Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season

We're still tying up loose ends of things that need to be taken care of before getting back on the boat (and we're really hoping that Hans' new Canadian passport gets here on time!) but instead of boring you with those details I'll post about the holiday season instead.

Christmas has come to mean many things to me over the years.

When I was in the first grade it was the sheer excitement of making paper chains for our Christmas tree out of green and red construction paper, watching The Grinch and Rudolph on TV, fighting with my sister over who got to hang what on the tree, Santa Claus, and of course all those wonderful presents.

When I had kids of my own, and it was all about waiting until they were asleep (which seemed to take forever) so I could try to quietly sneak all their presents under the tree, and I can still remember how thrilled they were when I (with a lot of drama) complained that Rudolph and his cronies had left chomped up bits of carrots all over our deck, and did anyone happen to see Santa's sleigh tracks (made at around 3 AM with a broom handle) on the deck?

Then I was suddenly single with two jobs, and three kids who didn't care if I put up a tree or not as long as they got presents. Honestly, I tried to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but it's tough when December was the month the township snowplow knocked over my mail box and when I called my dad for help, I had to first get past my mother (who doesn't have a job but wants to tell me about what a bad day she's had and how my father is driving her crazy). It's the December where it snowed every single day and I found myself shoveling the driveway (in between my two jobs) at both 7 AM and midnight thus leaving me feeling like a wrung out dishrag, or the infamous December when the muffler fell off my car and the starter on my daughter's car died, and the only time I had left to shop for presents was Christmas Eve.

And finally, December is the month of the company Christmas party. The entire month.

Oh sure, Christmas parties are just peachy keen and tons of fun when you're an attendee of one or perhaps two, but just try being a waitress for an entire month times ten years of them and then see how you feel.

Putting up with beer deaf drunks, bossy wives who envision themselves as Mistress of the Manor, discovering the freezer is broke when it comes time to serve 48 scoops of liquid ice cream, struggling with fifty pound trays of dirty dishes on your shoulder all night long because for some reason everyone wants to congregate in the only narrow doorway to the room... I did this for over ten years and I'll never forget the weekend I clocked in over 32 hours (in addition to my full time job) from Friday night to Sunday evening at a beautiful private club.

I still remember how tired I was on Friday night (and was already wondering how the hell I would make it through Sunday) after the first party ended at around 2 AM and we still had to tear down the banquet tables and put up round ones for Saturday's brunch. After Saturday's brunch we tore down those tables, completely rearranged the dining room, ordered pizza, and folded about a thousand napkins in preparation for The Big Party.

The Big Party was thrown by a wealthy local contractor who was a good customer, employed a lot of townspeople, and we were to be on our best behavior.

I knew it would be an interesting night when I saw men arriving in everything from filthy jeans and flannel shirts to leisure suits and cowboy boots, to women in ball gowns and homemade tattoos to flannel shirts and cowboy boots.

At these parties the waitstaff is usually given three to four tables of eight to ten people each. The menu is set; meaning everyone gets the same soup and salad, and a choice of three entrees (beef, fish, chicken, and the occasional vegetarian dish). This allows everything to run smoothly (for the most part) and hopefully a good time is had by all.

I immediately knew I was in trouble when I discovered that one of the men I had to wait on had such tremendous BO that it made my eyes smart and I felt like I had my nose jammed deep in his armpits all night long. He exacerbated the problem by dousing himself with an entire bottle of Aqua Velva and I then spent the rest of the night taking a deep breath before launching myself at his table, expelling it after I left, and ended up feeling like a Japanese pearl diver for the remainder of the evening. I felt very bad for the man at my next table who had a terrible speech impediment and I acted like I didn't notice it at all and was very patient even though we were expected to get our orders to the kitchen 'yesterday'!

No one understood that their Prime Rib would be 'medium' (and no I can not turn medium into rare!) and all the men ordered an end piece. Just how many end pieces do you think a prime rib has I wanted to ask.

As I was madly clearing soup cups, dropping off salads, refilling water goblets, and serving drinks, a man from a neighboring table (not mine) flagged me down, and since I had to be polite and couldn't say "Sorry you're not my station," I was forced to acknowledge him.

He was of the 'filthy jeans' club and he and his cronies were having quite the wild time. He was laughing so hard he could barely speak but unfortunately he did. "I want you (by now he was doubled over with laughter), I want you (snicker, snicker) to take this ( he held up his cup of untouched french onion soup) to that table ( he pointed to a table clear across the room) and tell them (snicker, snicker, and by now his friends were guffawing with laughter too) that it's from me."

I was stunned, decided to take my chances (after all it was my word against his), said, "No," and walked away.

