Senior Moments at Christmas Party
I belong to our local Senior Citizens Association. I joined in order to play in the scrabble group a few years ago, but also volunteered to set up a computer based membership system for them. But up until now, I had never really done any work relating to entertaining the old people. I suppose I count as one of the old people, as I am over the requisite age, and no doubt I will make use of the facilities in the future. But I thought I should make an effort at leat once to be a volunteer.
Yesterday was the annual Christmas party. Tickets are sold - £6 for members and £9 for non-members, just in case you need or want somebody to accompany you to this activity. For their money, they were provided with a cold collation of ham, turkey, 2 chicken legs, quiche, salad, pork pies, crisps and cole slaw. And for dessert, a mince pie, two hunks of Christmas cake, a handful of sweets and a dish of triffle.
They were also entitled to a chance in the prize draw which was for one of 15 food hampers, provided by donations, and varying in size and content, depending on the donor. For an additional £1 they could have a chance of winning a huge heavy white blanket that nobody wanted, and nobody claimed in the end.
I arrived at 9 and was almost the first there. The 11 other helpers soon came and concentrated on putting the various bits of the lunch on plaper plates – 105 tickets had been sold – and me and a few others set up the hall for eating. It had already been decorated in a very festive way, and with our new red chairs and recently cleaned green velvet stage curtains, the place fairly glowed. There were the arguments about how much space needed to be left between rows of tables, and which arrangement of tablecloth was more festive. We supplied crackers, the odd artificial candle and I put wine glasses out for all.
Now, you are thinking – this is all very well, but rather boring. This is supposed to be funny, or at least interesting.
By 11 everything was in order, and the guests were assembling in the lounge. The guitar teacher had volunteered himself to serenade the group with Christmas carols in advance of the lunch. This was without the knowledge or permission of the boss, Betty. The man, whom I shall call Martin – belongs to our scrabble group. I knew there were more than a few problems between him and the boss. Martin uses his tablet to look up words – which isn't really fair, as the rest of us have to make do with dictionaries. And he also wins an awful lot of the time.
While he was playing, it was decided that we 12 helpers should have our meal early, in the lounge, as we would be busy serving the others when the doors finally opened at noon.
I was told to put out the knives and forks, and others brought through our laden plates, and we were just about to dig in when someone rushed out and shouted, “Put them back in the kitchen, straight away.” So not knowing the problem exactly, we did. In counting out the plates, someone had suddenly realised that we 12 hadn't been counted in the totals, and there was no food available for us. So our 12 plates were transferred to the main room, only slightly dribbled over, and we dug deep in the fridge for whatever leavings we could find to give us at least a hint of a meal. In the end we had crisps, small sausage rolls, and the dregs of the coleslaw. But the wine flowed, and those who felt particularly hard done by the bad planning made up for it in liquid refreshment.
About this time, one of the helpers rushed up to Betty, and said, “That Red Cross lady is here, and she doesn't have a ticket.” So Betty, fairly well tanked by now, pushed back her chair and went to the Red Cross lady and told her she wasn't allowed in without a ticket. “But I was invited by a man, and another of my colleagues is coming too. We have come here every year for the last 20 years and there has never been any problem. I spent £15 on a taxi to get here,” she added.
“Well, we hadn't planned on you coming, and so there is no food for you. You can hang around and if somebody doesn't show up, I suppose you can eat their food,” said Betty most ungraciously. “Besides,” she added, “we don't need you. We have our own first aider now.”
“I haven't been informed of that,” said the Red Cross lady, “who is she?” Having had her pointed out, said lady came to our table, and asked the retired nurse about her qualifications and with her nose well and truly out of joint, she went back to await her also uninvited coworker. But she added, “A man called us and invited us to come.”
“They couldn't have done,” put in Betty, “as we no longer have any men on our committee.” This isn't quite true – as the secretary is a man, but I'm pretty sure that she was right in assuming that he wouldn't have done the dirty deed. However, coming in late, always a popular figure came the ex-ex boss, Ivan, who was only in the job for a few months before he escaped with a nervous breakdown. But when he recovered, he asked to come back at a more humble level of coffee maker. He was the one I suspected of causing the problem, but when he arrived, just in time to do his assigned job for the day – collecting the tickets – nobody had time to ask him if he had gone beyond his authority on this occasion.
At 10 to 12, the oldies started lining up – pushing for being the closest to the firmly closed main door into the hall. But first the over 90's with frames were allowed through the back door so they could settle and choose a place that suited their various problems. I was watching through the
hatch while this was going on, and suddenly noticed, as various others also did – that Red Cross lady was already in.
Betty marched in to yet again confront her. “It isn't 12 yet. The doors aren't open. You have no business to be in here.”
“It is 12,” she said, pointing to the clock.
“You can only come in when we say,” said Betty. But Ivan intervened and opened the door, and suddenly the place was flooded with people who were determined to get at the plates and get their share before anyone else.
Finally everyone was seated, and as the plates were already put on the table, there was a flurry as the vegetarians brought back their chicken legs in exchange for a hard boiled egg. And when it was all settled, there were 7 empty places, and therefore, 7 spare meals. But Red Cross lady got an
empty plate from the kitchen and said a friend had offered to share with her – so those spare plates went into the fridge to be divided amongst the workers left at the end of the day.
Now came the wine pouring ritual. There was water on the tables, and beer was also available but nearly everyone had the good quality wine, and many were waiting for a top up before more than a few minutes had passed. And then another top up. Before long, Betty was putting half bottles
on the tables for them to finish at their leisure.
First Cross lady said to Betty, “They should only have one drink each. That's all they
can cope with.”
Betty retorted, “They are all adults and are capable of saying no, and anyway it is none of your business. This is supposed to be fun for them.”
I filled and refilled glasses as the others did, and and noticed the cheeks getting red, as the room became warmer and rather stuffy. Suddenly Ivan, who was sitting near her, noticed a woman who was suffering. He signalled to the Red Cross lady, and she and her partner struggled across the very
crowded room to come to the woman's aid. She really looked pale and about to collapse. They gave her a drink of water, helped her by holding a napkin near her mouth, just in case, and eventually walked her out of the room.
Another of the helpers whispered in my ear, “talk about poetic justice.” Our first aider had been sitting next to me at the time, and didn't notice the problem or make any attempt to do anything about it.
Anyway, the woman survived as far as I know, and with opening some windows and doors the rest coped with their excess of wine without anyone else needing medical attention.
After the meal and various draws, we were entertained with very energetic Christmas carols by the local band, followed by an hour with three very talented singers regaling us. It was too much for me – too long to sit listening – too loud – too long without food. I was very glad when 4.15 came and the last wine glass was put away and I could take my rescued food and head for home. But I do think it was over all to be considered a success – and the members left happy and very merry.