Too Portly to Party

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Roderick had been looking forward to this year’s holiday event.

He was just six months into his tenure with the company, but was already feeling the sense of belonging that he had been notably lacking at any of his previous employers. Granted, his career path had been fairly atypical of this environment: having spent a number of years doing manual labour, he had eventually made inroads into the coveted world where policy expressly forbids you from doing any literal heavy lifting*, should such an opportunity even present itself. (That’s what the maintenance guys are for.) Now on his second office job, he was digging the culture, the people and the seldom-occupied shitter up on 9.

[*Figuratively, though? Knock yourself out. If you want to climb the corporate ladder to management nirvana, you can be assured of much ‘heavy lifting’ and ‘burning of midnight oil’ along the way.]

Roderick had heard lots of good things about last year’s holiday party. A whole-day affair full of laughs (apparently indoor go-karting was a riot), food, booze (post go-karts), company-paid cab rides home – the whole bit. Pretty sweet to be working for an outfit large enough to have a budget for this kind of thing, yet small (and youthful) enough to be willing to put it on. The buzz was building and nobody was more looking forward to the bonding experience than the newest team member.

As was customary on the part of its planners, this year’s itinerary was kept under strict wraps until a couple of days before the event. Roderick had been hamming it up for weeks, jokingly attempting to bribe the organizers into leaking intel, but no dice. These were hardened vets; even the promise of a stapler trade** didn’t so much as make any of them flinch. Respect.

[**Only Roddy had the new-model Swingline. Sometimes it pays to be the new guy.]

But alas, the world did keep turning and the day of the big announcement finally arrived. That morning, Roderick shined his shoes and put on his lucky tie (probably not, but I’ll be damned if I’m not allowed to take some creative liberties here), then bounded into the office to throw his two cents into the last-minute conjecture that was in full swing. But nobody nailed it. Not even close, really.

Indoor skydiving! Holy shit! Roderick had watched youtube videos of this new craze (ironically, on company time at his last job), but hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet. Oh man, this was perfect! This holiday event was shaping up to be way more fun than he had even imagined. Never mind what the rest of the itinerary held in store; this was enough to make the day a massive success all on its own.

The next 48 hours crawled by, with Roderick doing his best to limit the number of additional youtube videos he allowed himself on company time. (It would seem that most footage of indoor skydiving out there is of people who are really good at it, which was making it tough for Roderick to envision what it might look like to throw a novice in the wind tunnel. Though he wouldn’t admit it to his colleagues, he had a hunch that he was going to have a natural gift for the art.)

The sun was shining brilliantly on the morning of party day, adding an unmistakeable sparkle to the cool December air. Roderick had arranged for a colleague to pick him up on the way – they spent the whole car ride roaring with laughter at the mental image of their bookish supervisor flailing in the wind. As they arrived, the party planners marshalled people toward the front desk. There were forms to fill out, waivers to sign, a basic tutorial to be watched, etc., but the red tape wasn’t enough to dampen the mood.

As the last couple of people ahead of him in line wrapped up their paperwork and cleared out of the way, Roderick approached with a cheery greeting for the employee and cracked a joke about how willing he was to sign away his life for this opportunity.

Nobody noticed at first, but gradually one, then two, then a handful of Roderick’s colleagues in the vicinity clued in to the fact that there seemed to be some kind of holdup in his exchange with the employee. By this point, Roddy was leaning over the counter and speaking in hushed tones. The employee sported all the hallmark, apologetic body language of someone who was bound to an unpleasant reality by some external force. It didn’t take an experienced lip reader to make out the jist of what was being said: “I’m sorry; I wish there was something I could do.”

Visibly shaken, Roderick retreated from the desk, immediately feigning interest in something on his phone’s screen so as not to have to make eye contact with anyone. But as he tried to discreetly slink by the group of his colleagues that had witnessed the encounter, one of them stopped him.

“Everything okay??”

“Ummm…. I, uh… ummm…. I’ll be sitting this one out today.”

“Huh?!? What do you mean, ‘sitting this one out’?? You haven’t stopped talking about this for the past two days!”

“Uh, well… There’s a… um, weight limit.”

*stunned silence*

“Yeah… The, uh, wind tunnel. It, um, has limits as to the weight it can handle. Or, at least, the combination of a person’s height and weight has to, uh, work… I guess, haha, um… I guess I’d have about as much luck as a bowling ball in there.” *nervous laughter, transitioning to resolute upbeatness* “But it’s cool! You guys go ahead. There’s a viewing area right beside the tunnel. You guys have a blast. I can’t wait to watch – it’s gonna be hilarious!”

*****

And so he sat in the viewing area, alone. They really did look like they were having a blast.

Roderick had been looking forward to this year’s holiday event.

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