Taking a Trip Through Love Canal: The Phony Night Before (Part One)

I had been half-drunk at a notorious Banff bar, packed shoulder to shoulder with people, when I realized with a very Salingeralian bitterness: “Everyone is so full of shit.”

I had an hour or so ago traded my business card for a handful of drink tokens marked with the party’s sponsor for the inaugural night of an environmental remediation technology conference. This conference spares no expense, and neither do the companies who compete for sponsorship. The individual entry fee is almost $1000 and it takes place at the bourgeoisie Fairmont Banff Springs—the place where, weeks later, our Prime Minister met with the President of France. For now, companies vie for each others’ business with ludicrous amounts of branded swag, five-star food, and expensive alcohol.

The next night would feature an absurd champagne-toasted four-course meal at the swanky Walhaus, a charming Bavarian-style clubhouse hidden behind the Fairmont (invite only, of course). I felt like Fitzgerald, drowning in bubbles and stuffing myself with unnecessary calories for the three hour event—which was only foreplay for the grander ‘networking social’ hosted by a laboratory in the Fairmont’s fancy event rooms, which featured live chefs, mounds of hot appetizers, free drinks and an elaborate ice sculpture that you could have your crantini poured through. That night would end in the after-party suite, hosted by…who cared at that point? It didn’t start ‘til 2 and went ‘til 5 AM…it became more of a sloppy alcohol den than anything professionals would be proud to say they soldiered through.

But that was the next night. By that time I came to understand the phoniness. It made sense in context, even if it didn’t make sense in this world.

That first night a co-worker had decided that the best bang for our free drink tokens would be top shelf tequila, which seemed very efficient for me. And in most situations, this is the kind of intoxication that is required for me to be fun in this kind of chaos. But this was different—I was with a former boss, co-workers, and vendors I worked with. It didn’t feel like the right time to debate the singular beauty of the word ‘cunt’, or other things I may talk about drunk.

And it was in this retreat, this self-protecting self-isolation, that I fell into that poetic observation that led me to fall into complete disillusionment and proclaim: “Everyone is so full of shit.”

Maybe not everyone, but many of the people there certainly were. One sales lady was perfect in her game, even though she had to shout over the bar’s cackling din…she knew when to get casual and talk about non-work things…because she knew building the relationship would build business…but she was mad, wasn’t she? She spoke to one of my co-workers, a handsome man who is far from shy—they leaned head to head across the small bar table, by all accounts flirting. Except that she was compulsively picking at her wedding ring and he was twisting his—I remembered what so many told me about this conference—that they are hotbeds for infidelity—for lies, I guess…and I wondered if her sales meant that much to her. If she would suck a dick just to build that relationship. But everyone here was doing the same. The sexual tension crackled through the air. But it was forced, wasn’t it? Those dolled up girls couldn’t really be interested in that fat bald man, could they? Was he really that funny?

I had to leave. I didn’t even use up all my drink tokens. I had had enough. I felt bloated and anxious with all the phoniness.

But the next morning there was a sunrise. It had a chance to start all anew.

Except that there was a clarity that came that morning, in the form of Lois Gibbs.

[ To be continued ]

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