I hate dinner parties, the ones where I’m the odd man out and everyone else seems to know each other. I know nothing about these people and they know nothing about me, so the obligatory “getting to know you” conversations occur every half an hour. Someone new shows up and I’m introduced again and again, putting my most current biography on repeat and everyone falls asleep at the same part.
‘There are 50 of us,’ I say, trying to make it sound glamorous and special at the start. ‘One for every state. We have our own offices away from the rest of the building. They are air-conditioned and made to look like a small home away from home and that is where I work for 24 hours a day.’
At this point I’m usually asked if I have my own home. ‘No. Once you have this job, you never really get another one,’ and they will ooh and ahh as if I’m the most exciting thing to have stepped in the party. ‘Once hired, we move into these separate office-homes, pre-fab and already furnished with utilities paid.’
Their eyes will widen and their mouths will form o’s in wonder as they hang on to my every word. ‘What IS it you do?’ they ask, now more curious than ever and I will explain that my work touches everyone on a global scale and this excites them even further until I’m almost afraid that they shall eat me instead of the appetizers beautifully laid out on the kitchen counter.
‘I manage anywhere from 20-40 video cameras in my living room at any given moment, keeping a constant vigil on the weather. When you see the weather channel, I’m the lone person doing that. I AM the weather channel,’ I say as confidently as possible and then sipping my drink so I don’t see the disappointment in their eyes.
I see it in their lips, the hesitation and the halting of an upturned nose at this news. Suddenly, their canapés don’t taste as good and they need a refill of whatever drink had been their friend that night and I am left to wait around until the next curious person makes to shake my hand.Sometimes I get lucky and a new person will come around who has yet to be briefed by the rest of the party and I pretend to be something else. I will shroud myself in faux secrecy and hopefully keep someone’s attention long enough to get past my occupation and into conversation I am lacking at home. I’d stop coming to these dinner parties, but I have no one to talk to at home but my equipment.