It was a Monday night, and being a creature of habit, I went to the bar of the restaurant I have gone to on almost all Monday nights from time immemorial and sat down with a couple of books to read while I ate my customary salad, bread, and chicken parmesan, finished off with some vanilla ice cream. Perhaps it is unwise to get the vanilla ice cream, being moderately lactose intolerant as I am, but that which tastes good often wins out over that which is strictly the best for my health. Like all human beings, I suppose I have my characteristics, perhaps including a shade of gluttony. At any rate, when I was done with my ice cream, I chatted with the bartender about whether or not the restaurant would be open next Monday, or if I would have to come the week following after visiting perhaps some time during the week on a different date than usual, as I sometimes do when Mondays are unavailable. Having received an answer, I was near unto leaving when perchance the manager of the restaurant came over to inform me that as a regular I was invited to the restaurant’s x-mass party that was going on in one of the banquet rooms. Despite having polished off a by no means contemptible dinner, I went into the party after timidly inquiring as to where exactly it was, not wishing to go somewhere amiss and embarrass myself.
Upon entering the room, I found it to be mostly full of servers I did not know. I modestly took a plate and put some mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and pot roast on it and walked over to an empty table, but scarcely had I sat down when another one of the experienced servers, one of the few ones I had known because he frequently comes up behind the bar to chat about various matters in a sardonic tone as I am eating and drinking my water (most often), iced tea (less often), or shirley temples (still less often), came up to me to ask me if I wanted to sit with people and if I was particularly attached to reading. Although I would have been quite content to sit by myself and enjoy the people watching and reading opportunities, I took him at his offer and squeezed in next to him and his girlfriend, an attractive blonde who also regularly came up to the bar during the hours I camped at the bar and ate and read, and informed those servers I did not know that I had been invited by the manager, an answer which satisfied them, especially when they saw that I knew some of the people there already.
It did not take me long to polish off the food, which was tasty, and to get to work at the puzzle that was in front of me, being only 24 pieces and thence not a particularly challenging puzzle by my standards. After that task was accomplished, there were a few competitions to go. First, there was an ugly sweater contest. Never being one to celebrate Christmas myself, nor being the possessor of any ugly sweaters, since the clothes that I buy or that people make or purchase for me are aesthetically pleasing, I have never understood the appeal of ugly sweaters or contests involving ugly sweaters, but the competition inspired a great deal of heated rivalry. For one, the bartender was a contestant, having borrowed a particularly ugly sweater from his mother for the competition. For another, the people at my table (myself excluded, not cheering for anyone) were immensely hostile to the bartender because he had apparently given his two weeks notice and was thus viewed as a traitor to the cause of the employees of the company, and thus not in good terms with those who remained loyal employees, and they were resolved to loudly throw the competition to a rival, who I was unfamiliar with and who also had on a very ugly sweater.
After that was done there was another competition which involved raffle tickets. Not being someone who is particularly lucky in such matters, I was sympathetic when the gloomy waitress next to me commented that despite having received various raffle tickets for having donated cans for a food drive the restaurant had done commented that she never won at these events. And, true to her expectations, she did not win this time either, getting more and more gloomy every time someone else’s number had been called to win a gift card to Starbucks or Best Buy or a gumball machine or some other trinket. One person did particularly well, a young woman who worked a shift or two a week while studying in graduate school, and as she won first one, then another, and then still another raffle prize, the waiter next to me became increasingly negative about the fact that this short-timer who worked very few hours and was thus not a loyal employee kept on winning raffle prizes while more loyal employees were shut out of the prizes, including his lady friend, it must be admitted. When someone else won a prize, the sour waitress noted in scorn that she was one of the people who the food drive was for, and thus it was singularly inappropriate for her to have won any of the prizes.
Nor did this exhaust the grievances my cohorts had. As it happens, there had been a promise made to employees of the restaurant that there would be free booze for those who came to the party, and the promise had apparently been reneged upon by a higher up who perhaps did not want to make the restaurant liable for any fines or DUI convictions that would result from people enjoying the party a bit too much. Not being much of a drinker myself, this did not bother me too much, but all the same it added to the general sense that people had of being ill-used. Much in life depends on expectations. Having not been aware of the party beforehand and having been invited into an event that I would have no right to demand entrance into, I was feeling in a charitable mood, enjoying a good show and generally pleasant company and more food, not that I needed to eat more than I already had that evening. But those around me were in a different spot, having been promised free booze and the chance at winning something and being empty-handed and without that elixir of life that makes disappointments and frustrations easier to bear for those whose liver can tolerate it. And while my table companions plotted where they could go to buy liquor in lieu of being able to enjoy it for free and thus to have some amusement on an otherwise dull Monday night, for me, having finished my food and seeing that the festive mood of an admittedly not very festive party had died down, I graciously made my farewells and exited the restaurant to go home and resume my reading unmolested.