An Office Gaf

Around this time of year, the Night Ranger’s mission statement becomes clear: Do not be That Girl at the office holiday party. Which, as we can all agree, is really an impossible goal (thank you, open bar).

Yes, ’tis the season to drink, be merry and drunkenly hook up with your co-worker or your platonic date to the party. We adore the scandalicious drama that usually ensues. Side effects include the hookup-related boozy awkwardness the next morning and the lingering weirdness the following Monday at work, but, well, them’s the breaks.

Sadly, our own holiday party was relatively tame this year, so we needed to live vicariously through others. The night after, with Research Assistants Cece and Tracey in tow, we headed to The Gaf, the new Irish pub on Wornall Road in the old Romanelli Grill spot. We’d heard that the two-month-old bar was finally starting to draw a younger crowd, so we figured that might be a good place to hear some fantastically sordid tales of workplace woe.

The Gaf is a great addition to Waldo. It’s a mellow neighborhood bar that’s really comfortable and low-key. The warm yellow color on the walls was very soothing in our hung-over state, and the bar that night was cheerily decorated with wreaths and evergreen swags intertwined with tiny white Christmas lights. A shelf over the window displayed a collection of hardcover books, pottery jugs, and other vintage stuff that saves the place from sterility. Three TVs and one huge flat screen surround the bar. Though the place didn’t exactly scream “Irish pub,” we were pleased to note that The Gaf served up Guinness, Boddington, Smithwick’s and hard cider on tap. Even better: Domestic beer, such as our Boulevard Wheat draught, cost a reasonable $3.

In our weakened state, we sipped our drinks slooowly and assessed the scene. On a Saturday night around 10, a slightly older, staid crowd filled the bar. A few fortyish types sipped wine; those in their thirties quaffed beer. Everyone was ensconced in their social groups, and the mingle factor was low.

About an hour later, though, the demographics shifted. The parental types left, and a younger crowd filtered in. That’s when the place turned all high school cafeterialike: The people in their thirties remained seated at the bar, and the twentysomethings took over the three tables at the edge of the bar area. Territory thus marked by the sophomores and seniors, everyone continued drinking.

As a result, the antics picked up at the border tables. Duders trickled in, accompanied by glossy chicks in sweaters with winter scarves artfully tied around their necks. We spotted a guy with an ’80s-inspired popped collar under his V-neck sweater; we were glad to see that trend transcended season. The music seemed a bit louder, and as “Dirrty” blared from the touch-screen jukebox, two inebriated women in black cropped gaucho pants and black boots writhed suggestively against each other.

We invaded the border tables and met 28-year-old Brian, a cute, fair-haired guy in a gray-purple shirt and tie. He and a couple of friends had just been to a wedding reception, which explained their fancy dress. He’s a waiter, and even though he declined to name his workplace, he willingly shared his experience of being That Guy.

“I threw up in the water station,” he said of one holiday party. He was talking about the fountainlike device where customers’ water glasses are filled. “There was a trash can next to it. I didn’t make it,” he continued. And, yes, people soon knew that he was responsible for clogging the agua station.

“You know, you’re embarrassed for a couple of days. Everyone is human,” he said. Well, we’ve drunkenly thrown up in our fair share of mortifying places (crowded elevator at a fancy-schmancy Plaza hotel), so we could definitely relate.

We went back to our table, then soon spotted something interesting out of the corner of our eye: a guy in the dining area doing the worm. Dressed in a brown leather jacket and a Royals cap, he was going at it Eddie Kennison-style. The music to which he accomplished such a feat? “Highway to Hell,” naturally. We had to find out his story.

“I was challenged,” said 25-year-old Brandon. The gaucho-pants mafia told him he had to do the worm if he wanted to be in the “Waldo club.” Trash talk ensued, and he took the bait. For his efforts, he was accepted into this mysterious club, which we suspect didn’t really exist.

“I don’t know what membership gets me,” he admitted. We tried to find out by talking to 24-year-old Casey, the self-described originator of the club. “It’s all about wormin’,” she told us. That’s all we could get out of her, so we turned back to Brandon and asked him if he’d attended any office parties this season.

He told us that he was unintentionally invited to one. By “unintentionally invited,” he meant that he was at Harpo’s in Westport one night when he infiltrated a random party. He ordered a round of shots — not on the office party tab, unfortunately — and jumped in.

“Everyone had a Santa hat on, and those fruity sweaters — the ones with a Santa or reindeer,” he said. “You know, the ones grandma knits you but you’re afraid to wear in public. The director was an old guy who was hitting on a young intern. He then got a call from his wife, who was pissed that he wasn’t home. So we put him in a cab and sent him home.”

Our new mission statement? To render the holiday sweater-Santa hat combo obsolete. Wish us luck.

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