Some More Christmas Memories

7 Dec

From my other book, Western Waste, here is an excerpt from a chapter about the first office Christmas Party I attended as an official member of the journalism community (for the shipping industry.)

Wildly exaggerated, of course:

I invited Ian Stein to be my date at my first West Coast Weekly Shipper Christmas Party. I was a little hesitant about inviting Ian at first.

“I, uh, feel the need to explain to you about something,” I’d told him. “The people I work with—well, some of them are—let’s just say, a little, unusual.” I left it at that.

The party was scheduled for a Friday evening at one of the smaller ballrooms at the Palace Hotel, so it was a convenient walk for all of us from work.

I planned to wear the blue suede cocktail dress again. And Derek said he planned to wear a garment he called the Simkins Transport Publishing Group’s Communal Tuxedo.

There was a story about that tuxedo. There was almost always a story behind everything that happened to Derek, and if there wasn’t, he’d invent one.

Derek had flown in from an international London conference about air cargo transportation only a couple of days before the Christmas Party was scheduled to take place. As he had prepared to leave for London, he had lobbied Alan O’Fallon aggressively in an attempt to get Simkins to buy him a custom-fitted tuxedo.

He needed the tux for a formal reception in London, which was also being attended by a member of the Royal Family. At first, Alan was reluctant to authorize the purchase of the tuxedo for Derek.

He was a true Simkins man through and through; in other words, he was as cheap as a dime-store throw rug. “It’s a needless expense, Derek, for a one-time shot. I just can’t justify it,” Alan had rasped.

“Well, I am not buying my own tuxedo,” Derek had replied. “I’ll just have to shake hands with the horse-faced princess wearing a standard business suit.”

“Would that really be so bad?”

“Alan,” Derek had replied, measured and patient, as if talking to a child. “We all saw those charming photos in the last Simkins Group Annual Report of Lord Kevvy shaking hands with the Queen and playing polo with Prince Philip. Now how would it look if a representative of His Lordship showed up in plain and unremarkable mufti at a swanky event attended by the Queen’s daughter? Lord Kevvy would lambaste us all if he knew about it.”

In the end, Derek got his way, but only after a concession to Alan’s sense of company thrift.

“Ah, ah, ah, well, Derek, you do have a good point about Lord Kevvy and the Royal Family,” Alan had replied, wavering. “The thing is, the tuxedo would be worn by you, but it would belong to the company, not to you personally. You must understand, other people in the company would need to have use of the suit if they required it. Yes, that is it, the suit must be made communal and available to all Simkins Transport Group executives to wear at any time.”

“Yes, indeed, Alan,” Derek had agreed solemnly, looking down at Alan from the full height of his six-foot-three, 295-pound frame. “I henceforth agree that anyone from Simkins who wears a men’s Size 42 Long will have use of the suit.”

And so Derek had got his tuxedo.

When it was time for the Christmas Party, I changed into the blue suede cocktail dress in the ladies’ room at 562 Mission, and Derek went to the men’s room to change into the Communal Tuxedo. Then we walked over to the Palace with Tracey and Dal.

I’d done my best, with a needle and thread, to anchor the shoulder pads to the inside of my dress. With the shoulder-pads under control, I thought I looked pretty good.

“I’m gonna have the first dance with you, Liz,” Dal said admiringly, and I blushed.

“I can’t dance in this thing. It’s too tight,” I said.  I was feeling happy and giddy. Even the winos made me smile as we passed them on our way; they almost looked festive in the holiday atmosphere. I hummed some lines from Zappa’s Wonderful Wino as we trudged by Henry’s.

The two winos we called Ebony and Ivory shouted out their approval from the sidewalk.

“Blonde chick in blue, how ‘bout a kiss?” screamed Ivory. “I gotta Chapstick stick with yur name on it! Yur lips a lil’ wrinkly, and ya look cold.”

“Yeah Liz,” teased Dal. “He gotta Chapstick stick with your name on it.”

“Oh shuddup, Dal,” I laughed. “ ‘Chapstick stick’ is redundant terminology by the way. And those are my homeboys, Ebony and Ivory. Have some respect.”

“Well you can dance with them then.”

“Fat chance.”

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