Truth be told, my expectations weren't high. Not that it's a bad party -- there's plenty to be said for free dinner, free alcoholic beverages, and dancing. But I'm just really not the small-talk-with-semi-drunk-coworkers sort. (When I put it that way, I'm not quite sure how anyone is. I really should specify I'm not the small-talk-with-non-close-friends sort. Or the small-talk-in-general sort.) kadyg was going along with me, but that didn't really change the math. One partner plus a roomful of coworkers still equals a roomful of coworkers.
Despite my misgivings, we drove to the clubhouse (I tried my best to get us lost along the way, but the place was too easy to find). We arrived fashionably late, right after dinner started. The food was nice, although there was some momentary confusion when the server tried to take away the pasta I wanted but hadn't ordered so she could deliver the steak I wanted but had ordered. I couldn't quite get it through her skull that, no, really, they were small meals and I was quite happy eating two. (I even had meal tickets for both, although the pasta ticket was still supposed to be in reserve at that point.)
While we ate, they started announcing the employee awards. I didn't win anything, but that's alright, because I've really had an average year and would have been pretty shocked to have deserved any sort of special recognition. They also started drawing tickets for the raffle prizes. More on that later.
After a slice of blueberry cheesecake, they opened up the dance floor and got the band started. Code Zero, if I'm remembering their name right, was a cover band with a broad repertoire of '60s to '80s songs. Not really glow-stick sort of music, but I'd snuck four in under my coat, so I handed 'em out anyway and hit the dance floor with one myself.
People tell me I'm a good dancer. I'm too humble to really speak for my skill, but I can definitely be memorable when I want to. (Blame DDR for building up my confidence and training me in quick footwork.) The glow sticks, of course, didn't hurt. Neither did knowing how to add some flash with them. Some swoops and transfers and tosses were probably enough to cement the reputation I built up at last year's party. In order to outdo myself next year, I may have to bring that glowstaff I assembled after Further Confusion.
I also went outside and stood in the darkness for a while at the edge of the golf course, listening to the crickets in the cool night air and giving myself some quiet time to get back in touch with the ol' inner dragon and the embrace of earth's stillness. Especially in the winter, when cold wimps like me bundle up and stay indoors, it's so easy to abstract life away from the real world out beyond the shine and blare of modern existence, and parcel it up onto a screen. (Hey, you. The one reading this. Stop for a few moments, put on a jacket, and go outside someplace without streetlights for a few minutes.)
But back to the aforementioned raffle. They were giving out a great many prizes which I had no interest in -- including many gift certificates to a tanning parlor. I wasn't even that enthused about the grand prize of a 40" TV, except that I figured if I won it I'd probably be able to sell it. The two snowboards and single pair of skis, I figured I'd put to good use if I lucked out -- but other names were drawn.
Then they got to the aquarium. Kady looked at me and grinned. "If you win that one," she said, "it goes in your room. There's noplace else to put it."
"Oh, come on. What would I do with an aquarium?" I shot back. Actually, my reply wasn't nearly that ironic, but I'm the one telling the story here, so I get to put words in my own mouth, thank you very much. What I probably actually said was something along the lines of having no space for it either, which, come to think of it, wasn't quite so ironic but did firmly foreshadow things.
"Great," the raffle announcer said, peering at the ticket. "It would have to be a name I can't pronounce."
You can see where this is going. Yep. "T ... ta... Tad, Raaam-spot?" she said, getting the name basically right, since it's certainly unusual but not actually difficult to say.
And the short of it is, I am now the proud owner of a 46-gallon, $499-retail-value aquarium, or at least a gift certificate thereto. 46 gallons! Holy smokes. That's practically big enough to start a salmon farm.
After Kady and I finished laughing in disbelief, we agreed that the best place for it and its 400 pounds of water is going to be in the bathroom where the washer/dryer would normally go. It'll make a nice nightlight, plus there's just something amusing about having fish in the room where you take your showers.
Now I have to figure out what the heck I want to do with a 46-gallon fishtank. Fresh water? Salt water? Terrarium? (Kady sounds quite opposed to snakes, but maybe there are other land-based pets that would work.) I'm told that salt water is quite a bit more maintenance work than fresh, and honestly low-maintenance sounds extremely appealing. But even if I'm just going to go with generic freshwater $aquarium, I'm not even sure what I should do in terms of fish and decor and algae and current and and and my brain hurts already. I haven't owned an aquarium since I was in grade school and virtually all I remember is that overfeeding worsens algae and some vague imprecations about chlorine and water temperature. Does seasonal care of fish differ? Do I need to buy warmer-water fish since we have a heater for the winter but not A/C for the summer? Should I go with native species in case they pull a "Finding Nemo" and escape down the toilet? What happens if they start breeding? How big of a fish will the 46-gallon tank support, and would I be better off getting a few huge fish or a school of tiny ones?
So, please, please feel free to drop your aquarium advice, suggestions -- or even purchase offers, should you want a new 46-gallon aquarium for less than full retail price -- here.