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international librarian of mystery

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Christmas Party

The Library Staff Christmas Party was, for some obscure reason, on Monday night. Normally I'd have bowed out early, but the opportunity to make the most of the free wine and food was too much to resist, as I'd consumed the last of my home supplies late on Sunday afternoon, and was still a couple of days short of getting my next pay-packet. My stomach had been growling all day, despite my best efforts to sate it during my breaks with some powder-heavy cups of Milo and a bag of lollies IOUed from the honesty food tray.

The Library had hired a cafe around the corner to host and cater the event, and I was the first one in the door at the official start time of 5:30pm, swooping on the club sandwiches and savoury pastries they had arranged on a table in the corner. Inspired by my favourite UK bloggers JonnyB and Unlucky Man, I had attended in pseudo-dress up, wearing a santa hat, a liberal helping of my glitter blusher, and the best combination of red and white clothes I could find.

Next to arrive was Mrs Oolong, who walked in the door, spotted me, then stopped and retreated back out the door and lit up a cigarette. Or maybe she'd come in and remembered the new smokefree workplaces law. Either way, an undoubtedly chilly social situation had been averted, and I was left on my own to chow down another handful of pastries, and to start making some headway into the several bottles of sauvignon blanc that had been uncorked on another table.

Josh arrived shortly afterwards, our weekend fracas having been smoothed over when he came over on Sunday night to pick up his laptop, bearing a bottle of wine and a new French film from Aro Video as his olive branch. Obviously, we'd made up.

Josh, a smoker himself, eventually had to head outside to light up as well, and, having established him as my buffer from having to tell any more blogging stories for the evening, I traipsed out behind him. We stood in a doorway down the footpath a way, gleefully lambasting the fashion sense of our fellow librarians, most of whom, presumably, had 'dressed up' (in a flash, as opposed to fancy way) for the big event. The new smoking rules also meant that at least two-thirds of the staff attending, either through their own habits or social obligations with their smoking friends, were sitting at the tables outside on the footpath. And now, having taken all those up, they were now spilling out down the street, causing anyone passing by to play an impromptu game of dodge-the-drunk-librarian. One of those who found themselves careering from elbow-swinging power-suited information professional to the next was Artemis.

"Artemis!" I shouted.

He looked around, spotted me amongst the boisterous librarians crowding onto the footpath, and came over.

"Natalie, hello, how are you? Feeling better?"
"Yes thank you. And you?"
"Excellent. Why are you dressed up like one of the White Stripes?"
"Um, it's actually a Christmas theme thing. White and red? Like Father Christmas?"

I pointed at the hat. Artemis just looked at me, bemused.

"Anyway," I chirped, "Artemis, this is Josh. Josh, Artemis."
"The Artemis?" Josh blurted.
"As if there would be another?" said Artemis, barely concealing a sneer from his lips.

This was great. I could nearly see the testosterone bubbling up underneath the boys' skin.

"And you would be the Josh, I assume?"
"Err, yes."
"You're much shorter than I imagined."
"You're much older than I imagined. How old are you?"
"You should ask Natalie. She is the fount of all knowledge."

Josh looked at me. I told him.

"And you Josh, " Artemis continued, "wrong side of thirty yet?"
"I'm twenty-seven."
"You'd never guess. And you're still a librarian?"

Artemis snorted: this was obviously the most amusing thing he'd heard all day. Josh looked at me, eyebrows raised high, presumably looking for some sort of support, but I shrugged noncommittally and asked Artemis if he might like a drink.

"Pinot gris if it's available."
"I meant a juice or something Artemis. I'm not getting alcohol for someone still in school uniform."
"Orange juice would be fine, thank you."

When I came back, Artemis was gone.

"Where'd he go?" I asked Josh.
"Don't know. Just said he had to leave. Said he'd catch up with you soon."
"You didn't give him any stick, did you?"
"Me? To him?"
"No. He just bludged a fag, said his farewell and left."

Artemis's departure left me feeling a little blue, but nothing a few more wines and a sneaky smoke with Josh couldn't fix. Some bbq kebabs appeared from somewhere, and, despite my ongoing semi-vegetarian status, I devoured about four of the foot-long meat sticks, and followed that effort up with a good helping of the marinated chicken nibbles that had also appeared. I was working under the assumption that Tuesday was going to be food-free zone, so had to stock up to make it through to pay-day on Wednesday.

Now suitably tipsy, I made the mistake of wandering too far from Josh and getting into a conversation with Tam, one of the other junior librarians. She asked about my blog. When I've had too much to drink I do tend to rabbit on a bit, so, in this particular instance, I gave her the story on what I had just been writing about, which was the whole checking-out-Josh's-laptop story. Out it splurged in its unedited, uncensored verbal format. Tam listened to it all intently, eyes wide.

Oddly enough, the four kebabs and most of everything else I had put into my stomach over the last couple of hours also came splurging out into one of the women's toilets about five minutes later. Something - presumably one of the meats, the chicken being the likely culprit - hadn't agreed with my stomach, so all my attempts at stocking up on nutrients and hearty goodness for the next day had been for naught. After three good gut-wrenching projectile vomits, I rested my face on the nice cool porcelain of the loo, and examined the mass of semi-digested sludge floating in the toilet, some of which was now clinging to my santa hat, which had fallen in during one particularly energetic heave. I gingerly fished out the hat, folded it into as small a wad as I could manage, and pushed it into the sanitary pad disposal unit.

Having expelled a good deal of the alcohol and all of the food I had imbibed already that evening, I felt surprisingly alert and energetic, so returned to the party, grabbing a fresh wine on the way to cleanse my palate.

Josh beckoned me over, urgently.

"What did you tell Tam?"
"You told her about what you found on my laptop didn't you?"
"Err, yes."
"And now everyone knows!"
"Surely not."

But, surely yes. The peer-to-peer librarian networking system was in full alcohol-fuelled flight, and furtive glances were being cast our way from all over the room. Josh made some further remonstrations to me about my inability to keep even the most personal of information private, and then, for the second time in three days, stormed off.

How tiresome. I was completely nonplussed, and refused to go after him. If he doesn't want people knowing about his non-library 'collections', then he shouldn't make them in the first place, should he? Seems a fairly simple way to approach life, to me.