I’ve been freelancing or in business for myself for a dozen years, and one of the things I used to l-o-a-t-h-e was forced networking. The after hours mixers where I had to carry my drink in my goofy hand so my handshaking hand would be nice and dry.
The meetings full of nametags with hurriedly scrawled names in dying Sharpie; platters of bad cheese and worse vegetable dip. Meetings with plastic smiles on plastic people and the feeling that everyone in the entire room is a mutant combination of used car salesman and the Stepford Wives, wanting you to become one of them.
Ahhhhck. The muscle memory my brain feels from this alone is enough to make me feel like I’ve eaten some bad yogurt.
So you may imagine my apprehension when my wife asked me to join her at a Chamber of Commerce function. It was what they call a Harley Draw Down and Silent Auction.
Okay, I thought. Maybe things have changed a bit. I put on jeans, my well broken in Doc Martens and my even more well broken in leather jacket. I figured at the worst, I’d go get a few drinks from the open bar, do some people watching and add notes to my mental manila folder of idiots. At best... at best maybe I’d go get a few drinks from the open bar.
We go in and are immediately assaulted by someone insisting they put a fake tattoo on my person. I argued that I thought there’d be real tattoos by a real tattoo artist and that I’d gladly sit down for some ink had that been the case. But no... these were part of the fake tattoos for the fake people with fake smiles. Okay... I briefly considered asking if they had the “Nuck’m if they can’t take a foke” tattoo, but instead allowed them to put a bright orange scorpion on my forearm, assured that later, I’d at least get a “cool” from my two year old son.
After the fake ink, we ran the gauntlet of the hallway, lined with the same old volunteer line-up, willing and not-so-able to sell raffle tickets for everything from a booze wagon (yes, I bought a ticket for that) to gift certificates.. all sorts of stuff.
Leaving the hall relatively unscathed, I headed for the bar while my wife got caught in a conversation. A rum and coke later, I scouted the area, filled with a few hundred people, and was amazed at just how many people I remembered and did not want to remember.
I looked around in vain for the free beer and got another rum and coke. I saw through the crowd a single person that I knew of and hadn’t seen in quite some time. She’s a marketing consultant - a good one - and she’s been making some press lately, doing some really decent work, and that night happened to be a gold sponsor or some shit - her business name was all over the place. So I thought I’d go compliment her on the work I’d seen, one professional to another.
We caught eyes and she smiled, silently mouthing “Hi!” and I began working my way through the crowd. I told her that I thought she did an excellent job on the recent campaign I’d seen. She thanked me for the compliments and the very next thing she said was “I heard today you got the web site job for “x-client.”
Needless to say, this took me a bit by surprise, but I conceded it was true and talked briefly about this new project, going over what angle she was playing in the back of my mind.
And in the middle of my sentence, she turns and walks away. Just... sort of fades like a sneaky fart in high wind.
People have been killed for less.
I’ve wanted to kill people for less.
So I stood there, watching her walk off. By this time I’d found the free beer and was partaking generously. I smiled the smile that I smile when I’m about to throw something into the cogs of the great karmic wheel.
But my wife saw me and interrupted my mischief.
Apparently we were competing for the same job. And I got it. Not because of price; I was much higher than she. Or political ties; quite frankly I don’t have any. And it wasn’t because of how many hands I did or didn’t shake while holding a bottom shelf mixed drink and a slightly withered stub of carrot. Or how much money I dumped into getting my logo plastered over everything; I don’t play that shit anymore.
Ain’t that a pisser?
So I went home and signed her up for some midget porn.