Critical Mass Reckless Summer Reunion

There are certainly worse ways to spend Friday the 13th. There are certainly more healthy ones. But when Critical Mass decides to throw a party for its employees, you can be sure of two things:

  1. There will be a lot of laughs.
  2. There will be a lot of drunk people. (That kind of leads back to #1.)

(I should point out, for the record, that the New Year party was extremely tame. I have no idea why specifically, but it was the first time I haven’t seen at least a few co-workers completely loaded.)

Unlike last year’s little surprise, the staff knew that this party was coming. What they didn’t know was where it was going to be. There were many theories: Sylvan Lake, Calaway Park, Banff, even whitewater rafting. Most were discounted due to distance, cost, and safety. One location that had circulated a few times was COP — Canada Olympic Park. I assumed it would not be there, since I assumed (rather poorly) that there was little for us to do there. Little did I know…

Our morning began a little earlier than usual. For me, it was with a little more responsibility — I had to take a staff photo. In the six years that Critical Mass has been in business, there has never been a staff photo. This was the first time since the Kelowna trip that we’ve had everyone in the same place at the same time.

Since we laid six people off last week (including my roommate), we are without an “official” photographer. I guess I’m the next in line (can’t imagine why), so I was asked to take the picture. To allow this, Darrell (the VP of Operations) arranged for me to gain access to the roof of the next door building and shoot across the parking lot. Two great things about this: the angle is perfect, and the sun in the morning is great.

The bad thing? Organizing that many staff is like herding cats. Which is why I was very happy to be just outside of comfortable shouting range.

Critical Mass ready to go, Calgary, Alberta, 13 June 2003

Pictures in hand, we boarded our busses for our unknown location (which we would soon find out was COP). We were grouped into five teams: Green, Blue, Red, Yellow, White. (These are representative of the Olympic colours, of course.) This not only organizes us, but creates the groundwork for the competitive in-your-face attitudes that we generally lack in the office.

Okay, it’s a chance for us to completely mock each other.

The line at the bar formed as soon as the busses arrived. It took less than a few minutes for us to be kicking back in the main tent, drinking our beverage of choice (usually one of Corona or Heineken), and getting into the groove of the day. Pat and I both remarked that in some ways, the day was reminicent of the Kelowna trip — starting the day off with beer.

What I would find was that as the day went on, the more I felt like I was not in Calgary. The company had whisked us away to parts unknown to engage in a weekend of total debauchery. It wasn’t to the same scale as Kelowna (I’ll be very impressed if we ever see that again), but there was so much energy from having the entire day to do (pretty much) as we pleased that everyone seemed to forget that we were (at the core) just co-workers.

We began our mini-Olympics around 10:00. The events were fairly simple, and none too difficult. (They were designed to be played by the dozen or so pregnant women currently at the office.) They included Bocce-Curling (get your ball the closest to the target), Cookie Stacking (stack Oreos as fast as you can in 30 seconds, using only one hand), Channelz (using five half-pipes, run a ball around an obstacle course, moving the ball from one channel to the next every 20 feet), Memory (remember what a bunch of articles are), and Balloon Toss (tossing a water balloon between two people, increasing the distance every throw).

Bocce-Curling, Calgary Olympic Park, Alberta, 13 June 2003

Oh, and there was one other event. As we arrived, 10 people volunteered for a “special event”. No-one knew what it was until it started: a Scavenger Hunt. A lot of people who didn’t volunteer wanted on, and a few who did volunteer wanted off. The details of the whole thing are still sketchy. We didn’t see the Hunters until just before lunch.

Although I was part of Team Yellow, I spent most of my time running around between the various events, taking pictures. I gotta say: drinking beer and running don’t mix well at all.

Competitive Cookie Stacking, Calgary Olympic Park, Alberta, 13 June 2003

Participants were well-behaved. For about five minutes. I mean, come on! Put a bunch of people (mostly men, admittedly) in the vicinity of filled water balloons, and well, you’re gonna have some trouble. Suffice to say, every team that left the Balloon Toss went to their next event armed. It’s a good thing we had a sunny, warm day — a number of people got a wee bit damp. (Fortunately, our adolecently-minded staff had the decency not to aim water balloons at the women in white shirts.)

Water Balloon Tossing, Calgary Olympic Park, Alberta, 13 June 2003

Things calmed down a wee bit come lunchtime. That’s when everyone put their guns down and loaded up on food. (You’d be surprised how much acting like buffoons works up an appetite.) Nothing overly fancy — just hamburgers and salads.

After lunch, we were left to our own devices. Some people went off wandering, some played mini-golf, and some went to play beach volleyball. The rest sat around and chatted. Resuming my photo run, I proceeded to find interesting things to take pictures of. For some reason, I started with beach volleyball.

The five courts are wedged in the last curve of the bobsled/luge track. Unlike most of the other courts I’ve seen, these had more than the 2-3 inches that you end up driving your foot through into pavement. I took the opportunity to run around a bit and get a few action shots of people playing.

Beach Volleyball, Calgary Olympic Park, Alberta, 13 June 2003

My first memory card full, I took a moment to rest before heading back to get the second one. That’s when Ed suggested I come play with them. Still being inebriated enough not to know any better, I hopped out on the court.

