A lot of us have become expats through work commitments - so this is a very familiar story to those of us working in large companies:
It all started when the company advisory memo incorrectly replaced the word “down” with “up.” How that could happen, no-one seemed to know. Some freak of Microsoft’s search and replace command maybe. Or maybe overuse of the hip phrase “I’m down with that” by the boys in the mail room causing a backlash against the very word itself, much like had happened with 'word'. I mean the word “word.” All twenty somethings in the office had drifted to exagerated usage of “word” to offer agreement to anything from donut choices to military invasions. In any event, “word” now produced a rolling of the eyes and a shaking of heads and “down” had gone from being frowned upon to being despised. The result was that “down” had become “up” – that is, “dress-down Friday” had been erroneously memoed as “dress-up Friday.”
The memo had been issued by some faceless assistant’s assistant in HR who, having an imaginary dentist’s appointment at 3:00 pm that day, was in no mood to open and answer the flood of e-mail responses that piled up in her e-basket when the cubicle dwellers on all six floors challenged the very premise of a dress up day. Instead without realizing her mistake, she had issued a curt eight word office wide reply: “Fridays will be as stated in the memo,” then donned her cardigan, blackberry, glasses and purse and shouted to all that could hear “Teeth…out for the day….everything to voicemail.”
So it was that the inhabitants of all six floors – all those milling around in twenty-four corner offices, eighty offices with windows, forty offices without windows, one hundred and fifty cubicles, one mail room, one staff cafeteria, one store room, one maintenance office, one printing room, six male toilets, six female toilets and two executive bathrooms were left wondering what the repercussions of not dressing up would be, and just how far their office neighbour would go to impress on dress up Friday.
Now, coincidentally, on the same day as the dress up memo, Gloria Sparkle from Legal was planning her next move to find a friend. Unfortunately Gloria did not make friends easily. It may have been the irritating sniff she added to the end of every sentence (which sent her nostrils flaring, revealing nasal hairs that could justifiably have applied for a job as a graceful fringe) or it could have been her conversational style that, at best, was like being in front of a University lecturer talking about medieval cross stitching. Gloria’s ten years of self-help tapes had left her as boring as the insurance policies she poured over every day. But this week she was going to try something different. And so it was that the dress up Friday memo was followed immediately, fatefully, and purely by chance by Gloria’s company-wide e-mailed invitation for any and all to meet in the board room on Friday for Show Tune Appreciation Lunchtime.
The e-mails had come from HR and Legal respectively. It must be true, Friday was not just dress-up Friday, it was dress-up musical theatre Friday! Conversation at the water cooler was now a-buzz with management’s sudden interest in participation-based morale boosting and team building. Friday was going to be a day to remember.
So it was that on Friday at 11:59 am the spacious, dark-wood paneled board room with its ornate carved doors at either end was silent and still with only the faint movement of dust caught in the streams of sunlight that sliced through the blinds. At 12:00 noon a low noise from two floors below began to grow until unmistakably it became identifiable as the rhythmical snapping of fingers as the Senior Accounting Team burst through the doors, bent at the knees, fingers snapping the beat, one foot in front of the other, slowly stepping, menacingly, in time, then arms outstretched, fingers wide, all-together snarled “when you’re a jet….” Immediately, from the other end of the hall a cry rang out and the doors burst open allowing fourteen filing cabinets, five tables, three swivel chairs and a color copier to be hurled into a pile at the head of the board room table. a stench of gunsmoke and garlic emptied into the room as Debby from the office pool dressed as a small peasant girl (stature gained by walking on her knees) stumbled to the top of the heap waving a flag and crying something unmistakably French.
Just then Derek from Purchasing swung low from the audiovisual cabling overhead, his eye sparkling from behind half a paper plate tied over his face, his dark cloak swishing as he hissed at the Jets below. The annoying French on the battlements then stood amazed wiz, ow you zay, a look of ze horreur as Frank from Accounts Payable strolled into the fray determined to tell everyone that he had a wonderful feeling that everything was going his way. His exaggerated and politically incorrect accent was only beaten by store-room Eugene’s slightly yellowed-skin rendition of a King of Siam (his face smelling a little of lemons). The jets were feeling pretty but the king and Flo (from Vendor Management) in a billowing yellow dress, were dancing , no gliding, in circles muttering etcetera, etcetera while dodging chairs and French curses hurled at them in equal measure.
Their dance steps were interupted, and a nasty ankle injury caused by a cascade of white dice thrown by Richard, Geoffrey and Robert from Engineering, who not convinced that the pin stripe suits, and spats would make them recognizable as Guys, were wearing name badges from the receptionist’s desk that read Ricardo, Gino and Roberto. Steve from Software Support had been renamed Stephanie and was their Gal. Comments circulated at just how good he looked in that dress. He said it was his mothers. No one believed him.
It was then that Gloria Sparkle strode confidently into the scene. The spotlight (that she had secretly rigged in to the acoustic ceiling for such an occaision) turned on her and the melee came to a hush. The smoke in the air was picked out by the single beam as it came to rest on her red lips and golden wig. Her hands slid up from her thighs to her neck, where in a snapping motion that made everyone’s head jolt back, she flipped her collar up on her black leather jacket. She smiled slowly, then pointing her red nailed finger across the room, started in pefect pitch “You’d better shape up, up, up, ‘cos I need a man, I need a man, and my heart is set on you..” Her gaze and voice were focused on one man. Derek dropped lightly from the “chandalier” landed like a gymnast on bent knees, pirouetted to face Gloria, removed his paper dinner plate, took his comb from his cape pocket and with his left hand flat to help shape it, pulled his comb up and through his hair. His pompadour was perfection. His voice met hers “you’re the one that I want, ooh ooh ooh, honey, the one I need….”
The French, the Gamblers, the Siamese and the gang members all agreed: “Oh, yes, indeed…you’re the one that I want, you are the one, the one I need….”What a finish, what a Friday. Eveyone in step. A finale crescendo of voices filling the board room. The company had never looked or felt like this before and there was no going back. Dress up Friday would have repeat performances – like a glittering west end show, it was here to stay and Gloria was its star.