Holiday Work Party

It’s that time of year when our social calendar begins to fill up with holiday gatherings, coffee with friends and Christmas shopping. One of those engagements sometimes include the “office party” when coworkers let down their hair, loosen their ties, take off their bras and start dancing on table tops after three glasses of White Zinfandel. They say there are three rules at work parties:

  1. Don’t ask for a raise.
  2. Don’t sleep with anyone.
  3. Don’t drink too much.

My “work party” happened on Sunday night. Okay, rule number one is a joke when you work in a restaurant, because we’re already making $2.13 or $5.00 an hour, so what more could we ask? Rule number two is no big deal since I’m married and there is no one at my job I’d want to have sex with even if I was single. And rule number three can go fuck itself.

The party is happening, thankfully, at a restaurant we do not work in and most everyone is there. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? It’s an open bar with free food and most importantly, it’s when we exchange our Secret Santa gifts. Seconds after arriving, I toss my gift onto the table and head to the bar to get my first glass of champagne before the lines gets too deep and the bartender realizes that he is serving the world’s biggest lushes and starts to judge us all. I want to at least catch a buzz before the condescension begins. The tables are set with the typical sad apps that one regularly sees at these types of parties; cubes of cheese, crackers and bread sticks. They’re free and delicious. I hear that after thirty minutes, we will begin seeing passed hors d’oeuvres. Bring it.

At precisely 7:00, the first server appears, looking like she is about to step into a minefield. Her face is wooden and her eyes are glazed over as if she has set herself on auto-pilot and is trying to forget where she is. With her gaze directed just over my head, she mumbles “chicken satay…chicken satay…chicken satay.” In her right hand, she has a stack of bev naps fanned out in such a way to give the illusion of fancy. The food disappears within seconds and we hungrily look towards the kitchen for the next plate of food.

“There it is!” screams Nicole. “What is it? I want a pig in a blanket!”

Disappointingly, it’s spinakopita.

Another zombie server lurches past us, arms ahead of her carrying a plate of crab cakes which are inhaled before she gets to the center of the room. Following her is a man with little pizzas and then another woman with steak-on-a-stick and then more chicken satay. When I see the second round of chicken satay, that is my cue to say hello to the bartender again.

I feel for these workers, I really do. I have been them, working a Christmas party and hating every minute of it. It’s not easy serving people who are there to cut loose and have a good time when all you want to do is go home or at least have your shift drink. Hopefully, they made some bank and they didn’t hate us too much by the end of the night.

Finally, it became time to exchange our Secret Santa gifts. We had a $30 limit and I went a little over because I really liked the name I drew and I also like to outdo everyone and rub it in their faces that I give good gift. For two weeks, I observed Kevin. I listened to his conversations and picked up on clues of things he might like. I noticed that he ate a very specific breakfast every morning at work; 365 brand crunchy almond butter from Whole Foods and Fiber Select Garden Vegetable Wheat Thins. A quick discussion of the film Lincoln one morning informed me that he likes movies. Done. I made a quick trip to Whole Foods and then got him five movie passes through my union that allowed me to get them for six bucks apiece. All told, I spent about $36. He loved his gifts and was very happy.

Now it is my turn. I look around the room waiting for someone to approach me with a present. At long last, Juan, who works in the back, comes up to me with a bag that tells me there is a bottle of something in it. “Good man,” I think. “Although we don’t talk a lot, he obviously knows me well.”

“Merry Christmas. I hope you like this'” he tells me as I eagerly unwrap the packaging expecting to see some Grey Goose or Kettel One or maybe even some Effin. But what do I see before me? A bottle of Chardonnay. But not just any bottle of Chardonnay, a big one. A Yellow Tail. The kind that I use to cook with and that costs $10.99.

“Oh, Yellow Tail. Thank you.”

“You like?”

“Of course I do. I love wine, thank you so much. You shouldn’t have. You really shouldn’t have.”

I look beside me at a friend who is cradling her bottle of Absolut Citron and another friend who is making goo goo eyes at her bottle of Veuve Clicquot. I look down at my massive bottle of cooking wine and sigh.

“I’m so glad you like it. I didn’t know what else to get you.” says Juan.

I give him a hug and he makes his way back to his table.

I quickly ask for another glass of champagne from the bartender and toss down ten dollars for him, roughly the cost of my Secret Santa gift. Am I disappointed? A little, but then Kevin comes back over to tell me how excited he is to go see Life of Pi this week and that he’ll still have four more free movies to go to. He gives me a hug and tells me thank you one more time. I am happy that he likes his presents. I feel good inside and although it may be from the six glasses of bubbly on an empty stomach, I realize that it could also be because the spirit of giving has come over me.

