Thursday 29 May 2008

Interlude IV

I regret the interruption in storytelling. Apologies, all.

The fact of the matter is that, while writing is renowned as a career for its rewards in fabulous riches and acclaim, I do have a day job. I am insufficiently celebrated to make my way in this world by stories alone.

As some of you may already know, I work for an event management company. We put on shows of various kinds -- awards banquets, celebrity roasts, annual general meetings for heartless multinationals...that sort of thing. The firm I'm associated with provides a so-called "turn key" solution, taking care of everything from travel, staging and pyrotechnics to dinner, entertainment and custom-made high-definition propaganda videos projected on fifty foot screens.

I, of course, am responsible for folding all the napkins.

Don't laugh. It's not always easy. You know those little crown shapes you sometimes see at fancy dinners? I majored in that at college. I was head of my class.

Of course, event management isn't all about napkins folded into crowns. Oh, no. We also do rosettes, cranes and sailboats. Sometimes if the client is especially prestigious we fold them into diamonds. For scientists, we do tesseracts.

Over the last six weeks my company has been organizing a very big show for a lucretive international client. It's been a stressful, harried time for everyone. Content gets revised at the last moment, streaming media servers fail, set construction falls behind schedule. Myself, I've been jumping hurdles left and right in order to assure that the napkin division of the catering team is snapping to with military precision, ready at an instant's notice to swap out a soiled serviette for a work of twisted textile topographical art -- single-handed, if need be.

We do drills in the parking lot. "Hup, hup, hup!"

At any rate, it's been intense. I haven't had a weekend in a month. I get to the office early and leave late. I forget what my kids look like. (I recall that they're short, but that's about it.)

I'm sorry I haven't been able to be with you lately. The good news is that in just a few days the big event goes live -- a few short hours later it will all be over until next spring. My gruelling marathon of work is nearly done, and after that it's back to sweet, sweet indolence.

Because, let's be honest: I can't complain. Sure, I've been worked to within an inch of my life, but this level of performance is only expected from me semi-annually at most. I spend the lion's share of my employed time listening to music and writing science-fiction novels; when I need a break I take a beer from the fridge and shoot a game of pool with someone. It's not exactly a taxing gig, most days.

I usually get to take it pretty easy. (I mean, not too easy, because I know as well as anyone else that there are younger, cheaper napkin folders out there to compete with, but you get my drift.)

So, when now and again they actually call upon me to do something fabulous, I'm not ornery about rising to the occasion. A well-folded napkin can make or break a conference, and that's what keeps bread on my table: kicking napkin ass.

I'm very tired, but I can see the finish line from here.

The Secret Mathematic will resume shortly. Thank you for your patience.


Mark said...

I know that along with all the folding come the battles over freshly laundered napkins. "No, those are mine! I washed and dried those, dammit!" Or, at least, that's how it was when I waited tables and we had to roll (not even fold) napkins at the end of each shift.

More power to you, CBB. Being an onsite installer/tech support rep, I feel your family-missing, story-on-hiatus pain.

I just finished reading my EB copy of Simon of Space a little over a week ago. Smashing, sir, smashing. It refreshed my memory and made me realize just how many of your stories sprang straight from topics only hinted at in its pages.

fooburger said...

Congratulations on your fantastic napkin-folding vacation!

heh... but really... post-event decompression seems in order..

al said...

Wow, I'm sure that Captain Ting would be proud.

Unknown said...

Sometimes, late at night, I wish I was a napkin.

Simon said...

I thought you were responsible for doing more of the multi-media sort of stuff for these big presentations. You know... video and stuff.

But folding napkins? What the hell kind of college even offers that??

Don't worry about missing your kids. They stay short for quite a while, so you're not missing much over the course of a mere month or so. Heck, if you wait long enough, perhaps wee Yam's teeth will have straightened back out.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark,

Yeah...I look forward to getting a copy of my own book one day. Um.

Dear Fooburger,

Still a few more days of "crunch-time" (as my boss calls it), and then, yes, I'll be depressing some.

Dear al,

"Now thet's how you feld a nepkin!"

Dear Simon,

Me -- multimedia? Oh, no no no.

The reason they order me all those quad-core Xeon RAM-stuffed supercomputers is so we can run our napkin topography simulations. In my industry, this is done in order to assure the geometries for each meal are properly aligned prior to arriving on site, so problems can be nipped in the bud at the planning stage.

The executive rehearsal yesterday went very well. Of course, all our PowerPoint/Keynote guys are going crazy trying to accommodate the final changes, but for me it was a pretty smooth run. They want to swap out the formal, white starched serviettes at dessert for small, lemon-soaked towelettes but otherwise everything is proceeding according to my design.

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...


To Fooburger I meant to say "decompressing" not "depressing."


Simon said...

Dear Mark and CBB,

I too am looking forward to getting my EB copy of SoS ASAP. Um, indeed.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

Jesus Monkeydiddling Chrust!

When was your last communication to and/or from Ephemera Bound, the world's foremost publisher of semi-existent works?

Cheeseburger Brown

Teddy said...

yeah, i also thought of Captain Ting and Mr. Oliver, may god rest their ficticious souls.

Look at it this way, Mr. Burgerbrown: you sleep under the same roof as your family at the end of the day. So if nothing else, youve got proximity. It would have been all too easy for this international client to say that they want all decisions made on-site and that you need to fold all your practice rags under their watchful eyes somewhere that isnt an hours drive from your schoolhouse.


Anonymous said...

I am patiently awaiting the subtle yet clever folded napkin as multidimensional hypersurface analogy in TSM and/or subsequent works.

Anonymous said...

Hey, fold a zero! And a Gordian knot!

Also, hang in there. We'll still be around, though I start my new job on Monday so I may have to wait until evening hours or weekends to catch up on the story.

Oh, Captain Ting, how we miss you.

Simon said...

Dear Mr. Brown,

Honestly, I haven't been in touch with them since early April, when I last tried to prod the itinerant beast with a polite yet wryly written missive. I'll follow up in the new week with a phone call (or phone message) and see what fruits are born of those labours.

fooburger said...

Well.. the next step up from folding napkins is folding space. But I think that's a graduate level napkin folding course.... so... patience.. :)

Shadowphone said...

By the way, who in the world decided that cloth napkins were a good idea? They don't absorb jack. You might as well swap them out with your shirt, since that will probably catch and hold stains than the napkin.


gl. said...

it's just proof that you're ever so much more civilized in canada: a whole napkin-folding department, indeed!

(btw, i think this is my favorite apology letter ever written. not that it was necessary, mind you.)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown,

You've been providing us with free stories for years (coming up on 4 for me) now. We'll happily wait an extra bit of time for the next installment.

Fold napkins. Put break on your table. Take an extra few days to play at the schoolhouse.

Good luck with the project; we'll be here when you get back.


al said...

What does your company do with any leftovers CBB? I wonder if you watch that UK nob Gordon Ramsay and his show Hells Kitchen. If you ever want to see an example of food gone to waste that show is leading the pack.

Big t said...


I was getting worried thought you were dead.

Back when I worked in a restuarant the Maitre'd was a pervert and tought us all to fold napkins into all sorts of nasty things.

I hope all goes well with the big show. It might be a good idea to take a few days off after the event, don't worry we will still be here.