By Didi Gorman
The surprise birthday party I had organized for my colleague, Lizzy, turned out to be much more of a ‘surprise’ than had previously been foreseen, and not only for Lizzy. A ‘shock party’ is a more suitable definition perhaps, to what had transpired that day.
And it had all seemed so perfect.
On March 11th, her birthdate, I arranged all our team members in a line just outside Lizzy’s cubicle, where we waited for her to come back from her lunch break. Under my meticulous instruction, we had used her absence to decorate her cubicle with balloons and flowers and place a card signed by everybody on her keyboard.
As soon as she stepped out of the elevator, upon her return to the office, I gave a quick nod to the gang. We sprayed her with confetti and champagne, blew party pipes, and chanted in unison, “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Lizzy! Happy birthday to yooou!”
Lizzy stopped in her tracks, her expression a mixture of bewilderment and alarm, which only a person who had not in the least expected to be spritzed with champagne and confetti, could possibly wear.
There was a pause in which Lizzy’s mouth opened a little, but no sound came out. She cleared her throat for several seconds. I think she had accidentally swallowed a squirt of champagne. (I would have strongly recommended keeping one’s lips tight when one steps out of the elevator on one’s birthday – a thought which, clearly, hadn’t occurred to her.)
She wiped a splotch of wet confetti off her forehead, her hand trembling slightly. “What in the world are you guys doing?” Her voice sounded coarse; she was still obviously choking on something.
“It’s your birthday, Liz!” I exclaimed.
There was another pause in which she spat out some confetti. Then, struggling to steady her breath in between bursts of erratic coughs, she muttered, “My birthday is in November.”
“November?” I heard myself repeating.
“Yes, November third, right after Halloween,” she wheezed, her complexion becoming worryingly pale.
Now everybody was looking at me.
I quickly pictured the date I had seen on one of her forms. ‘3/11’ I remembered it distinctly. “But… but, your form… it said ‘three slash eleven’… I thought…,” my voice was trailing off.
Bloody inconsistent American date format!
And so it came to be that Lizzy’s birthday was celebrated twice: once on March 11th (in which a paramedic was eventually summoned to help relieve the uncontrollable hacking) and again on November 3rd (in which no medical intervention was needed.)
As for me, I’m considering stepping down from the office’s surprise party committee. Let THEM handle Rosie’s birthday party on 12/4, Chad’s on 5/1, and Ryan’s on 2/6. I’m not making a fool of myself (or calling 911 again) on April 12th (or December 4th), on January 5th (or May 1st) and on June 2nd (or February 6th).
One thing for sure, though. I WILL volunteer to organize Mike’s surprise party on July 7th. I have absolutely no problem with that. And I’m pretty sure there won’t be any need for an ambulance either.
By Didi GormanSometimes, just as you’re speaking, a word will refuse to manifest itself. It will sit there, on the tip of your tongue, rebelliously absent, determined to irritate you to no end as you attempt to retrieve it from its hideout, somewhere in a distant corner of your brains.I had a close encounter with [...]
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