Pikkujoulu 2007: The Anti-Cool
The social event of the Lionbridge season began earlier for some of us than others. I arrived at the William K bar on Annankatu at about 4:00pm to find Antti Pohjoisaho and Matti Leinonen already well into their drinks. Matti, I was soon to learn, had finished three rounds of ‘Criminally Bad Elf’, a Christmas ale with a 10% alcohol content.
He was quite merry. He had no intentions of attending the actual Christmas party, having left his suit in Oulu, but by the time some more people had arrived and some more rounds were finished off, he was talked into coming along. In an unexpectedly wise move, he got it officially on record that if he said or did anything to get himself fired, he would blame it on Tuomas Tiainen. Which is fair enough. He was awfully merry at the time.
When the time came for us to – rather unwillingly – leave the William K and head around the corner to the Astoria, Matti did a bit of a disappearing act. The possibility that Tuomas rolled him up in one of the rugs the William K staff used as tablecloths, and threw him in a dumpster somewhere to keep him from attending the party, can not be ruled out. The rest of us – Jenny, Katy, Petri, Juuso, Gerry, Janne, and a great many more had showed up by that stage, and even Andre had come out of his study leave hibernation – strolled over to the Astoria.
I learned a little while later that the Tampere folk, having moved into a hotel about ten metres away from the William K, had decided not to join us. This monumental piece of laziness was, I maintain, not an act of conscious maliciousness on their part.
We were each given a glass of bubbly (or, for Juuso and others, a glass of limu … or, for Gerry, two glasses of bubbly) and sent upstairs to take part in the traditional Christmas toast, delivered this year by Kari in his new role. Juuso was still laughing at his new favourite term – "lolly water" – which is an apparently-unusual Australian expression for the stuff he was drinking at the time. Before the toast was even completed, Gerry and Wendy were spotted sneaking away in the direction of the stairs. They were found a few minutes later, down in the lobby, drinking glass after glass of bubbly from the leftover trays.
We were then herded into the party hall and given our booze tickets. This was where the first of many indignities and injustices was apparently inflicted on some employees. Personally, I didn’t see it. So some people got two booze tickets and others got six. So what? This is nothing more than a measure of the confidence management has in the teamworking abilities of Lionbridge Finland. Indeed, no more than half an hour later, roving packs of thirsty Technical Writers and Localisation Specialists were marauding through the hall, taking over tables by force and stealing booze tickets.
Tables thus settled and with lines for the buffet table immediately reaching intolerable lengths, we waited it out with our remaining bubblies, some wine, and possibly even a little Minttu. Also, it became clear that several people had digital cameras, and weren’t afraid to use them even though they probably should be. Juuso challenged me to an eating competition, staking his reputation on the fact that he would eat six pieces of chicken.
"I’m not going to compete," I said, "I couldn’t do it."
I don’t think Juuso believed me, though. In fact, when I said this, he may have even upped the ante to seven pieces of chicken. He continued to offer commentary all through dinner. I’m not sure if he managed his target of six pieces of chicken, but I know he managed more than my pathetic effort of three. I shouldn’t have filled up with bread and meatballs.
Since our booze tickets would not become usable until after 9:00pm, we enjoyed wine with our meal courtesy of Lionbridge. Juuso still wasn’t drinking, although you could swear he was right on the edge of alcohol-related brain-death when the waitress came past and asked him if he wanted red or white, and he said "no."
After several of us convinced him that he did in fact want wine very much indeed (and I’m not saying it was easy, we had to practically draw the bastard a picture), he changed his mind and asked for a glass of white, which he then generously and spontaneously shared with us. Brendan, sitting a bit too far away to take advantage of Juuso’s generous spontaneity, was outraged by the injustice of it all and demanded that I hand over some of my booze tickets.
He cheered up later, though, when after-dinner drinks came around and he got two glasses of brandy, by the ingenious method of saying, "I wouldn’t mind having two glasses of brandy." I got two as well, by the slightly less-elegant method of saying, "Juuso would also like a glass of brandy."
At around the end of dinner, we were treated to what some people described as "a special surprise" and others described as another of those injustices I was talking about earlier. A magician got up and made handkerchiefs change colour in a very clever way for a while, and humiliated several of the people sitting at the tables closest to the stage. He was really quite funny, but some people were less impressed. I was personally of the opinion that he could have dispensed with the magic tricks, and just stood on stage with a couple of hapless volunteers, talking in funny voices and pretending it was the volunteers actually talking. Ah, that’s top-shelf comedy right there. Juuso quite reliably informs me that by the end of the magician’s show, he and I were the only ones still laughing, and people around us were starting to give us funny looks.
My sympathies are with Liisa Jalonen and Jukka Ylikitti, who were the unsuspecting guinea-pigs for this ground-breaking bit of comedic exploration. Wendy, by contrast, seemed shocked, stunned, and offended by the entire magician thing. She stole my wine and cheered up significantly.
After the magician, we were treated to a genuine special surprise: Jenny and Tuomas took to the stage and performed a double-act, Jenny on vocals and Tuomas on the drums. It was arguably the best performance of the night, with a sort of fusion thing happening with the Kenyan singing and the subtle background humppa-beat. Tuomas displayed additional talents in the field of spontaneous percussion, doing the "ba-dum-tish" when Jenny told a joke. Brilliant stuff. Had us in stitches. All in all, this performance was easily the highlight of the evening. While I’m on the topic, I have to add that Jenny rightfully takes the award for Best Dressed on Ground 2007, she was a class act all ’round as you can see from the photos.
