Guilt by Association

I am here at a game between the Knicks and the Sacramento Kings with my friend Doug, but I find out at the last minute he has invited his friend Tommy. I am not happy because I’ve met Tommy before and I do not like him at all, and I am mystified why Doug is even friends with him.

The Knicks suck, they are in last place, so the crowd is sparse, and restive. As expected, I am not enjoying Tommy’s company. He is boorish and keeps making stupid, unfunny jokes. He is way too loud. He has three beers during the first half and with each beer, gets a little louder and more belligerent. He is rooting for the Kings because he is inexplicably a Sacramento fan, and they are winning and he is crowing about it, with increasing volume. Ten minutes into the game, two couples, all wearing Knicks jerseys, sit three rows in front of us and I realize one of the women is the head of the department I work in, my boss’ boss. For a moment, I consider running down and saying hello, but I barely know her, and she is clearly there with her husband and friends and I’m there with Tommy, so I decide to leave it alone and hope she doesn’t notice me.

As the Kings continue to pound the Knicks, Tommy gets louder and more obnoxious. People start turning around and giving him looks, which only encourages him. His particularly obnoxious cheering for a three-point basket draws the look of the department head and her husband. After shooting Tommy a look that could kill, her gaze rests on me for a moment and a flicker of recognition crosses her face. Dammit. I give her a half-wave, smile wanly, roll my eyes, and shrug my shoulders in Tommy’s direction as if to say, “What are ya gonna do?” She gives me the chilliest of half-smiles and turns her attention back to the game. At halftime, Tommy comes back from the concession with two more beers. While he is gone, I ask Doug what were you thinking bringing him? He’s an asshole. Doug responds that sometimes he’s OK, and can be pretty funny, and even when he’s not funny, he’s pretty harmless. I’m say whatever, I wish you had told me you had invited him. I think to myself I am seriously not into hanging out with this guy.

Tommy sucks his two beers down faster than I can believe just as Sacramento starts really piling on the points. Tommy is in his glory and really starts giving it to the Knicks fans. After a particularly embarrassing play by the Knicks Tommy notices the foursome that includes my department head and yells in their direction, “Yeahhhhh, fucking Knicks suck. You people suck. We OWN you fuckers.” All four turn around and look at Tommy like he is something that crawled out of a sewer. The department head’s husband yells “Hey buddy, keep it clean.” Tommy, who is clearly feeling his beer yells back, “Who are you, my mother? You little bitch.”

I glare at him and say, “Tommy shut the fuck up. Seriously. Take it down a notch.” He looks over at me shocked, but quickly his look goes from shock back to belligerence. He mutters, “Yeah whatever.” A few plays later the Knicks embarrass themselves on the court once again and Tommy jumps up and yells as loud as he can “Oh. My. God. The Knicks SUCK! Fucking New York sucks ass!”

Department Head’s husband turns around again and says, “Hey Buddy enough. I told you before, keep it clean. I’m not going to tell you again.” And glares at him. Tommy gets that stupid drunk look in his eye and yells “Fuck you asshole. Poor baby. Are you afraid I’m going to offend your cunt of a wife?” I can’t believe this is happening. How am I here? How is this happening to me?

“Tommy, seriously, would you shut the hell up?” I say with all the fire I can manage. The department head turns around over her other shoulder and glares at me. Fuck. This is a disaster. A few plays later, the foursome gets up and leaves. I can not believe this is my life. I can not believe my friend Doug brought this lowlife to the game.

All night I lie awake in bed wondering what to do tomorrow at work. I know I have to deal with it. There is no way I can pretend this did not happen. I am so obsessed with how I am going to dig myself out of this mess, I forget we have a team meeting at 10:00. At 10:15, they call me from the conference room and ask if I am coming. I’m in the middle of my 30th draft of an email to the department head, trying to figure out what I can possibly say to her. I realize I was supposed to spend the hours before 10:00 working on my presentation to the team, and I have nothing to present. I am so screwed. I go to the conference room and say something came up and I wasn’t able to prepare. My boss looks at me like she can’t believe I’m that much of an idiot and moves on. There is an uncomfortable silence in the room and everyone looks down at the conference table, at the wall, out the window, everywhere but at me.

After the meeting ends, just before lunch, my boss calls me from the conference room again and asks me to come in. When I walk in, the department head is there, and my boss, and someone from HR. This is bad. They give me a chance to explain, which I do poorly, and apologize, and say Tommy is my friend’s friend, and not my friend. I leave with a stern reprimand and a lecture about how our behavior in public, even when not at the office or work-related events reflects on the company and I need to be sensitive to that. Although it is not said explicitly, I am certain the promotion I had been dreaming about, and had discussed with my boss more than once is now in serious jeopardy.

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