Christmas parties are a drag. In my experience, a Christmas party is two or three hours trapped at a table trying to make polite conversation with people I avoid at work . I've attended parties where my fervent wish was to choke on a chicken bone so EMS could rescue me from the misery of forced cheer.
I viewed the Cowboy Christmas Party with the same anxiety and dread. I knew there was going to be a dinner, an open bar, a gift steal and some games. Mind you, the only games I wanted to play with the majority of my coworkers were the kinds of games cats play with mice right before they eat them.
It turned out, the atmosphere of the Cowboy Christmas Party was like a typical bar. People mingled, ate and drank while the jukebox played. The after dinner games were a ton of fun with some really great and occasionally expensive prizes. It was the best Christmas party I'd ever been to.
Then came the gift steal.
We were told to bring a $10 gift. I brought a rooster tea kettle. Someone else brought a cooler full of little bottles of booze. There were some handmade items. One guy brought some fish balls made from halibut he caught in Alaska. There was also a bunch of crap.
The object of the gift steal is everyone draws a number. The person with Number 1 picks the first gift and unwraps it. The person with Number 2 can either take that gift or pick a different one. Number 3 can take either of the first gifts or choose an unwrapped one. And so on.
This is an average game when people are sober. By the time we got around to the gift steal, 98% of the participants were trashed, and the 7 drunkest people wanted three things: the fish balls, the cooler of booze (hello?! open bar) and the rooster tea kettle. The gift steal was over within 15 minutes for all the sober and slightly drunk people. The fight for the tea kettle, the fish balls and the cooler of booze entertained the rest of us for more than an hour.
Secret deals were made.
It's possible firstborn children were offered up.
Grumpy wanted the fish balls.
Dopey wanted the fish balls (but only because she didn't want anyone else to have them).
Doc wanted the rooster tea kettle.
Bashful, Doc's wife, wanted to use the tea kettle to bargain for the fish balls to give to Grumpy. (Doc didn't care if Grumpy got the fish balls. He wanted the rooster tea kettle.)
Happy wanted the cooler of booze. (Strange because she brought it. If she didn't want to give it away, why bring it?)
Sleepy & Sneezy (a brother and sister team) wanted the cooler of booze.
Let the games begin!
Grumpy got the fish balls.
Dopey stole them.
Grumpy started crying.
Bashful stole them from Dopey.
Dopey took the cooler of booze.
Sleepy took the tea kettle.
Doc stole the fish balls.
Bashful started crying.
Happy stole the cooler of booze.
Dopey took the fish balls.
Grumpy and Bashful held each other and cried while they struggled to work out their next move.
Happy took the fish balls.
Snow White passed out and fell off her bar stool.
Doc got the tea kettle and hid it.
Sleepy stole the cooler of booze.
Grumpy took the fish balls.
Happy stole the cooler of booze and left Sleepy & Sneezy with a kid's night light.
In the stunned silence of the game finally ending, the man who brought the fish balls yelled to the defeated brother and sister team, "Way to go! You'll be lucky to get a hand job with that."
It was an absurd hour; crying over fish balls, fighting for a cooler of booze while at an open bar, drunks trying to plot and plan, but it was just the train wreck I needed. Years later I still laugh until my sides ache thinking about the tears and recriminations of the gift steal at the Cowboy Christmas Party.