Now that I've been at the store for a few years, it's fun to see how new employees will react. We had two newbies this year. One is a quiet mother of two, the sort of woman you might pin as a Mormon with traditional family values. Turns out my coworkers and I missed the mark on that a bit because she drank quite a bit and was quite tipsy all evening. The other new girl is still in high school and looked a little overwhelmed, but she's quite mature for her age and always manages to hold her own with the older staff members.
We've gone to this restaurant for several years because the owner knows my bosses, but in the past few years he's been transitioning away from the restaurant's management. This year was the first time he wasn't at the party, and to be honest the lack of personal touch showed. On previous occasions, he acted as bartender and ensured that no glass ever went empty. This time, I walked in to find a selection of wine bottles on a table and not a waiter in sight. The food was less exciting, too. My first holiday party I had a delectable lamb chop that I still remember with a happy, longing sigh; this year's salmon or steak offerings were far more pedestrian. Throw in overcooked greens and bread rolls straight from a Costco bag and it wasn't the most inspired menu. I suppose I shouldn't be a snob about it, though. The recent minimum wage hike is probably hitting them just as hard as it's hitting us, so corners must be cut when they can.
V&M assign seating at these dinners, and sometimes you end up sitting with people you otherwise don't see more than a couple of times throughout the year. This year, though, I was tucked in-between a sweet old lady who cusses like a sailor to the delight of the millennial staff, and our school visits manager. I work with both of them frequently and it was quite fun.
Every year, as we wrap up dessert the bosses perform some sort of little song or rap about the store. They try to recognize each staff members' contributions to the success of the business, which is very sweet. They sang high praises of our sidelines buyer, who leaves at the end of the month, and welcomed the two new hires. My line in the song tied in with my role acting as tech support, which seemed very accurate for 2018.
The holiday party highlight is, of course, the gift exchange. I had a low number this year, so I was one of the first to go. I picked an oddly-shaped present, and it was an enormous, ugly bird feeder. It was metal and looked like a small umbrella with a dinner plate attached to the bottom of it. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting it, so I was resigned to trying to figure out a place to prop it up in our backyard, but one of the ladies actually stole it for her garden! I was so relieved.
The second gift I picked out was a massage kit. It was an aromatherapy-style one, similar to what I used to sell at Bath & Body Works back in the day. There was a plastic massage roller and a couple of essential oils bottles, a perfectly pleasant set. I once again assumed I was stuck; who would want massage oils when there were far more exciting offerings like exotic orchid plants, kitchen supplies, and fancy candles? But before long our tipsy Mormon mother stole it with an expression of pure delight. I didn't dare chance unwrapping a third present and getting stuck with something truly bizarre, so I stole a ceramic composting unit from one of my coworkers. It sounds so boring – I mean, compost? - but it'll look much nicer in our kitchen than the broken rice pot I've been using to store food scraps when I'm too lazy to carry things out to the compost bin.
There were some pretty nice gifts this year. A pretty turquoise teapot. A soft, fuzzy scarf. There was a bit of a fight over a cute Indian lunchbox. The high school student initially opened it, and you could tell that she just loved it. My f-bomb droppin' seatmate straight up stole it from her, though. Everyone was a little bit shocked that the nice li'l grandma stole from a teenager, but hey. Gift exchanges are seriously business, and these ladies don't mess around.
Some items were kinda neat, but I wouldn't know what to do with them. A desktop waterfall fountain is cool, but who has space for one? There were five or six large orchids, but I'd kill them just like I kill the miniature party favor plants we get at the end of each year's holiday party. In fact, I really need to research the care of orchids since this year we each received a little yellow orchid in a metal pail. I'd like to keep it alive, if possible. There's gotta be a first time, right?
All in all, another fun party and another year at the bookstore is wrapped up and done.