Thursday, 24 December 2009

Let's get the party started

It was my new company's Christmas party last week, and I thought I'd better go along. I had an idea I wouldn't like it as it takes me a while to relax around new people. I had a get-together with my old work colleagues and it was great. People I'd known for years and I felt relaxed and able to talk, or just listen and not feel bad. We talked about people we knew and events we had all shared in.

My new work colleagues are all still a mystery to me, and I still haven't met 90% of the company. I turned up to the venue in my usual non-work attire of jeans and a t-shirt. Luckily I saw others arrive as I approached and my attire was somewhat "off point" so I had to go home to change into something more suit orientated. I returned to the venue and walked into a massive room where everyone was mingling and I was probably the last to turn up. Even in my new clothes I was underdressed with most men wearing morning suits or tuxedos and the females all wore glamorous ball gowns and dresses.

And I first turned up in jeans and a T-shirt.

I felt quite embarrassed and humiliated to be honest. How could I have gotten it so wrong? Two hundred people seemed to instinctively know the dress code was ubersmart; they had all managed to tap into this subconscious stream of social awareness that runs through all human beings with the exception of myself. At least I was in a position to go home and change - otherwise it would have been like that dream where you're naked, only more embarrassing.

The format of the evening was a mingle followed by us sitting for a meal in pre-arranged tables, and then more mingling after the meal. Needless to say my pre-drink mingling was awkward and mainly involved me hovering in the background of people who were probably internally debating on whether to acknowledge my existence or not.

The meal wasn't too bad as I kinda knew a few people on my table so made sure I arranged to sit next to them. In order to do so I had to swap places with someone so I swapped our name cards to complete the subterfuge. After 10 minutes or so in my seat its rightful owner approached and picked her wine glass up from in front of me, saying "sorry, I left my drink at your seat" with an amazingly subtle amount of sarcasm.

After the meal people started to talk and drift and people came and went and the whole seating structure of the room broke down and people floated like nebulous particles waiting to dock. The noise got louder and louder and I started to shut down, waiting for an opportunity to leave under the cloak of other people's social activity.

And then it happened…the pity talk. Someone who themselves seemed to have no-one to talk to, not because they were autistic but because they were boring, came over and flatly announced "I thought I'd come and talk to you". By now I had already shut down, I could barely hear anything, I tried to read their lips as best I could but ended up leaning in for far too many "eh?"s. I conversed the best I could but there was no way out of this. It was a war of attrition where neither of us had anyone to come to the rescue, and my mobile phone was off so I couldn't simulate a "silent call" with some deft manipulation so I was stuck. In one of the many lulls in our conversation I excused myself to see if "someone I'm giving a lift to" had left yet and they got the message and allowed me to scan the room with full neck motion until they got the message and left. I left shortly after.

It would have been better for me if I had never gone in the first place. I'm sure I came across as pretty rude to a few people *shrug* I just need more time to feel comfortable around these people, but I think I've put myself one step forward and two steps back. My probation is coming to an end in a few weeks too.

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