I attended a party last night. It was a retirement party for the president of the company for which I work. It was sort of a reception/cocktail party. Since it was held in the Grand River Ballroom of Bridgewater Place, we all kind of understood that we should dress up, just a bit.
I arrived at the time when it was to start and found that there were a number of people already there. Half of those in attendance I recognized as coworkers, the other half I assumed (correctly) were spouses. During the course of the evening, I must’ve had at least four inquiries as to the whereabout of my camera, as I didn’t bring one. Since I’ve been on vacation for over a week now, I automatically responded with, “It’s where I left it, at work.” I have to admit that it was quite unusual for me to be attending a work related event and not have a camera in my hand. The only other time I attempted this was back in the spring when I participated in bowling night and another coworker played photographer instead. I have even joked that the camera is permanently adhered to my hand, as I usually have the strap wound around my wrist and have a firm grip on the camera itself. And, truth be told, most of the time that I’m “wandering” about in our various warehouses, I’m usually taking pictures or coworkers see me with the camera in hand.
It was a bit odd, though freeing, to show up as just me. Indeed, when I was handed a name tag to fill in, I simply wrote my name and not the usual, “PhoTom” that I’ve done so often at events like this. I write that because that’s who I am, usually, at parties – part event photographer and part … me. Never my “true” self. With camera in hand, I’m usually the type of person who encourages wacky, silly photos and in turn have been on the receiving end of, “Tom! Go away!” What, I had to wonder, would I do without the camera? Yet, at the same time, I relished the idea of not having to be “on” and working during a time when everyone else was just socializing and enjoying themselves.
So, when I entered the room, I entered as myself, the real me – or, at least a version of the real me. Throughout the course of the evening I had conversations with a number of my coworkers. You would wonder what we had to talk about seeing as how I’m around them nearly every day. It worked out well then, that I’ve been on vacation as were some of them, so we could catch up on how we’ve been spending our time. (It would seem that my vacation was well timed as quite a few of my coworkers have been sick before or after Christmas – my being away from the offices has at least helped me retain my health for the time being.) I found that in talking to coworkers about their lives and they asking about mine, that we were relating to each other on a more authentic level than usual because I wasn’t hiding behind a camera and they weren’t hiding from me (or the camera). And, seeing as how standing around talking about personal stuff is frowned on at work, I don’t do a lot of chit chat at work.
When the end of the evening came, I found I wasn’t exhausted from running around taking pictures. I, in fact, was somewhat relaxed. That’s what happens when you’re more authentic in who you are. It also helped that I had been drinking all night, as drinks were available. I had my usual, H2O on the rocks, it was very cold – just how I like it. By the time I drained my glass dry, it was time to leave.
The best part was I didn’t have to go back to work and download the photos and hope they turned out. Though, there was a slight “adventure” on leaving the parking ramp. I thought I could leave at the same location that I had entered. After nearly going the wrong way down a ramp I arrived at the exit only to discover it was a card access only exit. Meaning … the exit I really needed to use was some place else. But where? Even though there was a vehicle behind me waiting to exit, I managed to back up and follow another ramp before I spotted the correct exit. You know, the kind with the computerized “teller” in which you insert your ticket and then pay the fee. (We had been given vouchers, so we didn’t have to pay for parking.) So, there you have it, a view of the “real” me. If you were there and spent time talking with me, you should feel privileged, it’s not often that I appear this way in work related situations..