The party was in full swing by the time my Uber driver pulled up to the non-descript Chicago supper club on West Kinzie Street, appropriately named Untitled. I shook off the sub-zero wind chill, eventually made it through the registration line and prepared to enter the cavernous open area known as the Whiskey Room, where I was, in theory, supposed to mingle and exchange business cards with hundreds of working professionals.
If only I could actually see them.
I reached into my front pocket and felt for my iPhone or, as I refer to it, "my flashlight." More than text messaging, more than Google maps, hell, even more than Candy Crush, the bright beam that cascades from my phone's LED flash has, regretfully, become my phone's most used feature, particularly when I venture out socially.
OK, I've had two eye surgeries in the past year, but I'm still perfectly capable of reading restaurant menus and wine lists if the hipster owners of these ultra-chic restaurants and bars would respectfully find their establishment's dimmer switch and slide it northward. That, as opposed to assuming a single 20-watt bulb is sufficient lighting for an entire dining room.
Why is everything so dark these days? It's as if we've already set the mood for the impending arrival of President Trump.
I recently entered a Las Vegas hotel at 3 p.m. -- brilliantly sunny daytime in the desert -- only to be plunged into near total darkness as I fruitlessly squinted for the check-in desk. Hotel employees who could have answered my pleas for directions were nowhere to be found. Check that, they were standing right in front of me but melded into the hotel's decor, as they were dressed entirely in black and leaning against black granite walls, a perfect complement to the black floor tile. Activating my iPhone's flashlight, again, I looked more like a coal miner than a hotel guest as I made my way through the lobby.
Organizers of the "Network After Work" party at Untitled had the best intentions. Name tags were color-coded by business community. Spot someone wearing the same colored name tag as yourself, approach that person and commence "networking," the professional term for "brag about yourself while consuming overpriced drinks."
My gold name tag alerted the 400 other attendees that I was in the entertainment industry. At least, I think my tag was gold. It could have been beige. Or tan. Camel? Ecru? Did it matter? Once inside, all name tags looked 50 shades of gray and everyone, even those with non-surgically enhanced eyes, was struggling. Perhaps that explains why the IT professional, wearing a red name tag, approached me and asked if I needed any cloud consulting services. By night's end, numerous male attendees could have found themselves on the receiving end of complaints, having spent the previous three hours peering closely at women's chests.
Truthfully, your Honor, I was only trying to catch the name of her employer. I had no other choice. My iPhone was dead.
To the folks at Network After Work, may I suggest a theme for your next meet-and-greet mashup? How about a tribute to Thomas Edison? Pay homage to the light bulb's inventor by bathing the entire room in brightness. Visit lightgod.com or flashingblinkylights.com and invest in light-up name badge holders. I would have welcomed one of those over a free drink ticket.
As for me, I guess I'll have to engage in some reconnaissance before venturing to whatever new restaurant or club is generating buzz. Instead of asking about gluten-free menu options, I'll inquire about maximum wattage or ask if the restaurant is BYOC (Bring Your Own Candles). Finally, I'll request a table in close proximity to an electrical outlet.
Chances are, I'm going to need to recharge my flashlight.