Rollercoaster to the Bottom

We went to RezRez‘s Christmas Party last night. It was awful. Drinks were $6.50 (hip flasks courtesy of Farshad were an easy solution to that problem). But that was only the beginning.

First up, Stan Sprenger, the company’s CEO. Imagine you were the CEO of a company, set to deliver a speech to the 300-plus employees and guests attending the corporate Christmas party. Would you consider the following anecdote appropriate?

I was at the mall today, and I saw a little blond girl get up on Santa’s knee.
“What do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked.
“I want Barbie and GI Joe!” the little girl proclaimed.
Santa looked confused at this request.
“I don’t understand. Doesn’t Barbie come with Ken?” Santa asked.
“No. Barbie comes with GI Joe. She only fakes it with Ken.”

Probably not. I don’t think I know a single self-respecting executive officer who would consider that an appropriate joke for a corporate Christmas function. But it didn’t stop there.

There were the little barbs volleyed by the Chief Operating Officer during her introduction of the CEO. Perhaps they were subtle enough that most people didn’t notice, but I detected the distinct edge of frost in the COO’s delivery of some carefully chosen jokes sent in the CEO’s direction.

About halfway through last night, everyone at the party transformed in my mind into Sims characters. I even saw the body language of those engaged in conversation match those of Sims characters, all exaggerated and overly animated. I felt very alone in that room. It’s not just that I didn’t know a lot of the people there or that I didn’t fit the age demographic of the company (newly graduated high school teens in the call center, mid-thirties burnouts everywhere else). The thing that really struck me was just how much I couldn’t relate to the people I was around.

I mean, yes, it’s a party. People are looking to have fun and be a little silly. But there was something else at work last night. I couldn’t actually imagine myself ever being like one of those people. They were so…unsophisticated. Low brow. Or for lack of a better word, stupid.

I’ve always thought that most people are as smart as I am, at least from the point of view of common sense. Maybe it wasn’t an explicit assumption, but I now realize it’s probably the reason people fail to meet my expectations a lot of the time. I know the people at the party weren’t stupid, just that they had a different set of priorities and values. But I can’t help wondering: why can’t I share those values? Why can’t I just let go, forget about trying to make a difference and just enjoy the rollercoaster ride to the bottom?

An Eventful Evening

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks, what with all the exams I’ve been writing lately, so I haven’t had much time to blog. That aside, I didn’t have many spare brain cells left to write with or any interesting events to report. And just when I thought I had nothing to write, I get assaulted on the way to the movies.

Ashley and I were going to see a movie up on Granville Street and were just crossing the intersection of Nelson and Richards when we saw a man strike a woman. At first, I thought it was a guy being a jerk to his girlfriend, but then he rushed at Ashley and me, striking me in the side of the head. No big damage, but it was a bit of a shock. He was yelling and obviously just looking for a fight. Ashley and I put a bit of distance between ourselves and him and went to help the woman.

At this point, I started thinking straight and asked Ashley to dial 911 on her cell phone. Of course, the one time we actually need a cell phone, she doesn’t have it. I watched as across the street the man proceeded to kick at a taxi and get into another scuffle with another man. I signaled to a woman in a car to dial 911 on her phone. She was in some kind of stupor and took forever to pull out her phone and start dialing. By that time, the man that had been involved in the scuffle had dialed 911. I approached him and used his phone to talk to the police.

We followed the man down into Yaletown, keeping our distance while giving the police directions and a description of the man. The police caught up with us near the Opus hotel and arrested the man (much to the chagrin of a classmate I ran into just as the police showed up).

As it turns out, the man had a mental condition of some kind.

What should have been an episode that would only make me further cynical about the human condition turned into quite the opposite when I met up with Ashley at a local Starbucks. As it turned out, the Starbucks manager had given her a free latte while she waited for me, which was a pretty decent thing to do. And it happened again when we went for dinner: we were a little zoned out so Ashley explained to our waitress what had happened. The manager came over and explained he’d had a similar experience in the restaurant a few nights ago. Then he gave us our drinks on the house!

Wow. Maybe people aren’t so bad after all. Only in Vancouver could I get assaulted and end up feeling better about humankind. How’s that for something to write about?