It's always interesting - I'll say it that way, "interesting" to go out with co-workers for happy hour. One learns a great many things whilst unwinding from the job, especially in the age of "HRPC," Human Resources' Political Correctness. Crown Royal, Shiner Bock and Vodka-Cranberries do a lot to encourage the types of conversations that dare not speak their names before the last bell.
On this occasion about seven of us had gathered at some Gaelic watering hole featuring a performance stage with different bands each night. A remark went around the table that every bar should feature a fireman's pole for the adventurous, the brave and the foolish alike to "take a spin" to amuse the assembled masses. No professionals unless the professionals themselves happened to be off duty and were merely out on the town like any other patron of said establishment. Outside of that, the pole would be just an attraction to draw a crowd.
Of course the obvious desire was enthusiastically supported by many at the table, the thought being the chance to see all manner of inebriated femininity doing their worst to the hapless pole. "You guys are obvious and boring," I said, to which they challenged me to come up with something far more interesting to watch. I told my story:
There was a tradition at a previous employer that called for taking the employee who was leaving the company on a bender to New Orleans. The lucky soul who was moving on with his life happened to be me on this occasion as we saddled up and flew down to the Big Easy. Not even for a weekend but an all-nighter in the middle of the work week, landing that early evening with plans to catch the first thing back to Dallas in the morning. To this day I still don't know why we bothered to take rooms at the Royal Sonesta in the heart of the French Quarter.
This fine August evening New Orleans was in good form as we wandered the back ways and by ways between Bourbon Street and Jackson Square. A jazz band with the standard heavyset songstress-on-a-stool turned in a tight rendition of Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason," while the Lady on the Swing scissor-kicked the early hours away like a metronome to the band across the street. We ate Cajun, of course, and washed it down with enough "Hurricanes" at Pat O'Briens to set off storm warnings in three of the Gulf states. All the beignets at Cafe du Monde did little to slow the gale of alcohol blowing through breath and body as we staggered back towards the hotel to find something in the way of rest before our early and extremely red-eyed flight back to Dallas.
Kevin, one of the guys in the group, happened to spot a cabaret on Bourbon Street still doing very late business and insisted we all go inside to see and assess the talent. Turns out we were the fresh meat as the scantily clad vultures swarmed the new table; there wasn't much else going on at the time as they offered us the usual menu of delights while the featured dancer took the stage to set the mood.
"You're not doing it right," whsp-hiccup-burp-shouted Kevin who proceeded most unabashedly to take the stage from the veteran vixen who was more annoyed than surprised. Her treatment of the fireman's pole wasn't up to Kevin's expectations who went on a tear and schooled the entire staff on what really needs to happen to take the shine off of your standard issue 3" fire pole. When his tips started to exceed those of the staff the duty manager bowed to convention and his whining wombats, inviting us to leave the establishment which between fits of laughter we were all more than happy to do.
Exactly one hour of alcohol-induced REM sleep at the hotel and we were off to the airport for our 6:30AM departure for home. Thanks for all the hard work, they said to me, and best of luck in the future.
Only now, eighteen years later, smiling sideways at each other and scratching at the sky with "air quotes," none of my present day and presently boozed-up co-workers believe that my friend "Kevin" really existed.