The hamster wears a hat that says “Happy Birthday!” and when it's turned on the hamster sings “Happy Birthday!” and dances. It’s called the Birthday Rat around the office, and my boss bought it so that the bashful or mortified wouldn’t feel trapped into singing “Happy Birthday!” but this rare generous idea has been perverted so that now we all sit and watch the Rat sing and then we all have to sing, too.
My manager is a gay Hawaiian, and is as cool as you would imagine a gay Hawaiian to be, which is, very. On his birthday they did more than bring out the Rat:
When we walked into the kitchen, The Big Boss, a short loud always-right woman, misted you in the face with a spray bottle of water. A plastic lei was placed around your neck. Hawaiian music played on a pink boombox. A guava cake had been purchased. You see, it was just like being on the islands!
This was all awkward enough. But when my gay Hawaiian manager came in, and the boombox was shut off and the Rat turned on and the singing muddled through, there was a final birthday surprise/horror:
My coworker Shelley would hula!
I don’t understand Shelley’s heritage. It’s something like Guam by way of Wisconsin. She has a thick Midwestern accent. She’s very pretty, but large. She entered, wearing a grass skirt and coconutty-bikini top. There was a long moment when my always-right boss and Shelley couldn’t get the tape to play in the boom box, followed by a hushed discussion and a quick flip-over of the cassette. Hula music played. And Shelley danced the hula. For I would guess eight weeks.
Shelley is not vain, or a showboat, or an airhead, or on drugs, or anything else that would explain the behavior of dancing a hula in front of coworkers. No one knew what to do. We watched her, sorta; we couldn't look at each other. And she would look at us, so we couldn't stare away. Are hulas especially long dances? Because this seemed to go on and on and on. I broke out in a flop sweat of embarrassment. Finally it ended. I think Shelley sensed our discomfort. She stopped the tape before the song ended. The tiny lunchroom broke out in applause. My manager said thanks. We grabbed cake and dispersed.
My pits were soaked.