Back in the day my (really big) company would occasionally have a party to celebrate one thing or another. One of these parties was NASCAR-themed. A band, probably 500 people clustered in little groups sipping beer and wine and eating carrot sticks–you know the kind of thing.
While I was chatting with a little knot of friends a man wandered over wearing a custom-made race car driver’s uniform. He said hello and tried to make small talk with the group. I knew who this man was, but it was obvious that nobody else in our group had a clue. For whatever reason I chose to keep it to myself. The group was being pretty sarcastic even before this small man in an odd outfit came up. The group wasn’t particularly kind to the stranger, and I’m ashamed to admit I just watched with interest.
Eventually one of the group pulled a lighter from his pocket and made as if to set fire to the gentleman’s sleeve. He was understandably surprised, and amazingly calm as he simply took a step backward saying, “Tough crowd.” My friend laughed saying, “I was just wondering if these suits are really fireproof.”
As the man backed away mumbling something about enjoying the party and headed over to another knot of (surely more welcoming) people, I said to my friend, “Pal, you just tried to set a corporate vice president on fire.” Then I turned my employee badge back around so my name could be seen.