends by paying for everything before ducking out. The rest of us, a gaggle of Young Urban Professionals dressed in jackets against the cold weather (except me, who tied mine around my waist in the 20-degree black of night and showed my bare arms to the gods), headed out into the big city for a round of serious drinking and carousing. I soon decided I would not drink and carouse as much as the rest, because I do not want to and because at the time I preferred the taste of coffee. So at the first bar I ordered a coffee and a hot fudge brownie. I'd give it all about an 8.5 and I would say it was a good choice.

We bounced around for most of the evening, at one point taking the Metro to Farragut West just to go to an Irish place called Mackie's (or Mackey's or some other name that stank of whiskey). On our way back to Crystal City our party, which numbered five in all and four after we left the pub, encountered a distraught girl crying into her hands at the Metro stop, which was underground like the rest and which was at least warm enough not to freeze her tears. None of us knew what to do -- one of the girls asked her whether she was alright before being brushed away. We stood there, all our jokes and fun sort of evaporating before our eyes, wondering whether we should offer to get a cab for her or -- what? Thankfully a black gentleman appeared and handled it with a lot more class than we were capable of, helping her to her feet, asking her what was wrong, helpfully guiding her onto the subway when it arrived, sitting next to her in the car, talking with her soothingly, letting her rest her head on his shoulder. It was a sort of incredible scene, actually, something real after the unreality of the joust. After she got off to go to her car, we asked him what had happened and he told us she thought her boyfriend had left her. They'd been together all evening and when she turned around to see him on her way down into the subway he wasn't there and his phone wasn't answering. I don't know how distraught she really needed to be -- it didn't sound like he'd secretly broken up with her and run off into the night; more likely he was as worried someplace as she was -- but his stepping up made everything feel like it had turned out for the best. Finally we went our separate ways and G drove me home, thankfully sober after enough time spent unpickling in the cold. I had a very good time and will do it again.

When I got home I curled into bed with my trusty lamp, which finally arrived through FedEx, and read a few pages of "The War Against Cliche" by Martin Amis, which has been like an old friend since I got here. (You may note it was the first book I've purchased in D.C., at my roommate's bookstore with her substantial discount.) I went to bed feeling like I'm finally really living here, not just shacking up while I go to work. And incidentally, my congressional press credentials photo looks very flattering.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We worship the ground you walk on, Fetch. Whoops-- I mean Hercules.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Lapp said...

Who are you, mysterious stranger? I admit the hero worship has me intrigued.

9:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home