You know how people bitch about Christmas lights and decorations being put up around Thanksgiving? Well, I've always loved it. I enjoy the decorations, the trees you see in store and home windows. And I'm Jewish! But one thing I did get burned out on this year was the amount of Christmas parties I went to.
The first one started off shaky. It was Anne's seventh annual holiday party. I had to bring a wrapped gift for the gift exchange, plus she asked for an unwrapped toy for a toy drive. I went to have a shirt made that said, "I went to Anne's holiday party and all I got in the gift exchange was this crappy T-shirt." Well, the day before the party, the company called and told me they wouldn't have it done for another week. I had to quickly go buy something else and settled on a candle, which was $28 — more than the $10 limit on the flyer.
When I drove to the party, which was a sit-down dinner for more than 50 people, my car overheated on the 163.1 ended up making it there more than an hour late — just in time to eat.
I saw a lot of shoes on the porch and remembered being told, "Don't wear socks with holes or anything, because they make you take off your shoes."
I was given a name tag. Each name tag had a different symbol. Mine had a star. People with certain symbols would be in charge of bringing out dessert and coffee. Other symbols had to clean up. Luckily, I hightailed it out of there before the duties attached to my name tag came up.
I sat next to a young lifeguard at dinner. He told a lot of stories about people getting stung by stingrays and jellyfish. Damn, when I saw Jaws, that kept me out of the ocean for years. Now this. He also promised to invite me to one of their parties where, he said, "We do a lot of drinking and crazy stuff." I just can't imagine a lifeguard sitting up in that tower with a hangover.
The dinner was amazing. It was like Thanksgiving, with ham and turkey being passed around, as well as five different side dishes that others had brought. There were little gifts at the table, and one included Post-It notes. That made it fun when I wrote, "Pass the damn chocolate cake, you greedy bastards" and had it passed down the table. You see, they had three tables, each seating about 25 people. Since I was late, I was sitting at the very end.
After dinner was served, a game called "Chubby Bunny" was played. Anne had a few volunteers but had to drag a few others up there. The object is to stick a marshmallow into your mouth and say "chubby bunny." The one who can say that with the most marshmallows wins. Well, if you've ever watched those highlights of the hot-dog eating contest in New York, you know how gross this can become. One guy looked like Dizzy Gillespie, and when he tried to speak, he spit out bits of marshmallow and drooled down his chin. Anne was prepared for this; she placed a bucket in front of each person.
One man had no trouble saying "chubby bunny," and one of the contestants said, "This isn't fair. He chews tobacco and has had practice." One lady (who I don't think understood the concept of the game) kept chewing after putting the marshmallows in her mouth. A guy named Carter finally won and received a bunch of movie tickets. The prize for second place was the leftover bag of marshmallows, although I'm sure they won't be eaten anytime soon.
When it was time for the gift exchange, we moved to a different room. Everyone joked about a picture of ducks. Somebody said, "There was this ugly painting somebody brought one year of ducks. But one old lady loved it, and she actually put it up in her house. That was years ago, and we still make fun of it."
Another lady said, "One year, there were a bunch of gifts brought that were given the previous year. So they put on the flyer this year that you can't bring the gifts from last year."
The presents were placed in a pile, and the first person picked one and opened it. The second person could steal that gift or pick a new one. I reverted back to my childhood, shaking and feeling a few gifts before picking one. I got a tiny picture frame. Another person got a needle with different-colored threads. The only present that people stole was a coffee-table book of Ansel Adams photographs. It was stolen the maximum three times. When people got gifts they didn't like, they tried to tempt people into stealing them, so they could pick another. They would hold up the item and talk at great lengths about all the things you could do with it; the funniest was the person who got the thread and needle, who mentioned a million different things you could do with them.
One person opened a package and found two nice photo albums. As he opened up the photo albums, he said, "That is strange. There are photos already in here." Somebody looked over his shoulder and saw a woman in her bikini. Then a bunch of the men ran over to take a peek. Nobody could figure out who brought the albums and why they had already put photos in them. One person said, "That's actually more convenient. You don't have to worry about filling it up and going through all your family photos." Finally, Anne realized it was given by a person who had left the party early and wasn't meant for the gift exchange but for a particular person they had vacationed with.
The only other Christmas party I went to with a gift exchange was for the Multinational Mortgage & Real Estate company. They did the gift exchange right, saying it had to be "gag gifts." Although sometimes a gag gift ends up being something people want. One guy got a pair of SpongeBob SquarePants slippers and was thrilled, saying, "I'll give these to my kids. They'll love them." There was a Monopoly game, which seemed like a good gift for realtors. I was surprised that two different people gave nice chess sets. I thought that was a weird coincidence until a guy named Irwin said, "I got three chess sets this year for Christmas."
Another gift was wrapped in a newspaper. I said to the person who brought it, "Couldn't you get some wrapping paper?" He said, "Hey, whoever gets this also gets to read today's paper. It's a bonus. They can check on their stocks."
One lady got an alarm clock, and somebody said, "Now you can come to work on time for once."
Later, as everyone was gathered around the gifts, a cell phone went off. It was funny watching 20 people look down at their waists at the exact same time, checking to see if it was their phone.
One lady got a purse, and it started a few ladies next to me talking about Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade purses. I decided this was a good time to go and check out the food, which was mostly Filipino stuff. (Most of the staff here is Filipino.) And I enjoy their food, aside
from the desserts. I always see this purple dessert that looks like raw liver. I'm told by somebody there, "You'd love that purple stuff. It tastes like yams." I'll stick with the chocolate chip cookies.
The boss of the company was talking to me about parties. He was at one recently with a DJ and said the cops showed up. Since tonight's party was in their offices in Scripps Ranch, there wasn't a fear of that happening. The music was playing out of a boom box, and not very loudly.
We ended up talking about noisy neighbors and barking dogs. He told me he had occasionally pulled out one of his guns when dogs ended up in his yard. It makes me wonder how he closes a deal in the real estate world.
J. Chivante, a realtor there, kept running back and forth into another room. I followed him and found out where all the alcohol was. But he was just being a good host, fixing drinks for people. There was a copy machine near the alcohol, and we joked about alcohol and office parties and what could end up being a disastrous combination with the copier. I was surprised when Chivante was exchanging recipes with somebody. This is a guy I've played basketball with a few times. It's funny to see somebody who's gotten close to fighting with others on the court talking about how to properly prepare a certain dish.
One lady was carrying a bag of food to the table and dropped it. There was something with strawberry that went all over the place. As she was cleaning up, somebody said, "This is all going to be in the Reader." I assured her it wouldn't be. Ah...sorry.