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Since early spring, I have been eyeball deep in planning the 25th anniversary celebration of the company I work for. Even back in May I had serious thoughts about changing my line of work, since I already knew when you are planning something for 300 people, no matter how much scheduling and preparation you do, the event always seems to take on a life of its own.
In the beginning there are seemingly hordes of people offering to help. Co-workers are nearly tripping over each other assuring you they will do anything you need. In those moments you are basking in the glow of cooperation and teamwork, certain you will have all the man- and womanpower you need to pull off the impossible. Silly girl!
I owned a restaurant for several years, so I know a thing or two about catering to large groups, but itâ€™s a much different animal when you also work for the company you are hoping to wow with your amazing feats. You donâ€™t just get to drop everything off and collect your pay. You actually have to be there from start to finish â€“ which in this case meant from May until November.
Everything was going splendidly right up until the very last moments. My boss had decided early on we were going to hold this party in our new building, come hell or high water. I used to think that was simply a quaint saying. Imagine my surprise when I began to feel the heat while sporting rain boots.
Iâ€™m meticulous when it comes to event planning. I had the caterer and menu selected months ago. The centerpieces were ordered, the rooms were booked, the valets were hired and the music was selected. Co-workers were still assuring me they would do anything I needed to help. I noticed there werenâ€™t as many of them, but what the heck, I still had plenty of time and everything was moving along splendidly.
In August I learned that the construction on our new building was behind schedule by nearly three months. I meekly suggested perhaps we should move the celebration to another location. This idea was soundly rejected (is it getting hot and damp in here, or is it just me?)
I wonâ€™t bore you with the gory details because it would probably force you into therapy, but letâ€™s just say things didnâ€™t get better from that point on. The membrane couldnâ€™t be put on the roof, which meant if it rained my guests would be standing in four inches of water. The paving stones were the wrong color and were sent back, so there were gaping holes remaining on the driveway (which stretches to infinity.)
My drop-dead date for deciding whether or not to move to another location had already come and gone â€“ but my boss (and his bosses) kept changing their minds on where we would hold the celebration. When an innocent bystander delivering something would ask me, â€śWhere do you want me to put this?â€ť they seemed surprised when I would growl back, â€śDonâ€™t ask because it would definitely be painful!â€ť
As some cosmic joke, it rained more in October than it has in years here in California. It rained on the Monday before my event. I pleaded with the powers that be to move it and was told we needed to wait and see. It rained on Tuesday and I got the same response. Finally, when all eight of the online weather forecasts we were watching seemed to agree that rain was going to happen the day of our party, the decision was made to move it into our existing building.
I looked around for all of the remaining co-workers who had continually assured me they were ready, willing and able to help. Suffice it to say, the numbers had dwindled significantly. And even the few who had remained until the bitter end were now getting their hair done, having pedicures or breaking up with their spouses â€“ so they too had gone missing. I distinctly remember thinking, I lived through breast cancer, Iâ€™m not going to let this kill me!
The new setting meant only half of my guests would have a place to sit. The band had to be put underneath the stairs, and we could only use three out of the six buffet tables. One of the people who had actually tried to help had told the valet parkers the wrong arrival time, so people had to self-park throughout most of the party.
But hereâ€™s the deal. It came off without a hitch as far as my guests were concerned. They were genuinely welcomed when they arrived and were immediately ushered to one of the wine bars Iâ€™d set up (I figured after a couple of drinks no one would complain). My amazing caterers kept the appetizers coming. The band (although no one could see them) played their hearts out. Even my missing co-workers showed up looking resplendent with their coiffed hair and polished toenails â€“ and they most certainly helped make the evening more festive.
Everyone raved about the centerpieces and the food. Even people who had flown in from Europe wanted to take their commemorative pilsner glasses with them when they departed. As I looked around I realized all of the craziness had been worth it. People were doing exactly what I had hoped they would be doing â€“ laughing, eating and celebrating. And I did have one of those moments where I realized we breast cancer survivors can do anything we set our minds to.
If nothing else, this exercise has certainly prepared me for Thanksgiving. Do you think anyone would mind if we go out to eat?