I don’t get games. The few times I played Scrabble with my husband–we were student flatmates then, not even going out together–he tiled the board while I sulked. He is brighter than me, and understood that Scrabble is a game of numbers, not words. I would frown and shuffle my seven letters, looking for greatness and finding ‘GOOD’. He would look thoughtful for a moment, then lay four letters so they sucked the juice out of my vowels and tupped both triple-letter and triple-word scores. 74 points.
“‘Zo’ isn’t a word! Bollocks!”
“It is.” Mildly, he would wave the rules leaflet. It felt like cheating, this nebbishy memorizing of short words to map to the pink and red tiles.
This is why I still write error message copy, while he runs a profitable company. It’s also why I don’t get business parties. I forget it’s a game of numbers, not words.
On Thursday, I went to my first internet party since the days when VC(venture capital) money launched companies like Helen launched ships. I had used the product that morning, and had plenty to say about it. And compellingly, the party was on my route home. I chained my bike up under the changing guard of the smokers outside.
Little had changed but the smoking ban. These parties are theater, a stage-managed peek at the booty this little warship/enterprise might bring back. The -SoHo loft setting is borrowed-. The waiters are actors (and the handsomest men in the room, by too far). The champagne is on the never-never. Last time there were internet parties, the piñata might have held a SoHo loft conversion for everyone, and they fizzed with that promise. Now people look glad to get a free drink.
I didn’t know anyone but the host, whom I’d met once. I knew several names on the -ostentatiously- accidentally open To: line of the email invitation, but would recognize only their words. Still, a woman alone can cuddle a drink until someone says hello. I reminded myself to hold the champagne flute in the paw not smeared with chain grease. This was SoHo, not Brooklyn, I thought, so I should make an effort. The room was a mixture of meeja and web types; friendly enough.
Various nice men stopped to chat. I kept a straight face as they ‘fessed up to founding or abetting the silly companies of five years ago. (Their between-year stories were fuzzier.) I said what I did in fifteen words or fewer, though I have no talent for elevator-pitching my life. A slick and toothy fellow–New York raised–told me he’d tried to resist the temptation to start another company, but couldn’t.
“The entrepreneur is a serial monogamist,” I said, as the bubbles came up my nose. His eyes widened at this profundity. Then he excused himself to go to another party.
In Manhattan, most parties are business (and that’s why I do my living across the bridge). It’s an island of transactions, of Getting Needs Met, as Rageboy would say. You circulate, extract information, and move on. You’re allowed to look over a person’s shoulder in mid-sentence, scanning for better prospects. _What can you do for me?_ I know these rules but in the wrong mood they make me as sulky as Scrabble. I can’t do the graceful, gotta-go-freshen-my-drink exit, for fear of hurting feelings, and I can’t shake the primitive desire to feel, rather than collect, connections. So this time I made no excuses, and left–remembering that it’s hard to look _Sex and the City_ when you carry a bike helmet everywhere.
SHEEPISH UPDATE: Nick Denton, Kinja Big Cheese, tells me that was his own apartment. *And* that he provided indoor ashtrays (though New Yorker smokers are now programmed to use the street). His manners are much better than mine.