Engineering a Party

I received several invitations for St. Patrick's Day parties this year. The first party I attended, however, was the day before St. Patrick's, at the offices of Walsh Engineers on Kearny Villa Road. I had gone to a Halloween party that a guy named Gerald invited me to, and he works for Walsh. (A lot of people network for job leads at parties; I get leads to other parties.) I was surprised to see a band playing at the Walsh company party, as it was 3:00 p.m., and other businesses had to be working. I was also surprised that I didn't see Gerald on stage. (His band had played the Halloween shindig we met at.)

A woman named Tara asked who I was and why I wasn't wearing green. I had a flashback to first grade -- I was walking to school when this bully named Patrick, an Irish kid with red hair and freckles, asked why I wasn't wearing green. I had no idea why he'd asked that. Patrick pinched me hard, and I ran to school crying. To my relief, Tara handed me green beads and a name tag.

I found Gerald and asked him why his band wasn't playing. "Well, at Halloween, that was my party. So, my band, 3PieceUnit, was able to play. This is where I work, and that's our secretary's band. She's up there singing.... I asked the bass player if I could sit in on a song and he said no. Maybe he thought if I played a song or two, I'd get a cut of what he was making."

I told him about my cousin's band and how Greg Allman often showed up and sat in on their gigs in L.A. Since both my cousin and Allman play keys, my cousin would have to let Allman play his keyboard and watch the rest of his band jam with him.

As the band belted out "Sweet Home Alabama," I grabbed a soda and got ready to yell out "Freebird," but they went into another song.

When the band took a break, I said to Gerald, "Hey, now's your chance. Grab his bass. I'll go sit behind the drums. We'll do a couple songs. He can't possibly complain if they're taking a break."

I told Michelle that she sounded great and that I was about to yell out "Freebird!" "That's why we quickly go into the next song," she said. "We don't want to give drunk people the chance to yell out songs."

Michelle's husband was a tall, blond CHP officer. I asked him if, when he went to parties, people complained to him about traffic tickets they've gotten. "Yeah, I get that all the time. I don't mind. I end up answering a lot of questions." I figured that was the green light to ask him a few of my own. I was curious about the excuses people have for their violations. The officer told me that people usually say they were going the flow of traffic. "I tell them that I saw them pass 20 cars before I pulled them over. That isn't the flow of traffic...just because they slowed down once they saw me behind them."

I told him that when I was a kid, I remember my parents being pulled over and given warnings, and that that doesn't seem to happen nowadays. He agreed, "I think only 10 percent of the people I pull over get warnings." I told him how much I hate it when someone doesn't go when arrow lights turn green. They do go, eventually, but the cars further back end up missing the light because of that first car, and sometimes they end up going through a red light. Instead of pulling those people over, I suggested, police should pull over the first person, the one going through the glove compartment when the light turned green. "We actually could," he said, "that's impeding traffic."

I talked to the drummer of the Java Band and asked him if the initials on his bass drum were the same style as Buddy Rich's. "Yeah, all those old drummers used that style." He told me he's been playing drums since 1969, and we talked for a while about drummers and their different styles.

A few people who worked nearby came in and helped themselves to food and drinks, which I thought was odd, but I don't think Mr. Walsh minded. When employees of SDG&E showed up, however, I heard a guy ask them, "How come my electricity bill is the same as my neighbors? They have five kids and I don't have any?" It occurred to me that you don't have to be a cop to be peppered with questions at a party. Whatever your profession is, someone is going to want answers to something.

As I was helping myself to the food, I saw a UPS guy walk by and look over. I felt bad for him. There's something about being at a party while others are still working that makes you feel guilty.

My pen was starting to run out of ink and a lady named Robin offered to get me another one. I said, "You women have everything in your purses." She said, "No. My office is right up there." She ran up and got me one.

I heard a different voice coming from the band and saw that the drummer was now singing. It's enjoyable when bands have more than one vocalist. Although, I wish bands like this did more than the usual covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Love Shack" songs we've heard thousands of times.

Gerald introduced me to a former employee. I said, "If you're a former employee, why are you here now?" The guy said, "Hey, it's a party. Free food and beer." Gerald told us that someone from one of the other complexes came over and tried to buy a beer.

When the band started playing "Brick House," I said, "Hey, Gerald, if Lionel Richie were to show up right now and wanted to sit in, do you think the bass player would object?"

When the band played "Johnny B. Goode," one of the lyrics was changed to incorporate the word "engineers." Michelle was singing with a headset, which enabled her to move through the crowd.

Toward the end of the party, I saw Walsh carrying the tables inside and asked him if he needed any help. When he said yes, I looked at the people I was talking to and said, "He was supposed to say no."

As I was carrying a table in, someone from a business nearby came over, so I asked him if the band was too loud. "Yeah, he said, "but that's good. It's a Friday...it forced us to stop working for a few hours."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for

Josh Board.

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