At the end of the night, I gather my things and my bottle of wine and make my way home. I set the Yellow Tail on my counter and know that it will not go to waste. It’s better than a picture frame or candle holders, right? And I know that Juan probably feels as good about giving me the wine as I do about giving Kevin movie tickets, almond butter and Wheat Thins. I’m happy.

I did not ask for a raise, I did not have sex with anyone and I had just the right amount to drink. I would call this work party a success.

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10 thoughts on “Holiday Work Party

  1. CityGirl

    Merry Christmas BW. Much love and prosperity in the new year! This made me laugh AND cry. :)Laugh because you're so funny and awesome and cry because, well, you know, that spirit-thingy. And also because my work Christmas party sucked it so hard.

  2. anne marie in philly

    since there are 8 of us at my workplace, we all went and had a nice lunch last week at a new local rib joint. boss tipped 30% (I see the CC bill). we don't do secret santas.happy holidays, bitchy one; YOU RULE!PS – yellow tail is meh and SO 2010.

  3. Anonymous

    oi, lucky you get alcohol at yours. we gather at 9 am on a sunday for free catered breakfast and a chance to get some movie passes or coupons for a nearby restaurant. Then dick around until we open and start the shift. One year it was different. We had fancy food and drawings for visas, full meals from higher end restaurants and "date packs".. But this year….sigh. 🙁 You're a good secret santa …Merry Christmas and it's awesome that your bitchy heart has a soft spot for the holidays <3

  4. Swissy

    I don't get invited to the xmas party because of the hours I work but the best gift of all is walking in to work and seeing a plethora of sandwiches, sparkling grape cider, banana bread, and so forth with the instructions "be sure to get rid of this mess". To me that equals "eat up swissy!"

  5. Joanne

    Aww! This story made me think, "squee!" Glad you had a good time at the workplace party. I enjoy giving personalized gifts too. It's awesome to see someone breakout such a happy smile.Honestly, I have never been to a workplace party because the places I worked for never gave them. One place did a giveaway and Secret Santa exchange during the holiday meeting, and the other provided food for one meal break. The one I work for now doesn't do holiday anything for the employees.

  6. Josh A.

    Heh, I have a great work party story for you. I had worked at this bar for 3 ½ years so I knew the deal well. We were all hard drinkers so we never bothered with gift exchange. We would close to the public on a Sunday night and hire a bartender who was a regular and he was happy to do it because he would usually walk with 3-400 dollars for working 6 hours. We could drink anything we wanted until the place closed around midnight. There was a food buffet also.However, this year was different. I was out day drinking because I had the day off and it was Sunday. About 3 hours into drinking I got a call from the manager asking if I could work for her until the Christmas party started because she hurt her arm (I later find out she hurt her arm because she drunkenly fell on the sidewalk the night before. Of course she couldn’t call me in the morning because she was hungover, she waited until the afternoon right before she was supposed to go in). I told her I’d been drinking but I could if she wanted. I arrive and am half in the bag. I see them putting nice tablecloths out and wonder what the hell is going on because it was not a fancy bar nor was it NYE. Come to find out they are doing a film fundraiser. Fuck. I know the guy who is doing the fundraiser and I actually have a Film Direction degree myself. While I support the arts, they do not support me. Film fundraisers mean I cannot have any music on because they will be doing speeches and showing bits of film. It means there will be a free fucking buffet so I will make no money off food but still have to clean up after them. It means that I will be serving mostly pop and water to hoity-toity a-holes who don’t tip. It basically means that I am working for no money on my day off when I am supposed to be watching football, drinking and waiting for our Christmas party to start.I then find out from the GM that we are going to have our work party concurrently with the fundraiser. I asked him how I am supposed to “party” while tending bar with a bunch of whiny water drinkers. No real answer. Now I am pissed. I proceed to do several shots of whiskey. Every time someone orders and doesn’t tip I do another shot. They did put another bartender back with me, but it’s a girl I cannot stand. After a few more shots I’m having trouble seeing and after spilling most of the contents of my shaker onto the barmat instead of getting it into the shot glass I decided enough was enough. I throw my bar towel down, tell the bartender good luck and keep my tips, all $10 of them and then I proceed to yell loud enough for the entire bar to hear (remember, no music because it’s a film fundraiser) “Fuck you guys and fuck this bar. This was supposed to be my party. I quit.” The guy who threw the fundraiser actually had the gall to approach me after and tell me I ruined his party. I basically explained the situation to him and said actually, YOU sir ruined MY party. He still wasn’t happy and I still didn’t care.


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