Wednesday night my department had their holiday party. Normally, I dread these things, but this one turned out alright. The event was scheduled at the Webster House in downtown Kansas City. The Webster House was a 19th century school house that was renovated to accommodate a conversion to a restaurant. The building is incredibly exquisite and the food was amazing. It was a much higher class establishment than I had anticipated, despite the semi-formal attire requirement. The Webster House was not the reason that I dislike these (not simply social gatherings in general, but mainly academic related social gatherings) functions. It's the class separation that occurs. Typically, the professors (bosses) congregate with the professors. The graduate students gather with the graduate students. However, the difference at this particular function that managed to (somewhat) level the playing field - complimentary alcohol. While the air is still dense with pretentiousness, it's not quite as thick after a healthy treatment of imported beer or a few glasses of wine.
One of the highlights of the evening, however, was the use of my apartment building's limo service. Earlier in the day, a friend/colleague from my group had completed his dissertation defense (the grad student's final rite of passage that I will describe in a future post). One of the goals of the evening was to make sure that he was able to relax and be allowed to become lucid enough to begin to put the entire defense ordeal into a haze without the pressure of having to potentially drive home after the event. I invited my group to gather at my building prior to the holiday party and I would provide the transportation. I have to admit, it was pretty nice showing up at a semi-formal event in style... especially so when professors, who just parked down the block and walk to the front door, see a post doc and two grad students (and one spouse) arrive in a black stretch limo and be delivered right to the door. It did make for interesting conversation during the event, and guaranteed that the limo service will be used frequently in the future. What a great amenity for an apartment building.