Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stockholm Calling - Part II

Okay, before I continue with Part II of Stockholm Calling, I first wanted to answer a couple of Meg’s fantastic questions:

1. Dan and Dean are actually members of our lovely Finance/billing team; not attorneys (ha, although I would not put that kind of behavior past some of our attorneys, to be quite honest).

2. The tournament is held every two years, and from what I understand, we WILL be sending a women’s team in 2010 . . . in addition, interest has really grown for the event amongst my female co-workers (most likely as a result of the fact that we kicked ASS). We’re thinking they may actually have to hold try-outs for the 2010 women’s team!

Also, I forgot to mention the fact that we tried to convince our bus driver to stop at a liquor store on the way back to the hotel from the soccer fields . . . no such luck. It turns out all of the liquor stores close really early on Saturdays in Stockholm . . . the best we could’ve done is the same 3.5% alcohol beer we’d been drinking at the tourney—apparently that’s the limit for what can be consumed in public there; and anything higher has to be purchased in a specialty store (which was closed by 5:00 p.m.).

Now back to Part II. My teammates and I loaded into a bus around 6:00 p.m. to head up to the site of the football dinner/banquet, Solliden Restaurant. This restaurant could be found in Skansen, a huge and beautiful area with museums, a zoo and lots and lots of park areas. When we arrived, we unloaded from the buses, and stepped out to find all of our fellow footballers standing around outside, sipping on champagne. I have to admit, I LOVE LOVE LOVE champagne. I took a glass and my teammates and I relaxed and chatted while waiters walked around constantly re-filling our glasses. It was really, really fun.

After about a half-hour, we moved inside to the restaurant, and were immediately accosted by half a dozen restaurant employees who INSISTED we check our coats. I was extremely hesitant to do so, as I had my blackberry, my passport and a great deal of cash in my coat pockets, but these people were serious . . . they refused to let us up into the dining room unless we checked our coats. Let’s just say that this probably should have been the first sign that I should run far, far away!

For some reason, my New York teammates and I had been under the impression that we would get to sit together at dinner; so we could rehash the details of the tournament and just enjoy hanging out together. No, no. Why would my firm do that, when they could instead choose to TORTURE US! We stepped inside the dining room, and a man handed us a piece of paper with a number on it. Yep, you guessed it. That number indicated the table we had to sit at. I felt like I had been slapped up the side of the head; I was just dumbfounded that they would do this at an event where there were language barrier issues! Still, I figured I should at least give it a try . . .

I headed over to table 36 and saw an empty chair near the end of the table. “Is this seat taken?” I asked. Nobody responded. Instead they carried on with the conversation. Not knowing what to do, I finally decided to just sit. After all, there was a dude going around with bottles of wine and I was in dire need of a glass right about then! I sat down and was immediately bummed to learn that my half of the table was speaking French, a language I am very unfamiliar with. I sat quietly, reading the place card that explained a little about the restaurant and posted the menu for the evening’s meal. I played with my bracelet. I took a sip of wine. I took a sip of water. I played with my bracelet some more. I read the place card again. FINALLY, the guy sitting across from me asked me a question in English, while the rest of the table carried on in French. We talked for maybe five minutes, and then he went back to the group conversation.

I waited. I fiddled. I drank. Finally, there was a break in the conversation and I decided to make an effort at being social; I asked my half of the table which office they all came from (duh). Shockingly (or not), every single one of them came from the Paris office. Hmm, something tells me it was not just a coincidence that the entire Paris office ended up at table 36 . . . Yup. That’s right, folks. MORE EUROPEAN CHEATERS! Well, it didn’t take long before the French conversation picked back up. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t help but think of every French stereotype I’ve ever heard! Thus, I decided to excuse myself to go use the restroom. When I got back to the dining room, I noticed a group of my NY teammates gathered in a corner of the room . . . I immediately joined them and told them of my horrible, horrible seating situation. Luckily, there was an empty seat over at Dean’s table, right next to him . . . so he invited me over to join them. THANK THE LORD!

The only problem was . . . I’d forgotten my coat check ticket over at my table! Thus started the great debate . . . to recover the coat check ticket or to not recover the coat check ticket? I finally decided I would at least go over there and give everyone one last shot, and if it was still miserable, I would grab the ticket and go. I walked over to my table, paused . . . and everyone COMPLETELY ignored me. That was it. I was done. I grabbed my coat check ticket (no longer caring at all if they would be offended by my act of leaving the table), and all but sprinted back over to Dean’s table. Once there, I actually had a really wonderful time! There were a lot of really friendly, interesting people sitting over there. I met and chatted with a couple people from the London office, one from Stockholm, one from the Milan office and one from Lisbon—all SO nice! I was definitely very happy with my decision to switch tables!

After dinner had been served, the awards ceremony was held (Cue lots of pissed off New York girls). Medals and a team trophy were presented to both the winners and the runners up for the men’s and women’s tourneys. They also announced a tournament MVP for both tournaments. Ha, as they were announcing the women’s MVP, my entire team was chanting my name—it made me feel pretty good. Of course, a semi-senior attorney from the London office won (she has made quite a name for herself through her play in past tournaments—but honestly, she’s not THAT good), but I still felt very appreciated nonetheless!

