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Futuristic party at the Park Lane

A year ago, I attended the first of this party-of-the year. Two power traders from Muenster, Germany told me that they felt lucky to be invited to the second annual party.

More than 400 people were here tonight, many of whom flew from the Continent. Each trader may know only a dozen others by face but a lot more by voice as they operate by telephone, e-mail, and online chat sessions. From the sound of their voices, I guessed that the majority were German, followed closely by the Dutch, the Scandinavians, and the English.

My guest tagged along closely, for she knew not a single soul. I told her that I did this all the time. I walk into a crowd of strangers and introduce myself. Some people are interesting enough to listen to. Others are good enough to dance with. The important thing is not to meet anyone in particular but to go with the flow and feel the energy.

The theme was the future. Actors in stilts walked in monster costumes. A juggler dressed in a silver body suit impressed us with his mesmerizing rolling ball act. It's not easy to hold two balls in one hand, let alone four!

Like other corporate parties, drinks and food were on the house. The host was very generous and obviously very successful this year. Over the intercom, someone repeatedly announced that the buffet was open. In other words, please stop getting drunk and start getting fed. Upstairs several therapy booths were set up to soothe the aching bone. If it was anything like last year, a back massage will surely give me the deep sleep I badly needed.

The ABBA-look-alike band played all my favourite songs and got the entire crowd on their feet. People passed around blonde wigs and black sunglasses. Once more incognito, we were free to be wild.

I ran into an ex-colleague. "Yes, I'm still with the same company," he said. "And yes, I'm terribly long." Too bad. Only a year ago, the name of his company was music to his ears. Now, it's taboo to utter it.

23 November 2001 Friday