>THE BALLAD OF THE CASUAL GET-TOGETHER

>The hall was clearly not meant for use any time past five pm. Everyone’s skin went salami-splotchy under the weak weird fluorescents stuck high up there somewhere in the ceiling. Raymond and some of his friends from dispatch stood sucking down instant coffee around a folding table, and this served as the focal point of the room. When the DJ turned up, some three-quarters of an hour after the party was supposed to begin, he had on a bow-tie, and more then one person audibly groaned.

Before then, it was a sort of pleasant awkward quiet, that special kind of social horror engendered when work colleagues are forced together, removed from their 9-to-5 points of reference, and the fact that they’re being paid for their time. I had carpooled, and had been at the hall since six. I had, in fact, witnessed the birth of the party: our boss’s hand-slap on the light switch, her first booming footsteps across the parquetry of the empty hall. I had helped unpack folding chairs, the kind that locked together like a boring board-game when not in use.

The DJ started up, fuzzing some incomprehensible message (lzz gt tss prrtee strttd!) into his microphone, before laying down some sort of badly recorded polka, all the time holding one half of a pair of headphones up to his ear and waving his other arm in the air (like, I imagine, he just don’t care). I take this as my cue to leave.

Outside the hall it’s surprisingly cold. I put my hands into my jacket pockets and begin the long walk home.

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