Christmas invariably leads to one of the most evil social practices known to man: forcing your significant other to attend the company Christmas party, where they do not know a single soul, save yourself.
I was the victim of such a party this year. To make matters more uncomfortable, we had to travel to Portland for the festivities. Since my husband is a relative newcomer to this company, he was not familiar with the party protocol.
So, naturally, the first thing we did was to take our heavily laden plates of appetizers and sit down at the one table we were not supposed to sit down at.
This was the head table.
In our defense, there was no apparent difference between that table and the 50 other tables that were set with fine china and crystal. It was not marked "Head Table. Peons keep off." We were clueless.
So we sat.
The view was nice. We were able to see the entire room, the bar, the band and the dance floor from our table.
Hubby went to the bar to get me a drink. I, in what I thought was my most daring moment of the night, ordered a Shirley Temple.
Yes, I was throwing caution to the wind, walking on the wild side and letting the chips fall where they may. I was even planning on eating the cherry.
While nibbling on crab-stuffed mushrooms, I saw my husband wending his way back to our lovely table, looking like he'd bitten something sour.
"We have to move! We have to move!"
He picked up his plate and started scuttling away as fast as he could. I tossed down my napkin, picked up my plate and followed.
"What's wrong?" I cried.
"We sat at the head table! That's where the CEO, the president and the bigwigs sit!"
Then I fainted. OK, no I didn't, but I should have.
As mistakes go, this wasn't on the scale of, oh, say, sitting on the CEO, but apparently it was close.
Our punishment was to wander the sea of tables, in search of a place to sit that wasn't already taken. This was junior high all over again.
After wandering for what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights, we were accosted by the self-proclaimed social director of the company. She was an adorable woman, with an equally adorable husband.
She sat us down at her table. Then she moved to another table.
A man and his daughter came to sit at our table. We made small talk. They were originally from Ohio.
Then they moved to another table.
I was feeling abandoned, so I ordered another Shirley Temple. Yes, I was driving, but I didn't care. People were fleeing our table.
Was it the Shirley Temples I was tossing back? Were they worried I'd start table dancing? I didn't know.
I downed another one.
The social director and her husband moved back to our table. Saviors! Someone to talk to!
The highlight of the night was when the social director's husband was asked to open a window, as it was very warm.
He, adorable man that he was, walked over to the nearest window and promptly broke it. The glass didn't shatter, but the window itself came right off its hinges.
I don't know if it was all the Shirley Temples I'd consumed, but I couldn't stop laughing. Neither could the other employees and their significant others seated at our table.
At last! Something we all had in common.
We survived the party and went back to our hotel.
Around 7 the next morning, I was angrily berating my husband about having set the alarm clock so early while attempting to beat it into submission.
After shoving it under three pillows, I realized it was the fire alarm going off.
Despite my Shirley Temple hangover, hub-by and I managed to dress before meeting the other company employees downstairs as the fire truck arrived.
Nothing bonds like being forced from your bed into the frigid December wind.
Now that we're all friends, I can hardly wait for next year's Christmas party.
Freelance columnist Pamela Troeppl Kinnaird can be reached at Pamela Troeppl@comcast.net.