Saturday, December 02, 2006

Headache Hotel

Our “Appreciation Day” festivities featured the free food I mentioned previously, a live DJ, and games that allowed management to show that they were able to be good sports and allow themselves to be plunged into a dunk tank. It was certainly cheaper than giving anyone a raise.

And that was the trade-off that the Day represented, really. We might not be able to pay you any more money, but look: free hot dogs and ice cream! It made most of us happy and kept us from searching through the Want Ads for a few weeks. And it’s a pain looking for a new job, anyway. When’s the three-legged race?

The talent show, it has to be said, actually proved that we had some talented performers hiding in our cubicles. Some entries were large production numbers, usually by the same division that won every year for the Best Christmas Decorations. They spent months preparing for it and had meetings throughout the year, scheming and planning. This particular year they had come up with a set that looked like a giant television screen and whenever someone changed the channel, the program (enacted by them) would change. It involved a lot of costume changes and moving around, but it was very professionally done.

The crowd had its favorites, of course, performers beloved from previous years or well-known shrinking violets who shocked the crowd by engaging in some ferocious showmanship. Who knew Edith could juggle?

Our frivolity was at its height when the sun suddenly seemed to go behind the clouds and a chill wind began to blow. The stage was momentarily empty and there seemed to be some confusion as to the identity of the next act. There was some nervous chatter going on within the crowd.

The sky grew darker as we waited for someone to tell us what was happening. Then suddenly, without any sort of announcement, a figure quietly made its way to the microphone.

It was a middle-aged woman holding a boom-box of average size and she was dressed in a white jumpsuit. Around her waist was a large golden belt, almost like the ones wrestlers wear. Her large sunglasses and short hair gave her a vaguely masculine appearance.

The crowd was completely silent. What was this act?

The woman set the boom-box on a stool and placed the microphone near one of its speakers. So she was going to lip-synch something.

Without a word, she punched a button on the machine. The cassette sounded scratchy, well-played. But through the white noise we could make out a voice, ghostly, spectral:

“ghhhhkkkxxxx nothin’ but a hound dog crxxxxkk aaakkk txxxkkkkk!”

My god. She was doing the King. She was doing Elvis!

Now the white jumpsuit and sunglasses made sense. Her lip-synching talents left a great deal to be desired, her mouth opening and closing in a manner that seemed completely random. Most disturbing of all were the strangely pained and arthritic movements that were clearly meant to mimic those of the King of Rock and Roll, only to come out resembling a grotesque parody, an eerie cross between Tom Jones and the Frankenstein Monster.

Well, it was just one song. Let her have her fun. Then it’s time for more hot dogs.

Hound Dog ended abruptly, the victim of an amateur editing job. As the applause began, the woman held her hands up and shook her head, as if to say “Hang on…I’m not quite through yet.”

Indeed, she wasn’t. After a long and awkward pause, she launched into All Shook Up, which began as abruptly as the previous song had ended.

Again, she barely moved as her lips desperately sought purchase somewhere within the rhythm of the song. Her hips jutted ever so slightly from one side to the other as if she were still recovering from surgery. The music itself was barely recognizable as it garbled its way into the microphone.

Was it a joke? Did anybody recognize her? People began to look uncomfortable.

But just as our hands flew up to applaud, she held her palms out and shook her head again.

It had only just begun.

Conclusion: That's Not Right, Mama


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