The joys of a real live conference

On The Floor
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The Independent Culture
Jet lag, the curse of the modern business world, has had all of us in its grip the past week, and only now are we beginning to feel human. The recovery wasn't helped, of course, by the fact that we left New York at teatime on Sunday and were at our desks on Monday morning to put in a full day on the floor. This, in itself, is a symptom of that other curse of the modern business world: a management with their eyes fixed firmly on the present. After all, why have loyal and happy employees for 10 years when you can just work them into the ground for two instead?

Still, there are advantages to all this gadding around, and I've surprised myself in the past few days by defending the annual team get-together. Marco and Freddie may be keen on the idea of video-conferencing over the Net, but the thought appals me. Efficient, maybe; but where are the hilarious misunderstandings and embarrassing moments you get only when you bring together several groups of people for a weekend and give them too much to drink? Marco tells me they're even working on an instant translator for the Net, which would mean farewell to such joys as Neil asking the Americans whether they minded him "having a fag during the next meeting".

No, there's nothing to beat the comic potential of a work jolly, and in retrospect this year's lived up to expectations. There was Mikey, for instance, showing off his famous culinary savoir faire by asking for his carpaccio well done and ice in his claret. Not up to last year's standards, when he was so overawed by the grand country-house dining-room that he tried to eat his lobster with the shell on, but worth a chuckle all the same.

Then there was Jake and Randy suggesting a drinking game in the hope of getting Laura and me drunk. Sadly, they chose to play it with American beer, which isn't like drinking at all - unless you're American, that is. The upshot was that after two hours the boys were completely legless and had to be carried to their rooms, having failed to make any headway with Laura, myself or our identical twins who showed up half-way through the session.

The next morning the boys were obviously in the grip of the hangover from hell. But at least they were better off than Shelley Ann, New York's back office supremo, who woke up after a few too many cocktails not just with a headache, but with Neil as well. That the poor woman was dying of shame all day was clear; she could hardly look anyone in the eye. On the other hand, she must now understand the terrible joke of Marco's that she didn't get last night, about how he'd never been to bed with anyone ugly but he'd woken up with a few.

So what with one thing and another, since we got back Laura and I have had plenty to laugh about to help keep us sane.

"And I guess you have something else to smile about, too," says Neil suddenly, with a conspiratorial wink. Oh, my God, I think - don't tell me I got off with Neil myself - before remembering with relief that it's impossible to get that drunk.

"Don't be coy; you know what I'm talking about. That doorman you were flirting with. Don't try to pretend you didn't ask him in for some room service."

Damn, I think, I'm going to blush because I do have a soft spot for dark- haired boys with longing brown eyes. Then Neil will think he's right and everyone will be teasing me for weeks afterwards.

You know, video-conferencing: perhaps it's a good thing after all.

The Trader

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