Now, this wasn’t a particularly bright idea on my part. My head (along with the rest of my body) was still swimming in ol’ ethyl. The actions of volleyball — whipping the head around following the ball, diving, rolling, yelling — combine against your brain’s better judgement to stay in one place and lie down. Needless to say, it’s quite the argument my body got into.

While in the midst of a set that I don’t really remember, I caught a glimpse of water balloons arcing over the trees. The angle required to get the balloons over the trees was so great that the balloons never came close to the courts. That didn’t stop me from annoucing (rather loudly) that if anyone hit my camera with one of those balloons, it would be the end of them.

That statement would be my downfall.

About 20 minutes later, Allard (my boss) caught us in between serves to borrow my little camera. Or rather, I thought that’s what he was looking for. In reality, he was checking to make sure I was camera-free. I hadn’t seen the audience on the hill carefully hiding my big camera.

Next thing I know, there’s a line of people standing on the hill. They were in plain view. You know those old cowboy movies where the angry Indians all stand in a line at the top of a ridge? It was like that, only with water balloons. And no Indians.

Somehow, instinctively, I knew to run. It didn’t matter — apparently, I’d earned the privilege of being the prime target. Two balloons bounced off me, but one made a direct hit in the front, followed moments later by one in the rear.

Neil ran past. (Although he still claims his innocence, I have witnesses as to his involvement.) Picking up the two balloons, I chased him all over the courts. Then Neil got smart and stopped. Before I could do anything, he’d burst the balloon in my hand, and stepped on the other. Now balloon-less, there was only one other thing I could do: chase him.

For all I know, I had a blood-curdling rebel yell as I chased Neil up the hill. Someone yelled out: “Tackle him! Go for the legs!” Remembering snippets of high school gym class, I dove and grabbed the legs. From what Arthur tells me, it was a textbook tackle. All I know is that the whole effort wore me out, and there’s no video evidence.

I walked around damp for most of the afternoon (like I said, it’s a good thing it was warm), constantly shedding dried grass and sand from the escapade in the volleyball court. Although I can’t say I was the wettest that day, you could put me in the top rankings, I’m sure.

The winners of the games were announced towards the end of the day. I wasn’t particularly paying attention, having reached what I can only assume was the bottom of my bottle, figuratively speaking. Team Green won, partly due to their skill (I can only assume) and subterfuge (which was widely known). Hey, it’s just a game…

We returned to the office to begin the second event of the day. Thought we were over, didn’t you? Ha! If there’s one thing Critical Mass doesn’t know, it’s when to stop. Hmm… that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Vicious Circle was our next port of call. We didn’t all arrive at once, but before long a large portion of the company had packed themselves into a seat somewhere. And at Vicious Circle we sat, talked, drank, snacked, and took strange pictures of everyone who was there. And then suddenly, almost without warning, people began to filter out into the night.

Torin, Adrian, Jim, and myself headed to Ceili’s — I’m not too sure why. We ran into a couple of people from CM, but after a quick search for anyone else in the building, we found outselves alone. This meant it was time to vacate. The problem, however, was that during our search, Jim decided it was time to get another beer. (For those of you who think I was far-gone, you needed to see Jim.) We didn’t much want to wait for Jim to finish his beer. No problem for him — he just slipped the 3/4-full pint into his pants pocket.

Out the door and down Stephen Ave. — we were headed to SkyBar, where we knew the rest of the crew could be found. We didn’t get much further past Penny Lane when I caught a glimpse of a familiar face: Sean, aka Muck, aka my cousin Pam’s boyfriend. Pam, of course, was right there. We talked briefly (the others were waiting for me, and I couldn’t very well wait around too long) before resuming our quest to SkyBar.

When we reached 1st St., Jim disappeared. We were across the street from Murrietta’s, one of the cooler bars/clubs downtown. That night, they had a live band playing p-funk (basically, horn-driven music). Jim blurted something about it, and next thing we knew, he was gone. We waited around a couple of minutes, but Jim was gone. (James and I would discuss this the next day — James received two completely unintelligable voicemails from Jim over the course of the night.)

Torin, Adrian, and I continued to SkyBar. There we ran into Cyndy, Ashifa, a couple of Marks, and other people I don’t quite remember now. SkyBar cover was $15. We weren’t objected to it so much as we were STARVING. Conveniently enough, Saltlik was next door. On the order for a late-night snack: a peppercorn steak.

It was midnight when we hit the streets again. I’d been up for 18 hours, had at least that many beers over the course of the day, been water-bombed, run ragged, and my feet suddenly decided to tell me they were ready for revolt. As much as I would have liked to go up to SkyBar, my body cried out in defeat. It was time to go home.

The lights were off, and nobody was home. (Except the cats, of course.) I assumed Tamara was out having her own breed of fun that night. For some reason, though, I felt the urge to look for a note. I found one on my computer keyboard: “Back in a few days. Enjoy your weekend!” I laughed, though probably more from being too tired. I crawled into bed next to Spaz, who was rather upset that I was making her move.

I can’t wait for next year!