In March of 1976, when my first husband and I were splitting up, I took a job with a large, well established San Jose law firm that practiced primarily insurance defense litigation but also had sections for probate, wills and trusts, corporate, and appellate law, among other things. I worked there for four years, left for a year, and came back and worked four more years before moving my family to Sacramento. Sometime around 1979, we hired a new administrator for the firm, and he in turn hired his sister-in-law, Linda. As I mentioned a couple posts back, Linda and I became roommates.
The firm had a long standing tradition of hosting an annual open house Christmas party for clients, employees, local attorneys, and judges as well as other court personnel. The party spread throughout the entire floor of the office, and at least two of the four corner conference rooms were set up for beverage service. Food was served, buffet style, in the main conference room, which was just off the reception area and looked out across east San Jose to the foothills. From the 13th floor, the view was stunning. Guests mingled in the reception area, in the various conference rooms, and up and down the corridors.
In 1979, I was dating my current husband, Pat, and had invited him to the Christmas party. We had a few drinks and some food and mingled with the rest of the crowd for a couple hours. Around 8 p.m., as the crowd was starting to thin a bit, we left and went back to my apartment. Shortly after we got home, the telephone rang. "Could you come get Linda?," one of the attorneys asked. "She's had a little too much to drink and needs help getting home."
By this time in our friendship, I was all too aware of Linda's tendency to have a little too much to drink or a little too much to smoke. "Moderation" was a word that didn't exist in Linda's vocabulary. With her, it was all or nothing. Apparently on this evening, it had been "all."
Pat and I got in my car, and 20 minutes later, we arrived back at the office, where we took the elevator up to the 13th floor and rejoined the party. The crowds were lighter but the party was still going strong. Pat and I walked through the corridors looking for Linda without any luck. Finally we came across Randy, the attorney who had called, and we asked him if he knew where we could find Linda. Pointing in the direction of the far rear conference room, he led the way, opened the door, and turned on the light. There was Linda, her shoes and legs emerging from under the conference room table with her skirt hiked up on her thighs. The scene looked much like the one from the Wizard of Oz where the house lands on the witch.
"Linda," I called. No response. Slightly louder, I said, "Linda, wake up. Linda!" Still no response. I turned to see Randy looking discretely off in the other direction, back toward the party. I crouched down and pulled the hem of Linda's skirt down as best I could. Pat was watching with a hint of amusement. Yeah, real funny!, I thought. "Linda!" Still no sign of life. I got down on the floor and crawled halfway under the table to see what I could do to rouse her. "Linda," I called, as I shook her shoulder. Her eyelids flickered open, her eyes rolled back in her head, and her eyelids came back down. "Linda!" Louder this time, shaking her shoulder a little harder. "Wake up! We're here to get you home." This time she woke up, and we managed to get her out from under the table and to her feet. With Pat on one side, me on the other, and Randy leading the way, we struggled to get Linda toward the elevator, but she was in no condition to assist us, so it was slow going.
Linda was not a small gal. That's not to say she was fat, but she was about 5'8" and weighed around 160 pounds, making it difficult for me or Pat to do more than try to keep her moving along as best we could. Finally, as we neared the elevators, Randy, who was about 6'2" with a muscular, athletic build, offered to carry Linda the rest of the way to my car. Yep, that worked for me!
Once she was in his arms, Linda snuggled in, in a drunken stupor, for a little nap. Before we reached the ground floor, however, she woke up again, just long enough to puke all over Randy's beautiful suit. "That's okay," he said, and I knew he was just thinking about the fact that he'd be done with this problem as soon as we could get her to my car. Yeah, easy for him! How, I wondered, did I become responsible for my roommate's behavior and well-being?
Once I unlocked the passenger door, Randy loaded Linda into the seat, said a quick goodnight, and walked away, leaving us to get her home. After a great deal of struggle, we managed to wedge Linda in with her head resting on the dash, the locked door on her right, and me, with my arm extended to keep her more or less upright (and block any stray vomit), on her left. Despite the chilly December evening, I rolled down all the windows. Pat had Linda's purse and car keys, and he followed us home in her car.
The drive turned out to be reasonable uneventful but tense, nevertheless. My car was less than a year old, and the last thing I wanted was to clean vomit from the cloth uphostery and dash. Ewww! I drove slowly and after what seemed like an eternity, we pulled into the carport and parked. Ah, home!
Pat and I got out of the cars and came around to look at Linda. Passed out. Dead to the world. With no one conveniently nearby to pry her back out of the car and carry her upstairs to our second floor apartment. I voted to leave her where she was for the night, but Pat has a compassionate heart. We argued back and forth a bit, but visualizing the possibility of puke splashed all over the inside of my car, I finally acquiesced, and we began yet again the process of trying to rouse Linda to a state of semi-consiousness.
About 15 minute later, the three of us had made it 20 feet to the base of the stairs. With a sinking feeling, we realized there was no way Linda was going to be able to climb them. I voted to leave her where she was for the night, but once more Pat prevailed, and we determined the safest way to get Linda up the stairs was on her bottom, moving slowly up one stair at a time, with me leading the way up and Pat below her, cheering her on with each small step.
About half way up, Linda told us she needed to just stay where she was and rest for awhile. I went up the rest of the stairs, unlocked the door, and went into the apartment, leaving Linda and Pat on the stairs. I voted to find some rope and tie her to the stair railing for the rest of the night so she wouldn't fall and hurt herself, but I was overruled once more. Perhaps Linda sensed I was running out of patience. Perhaps she realized she was sitting halfway up the stairs of an apartment looking out onto a busy street with her make up smeared all over her face, torn nylons, and vomit in her hair. Perhaps she just got a second wind. In any event, before too long, progress up the stairs commenced once again and eventually Linda crawled in the door followed closely by Pat, who locked up the apartment for the night. When I last saw Linda that evening, she was slowly making her way, on hands and knees, toward her bedroom.
A few months later, I left the law firm for a new, higher paying job at another firm. Sometime between Christmas and the time I changed jobs, Linda lost her job following her drunken performance on the PA system. In hindsight, I realize Linda had changed over the months I had known her and seemed to be out of control. We talked about it a bit, but I never knew, really, what had changed her.
A year later, I returned to the same firm, where I continued to work for the next four years, first in the word processing department, which provided me flexible hours after our child was born, and later as a paralegal. Oddly enough, I don't recall the firm having any more Christmas parties. I guess there are just some parties you can never hope to top.