06 December 2006

Holiday Party Blues

"Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out any quicker than the Christmas spirit." ~ Kin Hubbard

My company has an annual Christmas (or holiday, take your choice) party, just like a real company. Since I used to be the person who planned and organized it, I used to be forced to attend. Back when all of the trouble began, I stopped going. (No, I don't wish to talk about that right now.) It was so liberating to watch everyone else scurrying around, being stressed out. Had I decided to attend any of these events, I wouldn't have had to work. Not in the usual sense, anyway.

I would have had to talk to our contract employees while attempting to eat, though. We all know how asocial I am (thank you, Therapist, for that word), but it was much more than that. Our contract employees and I have absolutely nothing in common. I used to stand around, trying not to drop my taco meat on my clothing and listening to someone drone on about things that I know nothing about and care about even less. One Christmas, an electrician, so loaded he could barely stand, held Hubby and me hostage for about 45 minutes as he regaled us with an inventory of his "gimme hats." He told us that his stepson had recently asked to borrow one of the more than 200 from the wall in his house dedicated to the infinite variety of caps. Them was fightin' words, buddy! Those hats were sacrosanct and the stepson was just going to have to go rustle up his own gimme cap collection.

I endured Wally the carpenter for a couple of Christmases. Wally was a former Viet Nam vet who liked to recite his poetry to people, whether or not anybody was interested. The last year he attended, he told the banquet hall people that he personally generated over $200k a year for the company. That figure would have been correct had he been talking about the cost of his workers' comp injuries. He intimated to them that he was the one who was really in charge at the party.

I've never been very good at making people go away. I'm from the South and we all just sort of soak up hospitality that floats around in the air down here. I certainly didn't have any particularly advanced etiquette training while I was growing up, but breaking the rules established by my father was extremely perilous. My dad didn't have a lot of rules (and mostly they were rules only I was supposed to follow), but failure to adhere to them had dire consequences. His rules were primarily centered around food. I was never, ever, ever allowed to eat anything when there was someone else visiting. Otherwise, I'd have to invite them to partake, too. Seeing as how my dad often liked to growl at the dinner table for his own amusement, I wasn't all that anxious to have people over for dinner.

But I digress again. I took the etiquette thing to heart and really paid attention when people did things that looked like they were motivated by politeness. Therefore, I'm gracious to a fault. At the end of every party, I'd go home feeling like I'd spent the evening with a roomful of vampire bats that just sucked the life blood right out of me.

This year the party is going to be at The Texas Land and Cattle Company, a steakhouse that I would normally never visit because of the cost. I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I mentioned I might just want to go to the party this year. Everyone in the office pounced immediately. I was locked into the whole deal. My co-workers find me infinitely entertaining or something, I guess. The minute I started backpedalling, they got demanding. "No, you have to come. You have to." One of the women has to leave early to attend her son's basketball game. "Oh no! I wish I didn't have to go...Ggirl is going to be there this year."

That's profoundly puzzling to me. My therapist says it's because I'm likeable. Well somebody should tell me how to not be quite so likeable and I'll get right on that. I don't need that kind of attention and I'd really prefer it if they'd transfer some of that affection to someone who actually wants it. The party is this Thursday and I already feel beaten down by fatigue.

I can expect a couple of my workers' comp boys to be there. After all, what else do they have to do? One of them in particular, who's already told me he'd be there, is just the bad Wally dream revisited. This guy's not a veteran. It would help his case with me if he were. I have PTSD. It's a bond I feel with vets that they don't even know about. I'm very inclined to cut them some extra slack. This guy is just annoying. And whiney. Talking to him is a lot like talking to a tree. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of communication happening.

I'll bet we've got a whole crop of annoying guys I haven't even met yet. Gimme cat aficionados. Multi Level Marketing mavens. Dallas Cowboy enthusiasts. There's nothing wrong with any of that. There's not much I can add to the conversation, though. I guess the good news is that it doesn't matter to them that I know nothing about the subject matter. They never notice the glazed over look in my eyes as I nod and smile and try to keep my taco from landing on my blouse. Except this year it will be sirloin. At least the food may be a little easier to handle.

Note to self: Never ever express even a vague interest in the holidays.

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