Baines replayed his lunch hour in his head, replacing what he did say with what he wanted to say. “Thanks, but I have to help my folks with some heating and air conditioning problems tonight,” he thought. “Thanks for thinking of me! I have plans for tonight, but next time I am there!” He had excuses at the ready at all times. He could not believe when he agreed to hit happy hour with the marketing team. He had heard rumors of the marketing team’s happy hour visits. Dark rumors.
He clutched his drink, the one lager on the drink list he could say aloud with sighing; he was not about to discuss the poor quality of puns in the microbrew world. A plate of cheese covered french fries sat in front of him. He thanked the potatoes for helping keep him occupied. It was not that he loathed social endeavors; he just preferred other things. Like stepping on LEGOs.
His coworkers joked about topical events and celebrity gossip. He laughed along and chomped the delicious cheesy fries.
“Baines!” slurred the senior western states marketing campaign lead, Dusty. Dusty was tolerated by her coworkers, little more.. “Baines, you should pick a song for all of us to dance to.” She pointed to a jukebox sitting in the corner of the bar.
For crying out loud, Dusty thought Baines.
The jukebox was no less than a million miles away. Between the group’s table and the musical throwback machine laid the dance floor. A mass of men and women gyrating and grooving, consumed only with the immediate space around them filled the floor. Baines was going to inconvenience somebody on his journey to the jukebox and he hated that idea.
He reviewed the potential path. Cutting left would mean bumping into a large fellow who had been enjoying happy hour for at least the last three hours. Moving right would take him through a horde of revelers in matching outfits. He learned young to never interact with a group in matching shirts. Moving right through the middle of the dance floor was the only option left. he took in a deep breath, one quick swig of his drink and left the table.
“Yeah, Baines!” Dusty cheered.
Baines had never before displayed a more forced smile.
He stepped onto the dance floor. Bass beat into his head overpowered only by the stomping of boots against the beaten pine floor. He pushed through the crowd. “Sorry,” he said on repeat. “Pardon me,” he occasionally added to spice things up.
When he took his first step off the floor he felt like a knight slaying a dragon. He was an astronaut safely bobbing in the waters of the Atlantic after a moonwalk. He was a candidate at the end of a long campaign. He was out of the sweaty glob of drunks and finally able to stand at ease.
Ick, he thought as he walked further away.
He stood at the jukebox and made his selection; a generic 90s dance hit that could not possibly offend anyone. The quarter fell into the machine, he pushed the right buttons and the machine assured him the song was in queue. He smiled and thought, “easy enough!”
Then he turned around.
“Oh crud buckets,” he said aloud, “I have to go back to the table.”
Thanks for reading!