The party wound on, and inevitably the hired band (another feature of the party that many people considered to be an indignity/injustice) got to playing just the right blend of humppa and 80s cover tunes, and people opted to get up on the dance floor and strut their funky stuff. The Mad Dancing Fool 2007 Dance-off was away!
I think the less said about the Dance-off, the better. Last year’s reigning champions, Lars and Antti, were not able to defend their titles this year – Lars due to absence and Antti due to the fact that he didn’t get up on the floor. Janne Huovinen accepted the challenge, and won by a landslide. A landslide, funnily enough, is something to which some of his dance moves could accurately be likened.
At around this point, I believe I explained my theory of Anti-cool to Tuomas. I had to stress that Anti-cool is not the same as uncool. Uncool is, after all, no more or less than an absence of cool. No, Anti-cool is something quite different, and Tuomas promptly illustrated it by putting his tie around his head and wigging out to a Bob Marley cover.
Just to show how successful the wine, brandy and booze ticket system had been, the band was called back for three encores. Much fun was had by all … except Wendy, who was shocked, stunned and offended all over again.
A certain amount of mingling and cooling off was done after that, as the Astoria began to think about closing its doors on us. Last drinks were consumed, jackets were retrieved (I attempted to swap my coat voucher for a beer, since it had ‘Olvi’ written on it, but was unsuccessful), and talk turned to where we were headed next. The Tampere people, once again making their opinion of us known in no uncertain terms, opted to go off to some nightclub or other. If there was a line, they stated, they would turn around and go to Bakers instead.
Some of us, myself included, ended up back at the William K for some reason. So perhaps it is unfair of me to blame the separation on the Tampere people. Confusion reigned. Somewhere around this point we lost a bunch of people, including my Irish colleagues. Wendy vanished into a puff of shocked, stunned and offendedness, I have no idea what happened to her. I think, as a creature of pure cool, she was driven away by the Anti-cool all around her, and went to recuperate in a cool-rich environment. I seem to recall telling some people about this, at great length.
Still, there were a few people at the William K, and drinking continued. The virtues of Minttu were discussed, as well as various stories about where people’s parents met for the first time. That was kinda funny. Mladen also told us how he ended up getting stuck in Finland, too. I can’t remember the specifics, but those stories are always amusing.
Jenni was present, as was her significant other, whose name I believe was Ville. Ville, for those of you who have not seen the Technical Writers’ introductory slideshow, was a World of Warcraft addict who played all the time, neglecting Jenni who had come to refer to herself as a "World of Warcraft widow". I asked Ville about his gaming habits, and to his credit he barely twitched. He did seem surprised at how much everybody knew about each other in the Technical Writing department, and I agreed it was a mystery. Anyway, he is apparently all better now, no longer addicted, and he didn’t go out to play WoW once while I was there. Unless he did, and I missed it. He and Pia did go out for cigarettes on a regular basis, so he might have been taking the opportunity to, you know … level-up, if you know what I mean. If you do, you’re a nerd.
Speaking of significant others, we also got the chance to meet Hanne’s husband. He seemed less than impressed with the whole lot of us, although he was polite and friendly throughout. As the hours went by he picked up his bags and walked out at least twice, and finally Hanne got the message and left too.
So then it was just Niina, Mladen, Verna, Pia, Jenni, Ville and myself. Who have I forgotten? Oh yes, there was a long-suffering Bar Guy who came around to clear up our empties, and may even have attempted to steal our chairs in an effort to get us to leave, but that might have just been my imagination. Oh, Mikko also turned up for a while, having apparently decided to come and see this ‘William K’ place he’d heard so much about but never bothered to visit. I am also informed, in late dispatches, that Mikko was not the only Tamperelainen to come to the pub, but at least three or four others did as well. I neglected to mention this not because I wished to impugn the drinking credo of the good denizens of Tampere – far from it, I assumed they had gone to another bar to continue drinking with wild abandon – but simply because I, in my dazed state, completely failed to notice their presence. Mikko does have a way of dominating the room.
The bullshitting continued into the wee small hours of the morning.
I departed at about 2:45am, had an enjoyable stroll across town and then an even more enjoyable wait in the taxi line. There were about a hundred people lined up, and it took us about an hour to get out of there. Ample time, in short, to get to know some really fascinating people.
I was feeling quite cheerful at the time, the near-comatose state forced upon me in the bar having dropped away into a mere pleasant tipsiness by the freezing cold and the biting wind, and so I stood and chatted with the people behind me in the line, sharing my Minttu and hoping that the offer of alcohol would help them overlook my awful pidgin Finnish and my outrageous Australian accent.
At one point I was offered a handful of money in exchange for the sips of Minttu I was handing out. For some reason I refused, but when I was offered chewing gum instead, I accepted. I was also shouted at by a woman because I had weird hair, and a weird pipo, and weird clothes, and what the hell did I mean by it all, exactly? I explained that I was ulkomaalainen, and she said, "yeah, no kidding." She must have liked me, though, because she got very upset when I told her I was married, and ranted at me for a while about how crappy her day had been. I made it very clear that Minttu was the best she was going to get out of this whole situation, so she might as well take it.
Not to be sidetracked, she told me my tie was a fake. Having thought all this time that I had the actual Bayoux Tapestry around my freaking neck, I was stunned by this revelation. Another guy in line came to my rescue and began chatting with us, and sharing his Jägermeister. He told the lady that it wasn’t very nice to shout at the nice foreign guy, especially since he was sharing his lovely Minttu with everybody. The crowd tended to agree.
Complaints about the weather abounded. I cheerfully said that sure, it was minus three degrees and there was a nasty wind, but at least it wasn’t snowing.
My taxi arrived, it started to snow, and I departed with a "muahahahaha".