What not to do when planning a surprise party.

I can say that yesterday was a learning experience. I think it was a success, but you’ll see why I’m not the best qualified person to decide that.

As Priya mentioned, I was part of the planning for the Happy Tenure party. Was it my idea? Not really. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t take the idea and run. The phrase “evil geniuses” is a bit melodramatic, especially since I’m convinced some sort of evilness feedback loop took over. So it wasn’t *our* fault. Not entirely, anyway.

If anything, the recipient of the party got lucky. The original plan was for Someone in Charge to discuss cancelling a favorite class in order to get everyone in the right place at the right time. I’m thinking a bit of confusion about the topic of a meeting is better than that.

So, things that I learned:

1. When planning a surprise party, do not take any prescription narcotics. Even if the alternative is hobbling around like an 85-year-old.

2. This is especially true the day of the party. Remember that the medications tend to suppress an already limited understanding of What Not to Say to People.

3. If the first two rules have been ignored, the following apply:

a) Do not invent a brilliant plan for picking up the cake, going to work for a meeting, buying party supplies, and meeting with the surprisee within a single three hour period. It isn’t possible, and any arguments to the contrary are a side effect of the medication.

b) Do not plan to drive a car in order to avoid the bus. This is a silly idea, and the reasons will become clear when you attempt to start the car and discover on the third try that you must first put the key into the ignition.

c) Do not take the bus. If you must catch a bus, read the schedule very carefully to make sure the bus is traveling in the desired direction. If you are already on the bus and realize that it is headed the wrong way, wait until you can see a bus stop on the other side of the street before pulling the stop request cord.

Wait for the little green light before pushing on the door to exit. This will reduce the likelihood of smashing your nose on the door and entertaining your fellow riders.

d) If, during the meeting that you have arranged at work, your boss asks what you think of his current book draft, lie. He doesn’t really want to know what you think. You’d realize that if you’d followed rule #1.

e) The party supplies are in the same aisle they always occupy. No one moved them to confuse you. They are not shelved with the candy bars. Ever.

A good place to look for plastic silverware is at eye level, next to the paper plates. Not in the toy aisle.

f) In the meeting with the surprisee, which is a real meeting conveniently scheduled to prevent the surprisee from wandering campus, remember that you will not be capable of actually lying (see above) and will therefore ramble incoherently about trombones.

Yes, trombones. And the RIAA plan to acquire the tenure contracts of copyright-abusing faculty and redeem them for federal jurisdiction. And Cybermen. And how much you hate various aspects of the phd experience.*

“Unmitigated disaster” is the phrase you’re looking for.

[I stand by my claim that I was much better at being a lawyer than I am at being a phd student. After that conversation, I’m betting at least one of my committee members agrees.]

g) When the surprisee mentions a summons from the Dean’s office, try to act convincingly clueless. Do not snicker. Do not suggest possible reasons for the summons. Do not mention the RIAA.

Do not talk about how much the cardboard cutout in the office freaks you out, or the way its eyes follow you around the room.

h) Try to pay attention to the entrance of the surprisee at the party. So that everyone yells “surprise” at the same time. Otherwise, you’ve just got a bunch of people standing in a dark room. With cake.

4) Pick up the cake last. Don’t carry it around all afternoon. Especially if you want to be able to walk the next day. It’s the painkillers that make it possible to carry the cake at all, and they’ll wear off before the further damage you’ve done goes away.

* There was some comparison to fanfic, too. Which was really funny at the time, and now I have totally forgotten the context. Damn it. This is going to bother me. Got it. It was about The Da Vinci Code as Gospel Fanfic. And not even good fanfic, I might add. Gospel crack!fic, really.**

**While I'm back on the topic of fen, I have to recommend a fanvid that combines two great things: Doctor Who and Weird Al. Go get it here.

And you should go visit the site for the Mauve and Dangerous Awards. If only in order to read the items submitted for the "RUSSELL T DAVIES AWARD FOR POST MODERNISM."


At 5/12/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Priya said...

You're talking of an ideal type "PhD student" that is only used for comparison for heuristic purposes and which does not actually exist in Reality, right?

Since, thinking of all the (many) other things I'm better at than PhD-ing would just depress me further.

At 5/12/2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Maybe. What's sad is that the bar isn't that high. I don't need to be a good lawyer to be better at it than this. I just have to be a passable imitation of one.

Go get the Doctor Who video. You'll thank me later.

At 5/15/2006 10:30 AM, Anonymous serena said...

LOL you are too funny...so said surprise party did not go as well as expected then...

At 5/15/2006 11:56 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

No, it went great. It was the day leading up to it that I handled badly.


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