The awards ceremony concluded, and soon thereafter an open bar sprung up and a band took the stage, prompting people to drink a lot and dance. The whole thing was very wedding-like, but if you let yourself get down with the cheesiness, it was a lot of fun. As the dancing was starting, the sun was just starting to set . . . and we had a gorgeous view of the city below from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room. It was absolutely beautiful! But let me tell you, it sure didn’t take long for people to get inappropriately drunk . . .

I wish I could find the words to describe how inappropriate the entire situation became . . . it was honestly worse than most of the college parties I went to in my time. People were falling down drunk, making out, groping, etc., and apparently I was the only person who was uncomfortable with this! At one point in time, I began dancing with a "nice" guy from the London office, in what seemed like a very innocent manner . . . ha, there were like 3-feet of space separating us. Then, all of a sudden, he simultaneously pushed me into a corner, pulled me in right next to him and tried to kiss me! I was so grossed out! Luckily, my reflexes are pretty quick (and he was pretty tall—so it took him longer to get down to me!). I turned my face to the side, and he ended up kissing the side of my head.

I backed away from him, and started looking around at the scene surrounding me. There were broken glasses and bottles everywhere. There were people so drunk they were falling down (because that obviously mixes really well with broken shards of glass all over the floor). There was a couple lying on top of each other on a table in the corner of the room. I was seriously disturbed. I was also the only person in the room by that point who wasn’t completely hammered. (I’ve taken an overseas flight hungover once, in college—and I assure you, that will NEVER happen again—NOT fun!)

I looked at the clock, and saw that it was 1:45 a.m. The next bus would be coming to pick people back up at 2:00 (the buses shuttled people back and forth every half-hour or so). I headed towards the exit, stopping at coat check on my way out (where I immediately checked the pockets of my coat to make sure everything was still there!) The bus showed up shortly before 2, and I got on, not knowing what was in store for me. Almost immediately, some drunk idiot took over the microphone for the bus PA and started singing at the top of his lungs. It didn’t take long before the entire bus full of drunken idiots joined in. It was absolutely horrible—so loud and obnoxious. I spent the entire 45 minute bus ride praying that people would stop singing, and also that nobody would puke on me. While I wasn’t so lucky with the first one (the singing continued for pretty much the entire ride), I did manage to escape being vomited on. So I guess I shouldn’t really complain.

I headed to bed around 3:30 a.m., after I had packed and made sure my drunk roomie was home safe-and-sound (other than getting her flip-flop-clad foot stomped on by somebody’s heeled shoe, and falling off of the stage a couple times—ha). Of course the late/early hour meant that it was already starting to turn light outside. Luckily, I didn’t really mind, as I had to get up at 6:15 a.m. to catch my flight—and I was hoping (again) to be tired enough to sleep straight through it.

The alarm went off, I got up and showered, collected my belongings and then met the two other New Yorkers who were flying back Sunday morning in the hotel lobby (most people stayed until Monday, because of the long weekend—but being the good little runner I am, I wanted to be sure I got a long run in at some point during the weekend, and figured my best chances would be coming home on Sunday). We shared a cab, said our goodbyes (they were on a different flight) . . . and I was finally alone. It was absolutely wonderful!

In a rare stroke of good luck, my flight back to NY was practically empty. Still, did I sleep? Nope. Couldn’t sleep. Again. The flight was overall pretty uneventful . . . I watched a movie, read a little, dozed when I could, listened to my ipod. And before I knew it, I was back in NYC, a mere 65 hours after I’d left! Wilson was a saint, and met me at Newark Airport, since he’d been at his father’s house in New Jersey for the weekend . . . we headed back into the city together, grabbed some Wendy’s for lunch (I got to use my book!) and then headed home for a day of relaxation (and by relaxation, I mean poor Wilson had to listen to me talk/whine incessantly about my trip and how I wished I was still in Stockholm!)

Anyway, while I definitely didn’t get to spend as much time in Stockholm as I would’ve liked, it was a really fun and interesting weekend—well worth the sleep I was forced to miss out on! I don’t know why, but I am honestly just completely enamored with Stockholm and the entire country of Sweden. The people are so nice, the language is pretty, the setting is absolutely gorgeous! And like I mentioned before, the air is just so clean and crisp. It made me really wish I had time to get a nice run in! Someday, I plan on returning to Stockholm and spending a lot more time exploring the city! Until then, I’m just going to talk incessantly about how much I love the place.

Photos to follow in “Stockholm Calling – Part III!” (including photos of Dan’s “artwork”—I know you must be excited!)


Meg said...

Trying to imagine that circus was cracking me up. And Europeans say Americans are crazy and obnoxious!

Laura said...

What a crazy night! I'm always scared to have more than a few drinks in front of coworkers because I don't want to end up ridiculously drunk like that.