Dead Man Talking

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Christmas Party 1976 by Crad Kilodney

Christmas Party 1976 by Crad Kilodney

December 2000


In 1976, I was working in the warehouse of F. Company as an order filler for $130 a week. Despite having a college degree, I chose to work at mundane jobs when I came to Canada. I wasn’t looking for a career at the time, just a pay cheque.

But it’s hard to suppress your education and get dumbed down to fit in with your surroundings. People soon twig to the fact that you really don’t belong there. What’s your game anyway? If you’re so smart, why are you working in a warehouse?

Back then I was naïve and had poor judgement. I had to turn a crap job into a demonstration of my intelligence. In small and not so small ways, I signaled my superior attitude, and as a result, I was tagged as a misfit. There was one week when I used a stopwatch to keep track of the time I wasted catching and fixing the order department’s mistakes. That earned me the nickname “Mr. Stopwatch.” Even within the warehouse a co-worker told me in front of everyone else, “Everyone here knows you’re not one of us,” and no one came to my defense.

So we were going to have a Christmas party. And in advance of the festivities, each employee had to draw the name of another employee out of a box and buy that person an inexpensive gift, to be placed under the Christmas tree. The recipient would not know who the giver was. (I drew the lady who ran the lunch concession, and I bought her a food item and wrapped it to look funny.)

The day before Christmas, we gathered in the front office, which had a nice tree, under which lay all the presents. There were the usual decorations and a buffet table. The office manager handed out song sheets, and we sang a few traditional Christmas songs. Then came the distribution of the presents, which I was looking forward to.

One by one, the office manager picked up the presents, read the name on the tag, and handed the present out. I was wondering what sort of gift I’d get — no doubt some sort of gag gift. “Peter…Barb…Lew…Raj…Bob….” The pile got smaller and smaller. “Herbie…Doug…Lisa…Nancy….” Only three left! “John…Sandy…and Ken.”

My name wasn’t called!

I felt sick for a moment, but for once in my life, I did the right thing: I kept my mouth shut. No one had noticed I hadn’t gotten anything. I realized that whoever had drawn my name had simply not bought me anything. I would never know who it was. Had I made a fuss, it would have been a disaster.

I got some food and sat down in the order department with a lady who was friendly to me. She said that she “didn’t really fit in either,” although it wasn’t true. I didn’t tell her about not getting a present.

Before closing time, I looked for the one lady I had a crush on. I had a present for her — a poster of Salvador Dali’s Swans Reflecting Elephants. I’d spent a long time picking it out just for her. She liked it and gave me a friendly kiss on the cheek.

I don’t remember what sort of Christmas I actually spent or if I got any presents from anyone. (I had so many lonely Christmases.) I only remember that on Christmas Eve I finally understood that I was the most disliked person in the company where I worked, and I had a whole week to chew on that before I had to go back.



by Crad Kilodney


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