In the middle of trying to serve the main entree one of my customers stopped me and instructed me to watch him. He then went through a very dramatic demonstration wherein he performed a magic trick and bent a spoon. By now I was numb with disbelief as I'd realized earlier in the evening that this particular group of construction workers were the very ones responsible for building the elementary school that all of my children had attended. I still thank God that I never possessed that nugget of information when my kids were younger or I probably would have ended up with ulcers because I surely would not have been able to afford send them to private school.

Anyway, the magician waited with bated breath for my praise.

"Wow!" I exclaimed, and he glowed with pride. "Honest to God!" and here I placed my hand over my heart and he sat up even straighter. "I haven't seen that trick since the sixth grade, and I wasn't impressed with it then either!" As I walked away his friends howled with laughter and punched him in the arm.

I did feel horrible though when the man with the speech impediment gave me hell on one of my trips to his table. He had been shut off at the bar for being drunk, was very upset, and implied that I was the one responsible. I'd only served him one beer and having no idea what he was talking about I assured him I'd done no such thing, but he never did believe or forgive me.

After dinner, along with clearing tables, we were required to continue running drinks for everyone. I was standing at the bar waiting to place an order when the bartender, without missing a beat, and while shaking a whiskey sour said to me, "Laura, would you please go into the kitchen and see if you can find the remainder of this gentleman's tie? He seems to have misplaced it." It took me a moment but I looked at the man next to me and nearly died when I saw that his necktie did indeed stop short about three quarters of the way up his shirt front. I felt my face burn and I waited in horror for the 'gentleman' in question to raise hell about being insulted. Instead, he gave me a big smile and after he left I realized he was same man who'd been ordering CC & gingerale from me all night long (and lucky for me I hadn't noticed the tie issue since he'd been sitting down) but was really getting 'well' whiskey and 7UP because the bartender said he'd never notice.

An executive and his wife got into huge fight and she retaliated by jerking all over the dance floor in her very low cut gown with one of the construction workers, who having no idea he was being used, turned beet red with the unexpected pleasure of being chosen, and the exertion of trying to keep up with her.

The last of the guests left at around 2 AM and once again we had to rearrange the whole dining room for Sunday's brunch. Only then were we finally able to sink our exhausted bodies into the comfortable sofas of the darkened bar and enjoy the moon sitting low over the frozen lake. With beers in hand we gossiped about the single 'sequined evening gown' who seemed to spend quite a bit of time with the married 'Fu Manchu mustache', found out some of the guests had taken bets on which would happen first; the executives wife's dress would 'fail' or her dance partner would drop dead, and tried to figure out a remedy for getting the smell of sour sweat out of my nostrils.

We got through Sunday's brunch, and re-set for a late afternoon company party which I'm sorry to say was very staid and therefor very boring (ie: no sequins, magic tricks, cowboy boots, or dirty dancing), and finally after cleaning up the dining room from that party I went home.

I'm still not overly fond of Christmas, mostly because I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of futility I endured for so many years, so it shouldn't be a huge surprise to hear that I still don't put up a tree or decorate (but I'm not a complete Scrooge and have stored all my treasured ornaments in a box in my sister's basement). But Hans is a whole different story.

You can see Hans has put up not just one, but three trees!!

I just shook my head and said, "Fine, but you're the one who gets to take them down after Christmas!"

Merry Christmas, Happy: Holidays, Hanukkah, and Festivus, or just plain old Bah Humbug to one and all from Laura, Hans, and Wilbur!


  1. nice storey I do enjoy your blog, fair winds & Merry Christmas.

  2. Thank you so much! I really do love the 'feeling' of Christmas and I'm very lucky that I will get to spend the holidays with all three of my kids this year! That's what's most important to me.

  3. We do love your stories. How close was your life to the Party Down show? Happy Holidays!

  4. I've never even heard of the Party Down Show (I feel very naive). Maybe that's a good thing?? And Happy Holidays to you and Miss M and Mr B!!! If it weren't for you I don't think we'd have Wilbur today.

  5. Great post! I wish my tree was that easy to take down ... I hesitate putting one up every year. Not much longer till I'm living in a sailboat and won't have that problem! Wishing you, Hans and Wilbur a "Merry Christmas"!

  6. Oh Laura, you have soooo many great stories to tell...still waiting for that book! :o) You so deserve to be off on a sailboat somewhere in the tropics with a nice cold drink in your hand, lounging on deck with the wind in your hair and not a "customer" in sight anywhere! Wishing you, Hans, and darling Wilbur the most wonderful and blessed of holidays and ALL THE BEST that the New Year can bring!



  7. Cheryl, maybe it's a good thing I don't enjoy decorating for the holidays, that'll be one less thing to miss.

    Cyndi, as crazy as my life was back then I still had fun, and sometimes it's a good thing to be really tired because you just don't have time to dwell on your problems.