Nobody really came dressed up for the Christmas party. To be honest, it wasn't going to be much of a party. In years past, the radio station had hired out a restaurant, served a nice buffet and opened up the bar. There had been music, a little dancing and some jokes. It was a pretty good time.
1999 was different. The manager of the station was having an affair with the owner. A pair of nasty divorces were on the horizon. One of those divorces would precipitate the selling of the radio business, but not yet.
To avoid a hassle and a headache of being in public (as well as the potential, it was believed, of one or more of the jilted spouses putting in an appearance), Sandy, the manager, decided we would have our little Christmas party at the radio station. This was billed as the company holiday luncheon. It was a wildly unpopular idea, but mandatory and not open to discussion. You did not say no to Sandy. Once she had some idiot notion in her head (which was often enough), you did what she wanted or your ass got canned.
Food and booze was brought in. It wasn't great food and it wasn't great booze. There was a little ham, a little turkey and some shrimp. There was probably greasy chicken in a box. All the beer was by Budweiser. Most of the supplies came from Wal-mart or the Kroger deli. It was pretty sorry compared to the toasted Bree, crab puffs and Canadian lagers available at the last decent Christmas party the station funded.
People complained about the party for weeks. Even, Carol, the bitchy old lady who acted as Sandy's spy hated the implied obligation. Nobody wanted to be there. Nobody could get out of it. Everyone resented it. If given our choice, we'd have all been happier taking the five or ten bucks a head the party represented as a half-assed Christmas bonus. It would have beat the staff shirts and office supplies they gave us. Instead, we were all stuck with having to smile and pretend like this was all cool, like this was just what we needed.
Right at noon, like some twisted version of "A Christmas Carol," we were all herded into the conference room, wished a Merry Christmas by the boss. This was all for us, we were told. This was our thanks for a good year and a job well done. Thank you, she said. Nobody believed it. It was such an abysmal gesture of good will. I watched people roll their eyes as she winged her way through her holiday notes. It all sounded like another one of her sales meetings and a not particularly inspired one. We were encouraged to eat, drink and be merry --but not too merry, because we all had to drive home.
Sandy, by the way, could only stay for a few minutes. She had to split. There was a flight to catch or another, more pressing party to attend. Each of us had our own opinions as to where she needed to be and what it was the owner was going to have her do when she got there. I sort of imagined her wearing reindeer antlers and a harness.
We waited about as long as it took for her to leave, then the place cleared out like someone had thrown a hand grenade into the room. Everyone grabbed their coats and went home --except me. I went to the car and grabbed my Tupperware. While everyone else was getting the hell out of dodge, I collected a couple of pounds of ham and turkey. I filled a container with shrimp, another with meatballs and tied up the bagged bread. I took cookies and brownies and loaded up on the beer, which was cheap domestic swill, but better than nothing.
I didn't take everything. Even I had misjudged how much would be left over, but I took a lot. I packed it in the trunk of my car and like a reverse Santa eventually sped off for my empty house. I drank, ate shrimp and probably watched whatever porn my room-mates left in the VCR. It wasn't much of a Christmas party, but the leftovers were pretty good.