One Awkward Penguin

Bah! I barely dip my toes into the waters of internet celebrity before disappearing again. My job has kept me so busy lately it is, quite frankly offensive. It’s like they don’t even want me dealing with my personal life while at the office. Rude. Books are for losers! Leave me in peace to surf the internet and paint my nails at my desk.


“What has been keeping you so busy, girl?” asks absolutely no one. Well let me tell you just one thing: yesterday I was away from the office for most of the afternoon at my company’s annual employee meetings. Every year my entire company gathers at an off-site venue for a presentation by our top dogs, or I guess top Penguins (?), on company financials, goals, general morale boosting and other, I don’t know, corporate issues and it’s usually actually pretty interesting plus they have cookies plus you get out of work early at which point you can go across the street to Ruth’s Chris Steak House which, WHO KNEW, has phenomenal happy hour specials, and put lots and lots and lots of wine in your face. Pretty good times!


Oh, and also you get to see one of your colleagues dressed up in a gigantic penguin costume. A few years ago, this lucky bitch was me.


I won’t get into details but long story short, each year my top boss zones in on one naive, enthusiastic, desperate to please young assistant and convinces them to wear the bird suit. Well actually her assistants (plural) do the coercing with promises of professional gain and personal adoration to be showered down from on high. It should surprise no one that I took the bait – all I’d have to do was pose for a few pictures, they promised. Easy peasy. I was hooked.


As the weeks went on, the stakes started to go up. “Would you mind just hanging out on stage during the raffle, in costume?” they asked me, with three weeks to go. “Sure, anything!” I replied, thoughts of promotions and/or flowers running through my head. At two weeks out they proposed I come up on stage and pretend to give a speech, as the Penguin, all I’d have to do was hold a microphone and maybe wave my fins around. I was getting wary, but still my desperate need for attention from my boss (and, ok, entire company) had me unable to say no. It wasn’t until one week to go, when they called me into an office and asked how good I was at dancing that I realized I was totally screwed.


And yet, I couldn’t walk away.


The bosses had enlisted someone (god knows who/why) to create an original song based on our company. I won’t reveal too much, for fear this will show up in some kind of corporate Google alert (please don’t fire me!) but I will say that it was a reggae song. About book publishing. It went on to win more Grammys than Adele and Taylor Swift combined.


The initial plan was to have just the Penguin (that’s me!) with a fake microphone pretending to sing the song on-stage, maybe with a few dance moves, but the two assistants, who must love attention even more than I do, if you can even believe it, decided they would be my backup dancers. They came up with choreography which we rehearsed late into the evening and, on one occasion, mid-day in our boss’s corner office. My costume was bulky, piping hot and ripe from years of other poor souls sweating inside it.  At one point, one of the girls griped at me for getting in her way. Did I mention I was wearing an 18 ton bird costume, with limited peripheral vision?


Finally the day of the meetings arrived. There were two sessions, one in the morning and one late afternoon. We were dancing for both. I accessorized my suit with a blow-up microphone, a sparkly, neon Rastafarian style hat and a long chain with a blinging dollar sign. My backup dancers, inexplicably, sported sequined white tank tops and giant, purple feathered hats, a style commonly associated with pimps. When our cue came, we took the stage.


I stood front and center with my two dancers flanking me a few paces behind. They spun, shimmied, shook and, I kid you not, dropped it like it was hot. I wiggled my giant bird belly around while pretending to sing with aCaribbeanaccent. I had a hard time seeing out of my costume – there were mesh eyeholes, but I found it easier to look out the little crack in my gigantic beak. From on stage I peeked through my beak and saw hordes of co-workers staring up at us, aghast. It was then I realized what exactly was going on. It was 9 AM at a corporate, professional function while on stage a singing Jamaican penguin waved her fins in the air, two scantily clad back-up dancers gyrating in unison beside her.


It was, for lack of any other word, absurd.


I have lived my whole life yearning for the spotlight, but at that moment, I was so, so glad to be hidden inside a costume. We repeated the dance later that day for the afternoon session our CEO called me out on stage.


“Thanks to Liz H for being our penguin today,” he boomed to the auditorium. “If you see her, be sure to say thanks. You’ll recognize her, that costume made her really sweaty.”


Kill me now.


In case you’re wondering I did not get a promotion (directly from this, anyway), nor did I get flowers, chocolate, money or any other gifts. I DID however get a delightful tale and also went on to be the Penguin four more times because I am what some might call a sucker. I’m also what all might call, a pretty sexy penguin: