1982. I’m guessing, but I’m pretty sure that this was the first year that I attended a local company Christmas party for the first time. I wasn’t married, but my date was in his second year of working at the little television station in Victoria. It was a kind of a roller coaster evening. The party was held at a down town Victoria hotel, and it was very different from the Christmas teas that I was used to attending at the Vancouver Public Library.
First of all, a dinner/dance is obviously different from an afternoon tea. The most excitement we would get would be from the type of goodies we got that year. A lot of retired librarians came back for that event year after year, and the tea flowed. I was in my early 20’s and a room full of old librarians did not impress.
Okay, there was one other party that I never missed when I worked at the library. If you happened to be working Christmas Eve, the folks in the bindery (these were the people who repaired and refurbished many of the books) had an all day party because they were upstairs in the building and out of sight of the public. And the booze flowed. We would go up on our breaks and have a drink, and needless to say we took a lot of “coffee” breaks on Christmas Eve :-). One year I remember showing up at my parents house completely drunk at about 3pm. I had a hangover before Christmas Eve had even begun.
But a big company staff party in the fancy hotel where they actually gave away great prizes, including a brand new TV, was totally new and exciting to me. The food was fabulous, there was live music and a lot of crazy partying. That first year, there was a sales guy who, in a Rob Ford-like drunken stupor, asked my date where he picked up the hooker (me). I was young and over-sensitive and I ran off to the bathroom and balled my eyes out in one of the stalls. He was just having a laugh, but I wasn’t used to his kind of character. I was used to librarians.
That same sales guy, who realized what a stupid thing he had said, later apologized profusely. And at every Christmas party we attended after that, he would get down on his knees and beg my forgiveness. He was actually a good guy, just a bit of a goof.
Every year there was different music to dance to, but there were always old favourites like the B-52’s “Love Shack” and the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”. The occasional live bands we had were pretty good too and pumped out the top 40 hits, along with some older favourites. That party was the only time in the whole year that I would dance. And I danced. A lot.
The only Christmas party I had to leave early was when I was pregnant with my first daughter. But I still managed to finish dinner! At another Christmas party, something was wrong with one of the seafood buffet dishes and a lot of people got sick afterwards. On even another occasion, a particular bad year for staff because there were looming lay-offs, the drinking was particularly heavy. That was my introduction to, and my first AND last encounter with Sambuca. I cringe just thinking about it. The next morning my two young daughters came into my bedroom and laughed at me. “Mummy’s got a HANGOVER!” they squealed. Well, it sounded like they were squealing. Really loud.
There were memorable moments, sad times, silly gaffs, funny things that happened, and there were many staff who came and went through the years. One couple once bragged to us that they had been to 20 consecutive parties, the husband having been an employee at the station for that long. The next year, as if he had jinxed himself, he was laid off and they were gone.
There was another year that we found out the station was going to be permanently shut down. No one had stepped up with an offer to buy it from the owners, and we were preparing ourselves for the end. That particular party was held at the Empress Hotel, one of the oldest and nicest hotels in Victoria. It was beautiful, and the food was lovely, the music was great. That year, a disposable camera was put on every table so that we could all take our own pictures of each other to be posted at the station later. There’s one picture from that year of myself and one of my good friends, sitting there with tears in our eyes. We really thought it was over.
Just months before the station was set to close, my husband was laid off. And then, magically, the employees along with some help, bought the station, and my husband was hired back. And guess what? It was all in time for the next Christmas Party :-).
There’s a group of people that I know from the station who have been to many of the same parties. We used to be the “young” ones. This year we were laughing at how we had somehow turned out to be the “old” ones. We were having to work harder at recognizing some of the songs that were playing, and when one of the “kids” asked if we wanted to go to the bar for tequila shots, well, I had visions of that Sambuca incident and decided it was not a good idea. I just can’t do that any more. Just as well.
All in all, we have attended 31 consecutive staff Christmas parties. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself.