Chow Bella took a bite out of the holidays earlier this month with our annual "Eating Christmas" event at Crescent Ballroom. No worries if you missed it -- catch the essays here through the holiday season.
People are fiercely attached to their concept of Christmas food. Violate that notion, and they wail like orphans.
For about nine years, I worked for the government. Kind of an elite unit, but no weapons or anything even remotely interesting ever happening.
A workplace is like a family, maybe in more ways than you've considered. Relationships are for the most part random, mandatory, and anything but intentional. And conflicts escalate like a mofo around the holidays, when you're compelled to spend unstructured time with people you see rarely.
Working for the government means that you have to pay for things yourself that it would be unfair to ask your employer, the taxpayer, to pay for. And you are routinely assigned tasks you're demonstrably bad at.
This means that a different division planned our holiday party each year, and we all paid a bit out of pocket to attend. For several years, the party had taken place in a restaurant, which minimized the time available to converse, which was a good thing, trust me.
But one year, the admin division had its turn -- secretaries and their supervisor, people who do actual work. Because they do actual work, they were overwhelmed, and my boss asked if I'd help. Well, of course. It was a party!
We had an idea: Cater a lunch in our own building, which was old and lovely, and the difference in cost would go toward some new decorations for the office. We made sure the rest of the staff was on board, and then we ordered a massive amount of highly reputed Sonoran food and some modest centerpieces.
On the day of the event, my husband had just had hernia surgery. My dad sat with him at home while I attended the end of the party: dessert and white elephant gift swap. I arrived just in time to hear the young men with high metabolisms bitching and moaning about the fact that they'd eaten all the enchiladas and whatnot and there were no more. The several Costco desserts I'd ordered sat on the table looking filling, super-cute, and hopeful.
How dare they? I had never felt the white-hot flame of unwarranted rejection so directly. This get-together had devolved into a no-win more rapidly than usual. My response was fury, but my fury tends to present in a weirdly arcane manner. Just so you know. When it was my turn to choose a gift, I headed directly for the Velcro Drambuie-logo gimme wallet that had nestled under the tree perennially (because it was a habit to wrap the same few pieces of garbage each year and place them among the gifts for one another). Wallet in hand, I got the hell out of there.
Over the years, the parties continued to go downhill, including one that took place in the evening at our director's house yet featured no alcohol whatsoever. The moral, in brief: Parties thrown by tight-assed people are where fun goes to die. And a free Velcro wallet can turn out to be perfect for traveling.
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