For the past six years, I've work for a small firm in Northwest Portland. Overall, It's a fine job with decent benefits and nice enough coworkers, save for Carl. Carl is a piece of shit. Carl is also the boss' brother, so no one ever tells Carl that he's a piece of shit.
Every year we have an Office Holiday Gift Exchange where we all draw names out of a Santa Hat. Then, we go out and find fun gifts for our coworkers. The only rules are that 1.) the gifts must be office-appropriate and 2.) you can't spend more than $50.
For most of my co-workers, it's a celebratory tradition. But not for me. I hate everything about our Office Holiday Gift Exchange because Carl has drawn my name from the Santa Hat every single year since I started working at the firm. And every year, Carl finds a way to ruin it for me.
Who knows what this year will hold. Maybe Carl will get his shit together. Maybe someone else will finally draw my name. Hopefully, I'll draw Carl's name, because I've kept track of everything with the hope that one day, I can hand him a gift basket filled with all this bullshit he's given me over the past 6 years:
What I Said: Oh cool! Thanks, Carl.
What I Meant: I'm a 26-year-old alcoholic, Carl. What on Earth makes you think that I don't already own a corkscrew?
Gift: Another corkscrew
What I Said: Oh, how thoughtful. Thank you, Carl.
What I Meant: Carl, this is why I still haven't accepted your friend request on Facebook.
Gift: DVD copy of The Matrix Reloaded
What I Said: I love sci-fi, and I really appreciate this, Carl.
What I Meant: I know for a fact that you make over $65,000 a year, Carl, and it's obvious that you bought this last minute at a Goodwill. At first I was hoping this would be a gag-gift we could have a laugh over, but then it became clear that you're totally mirthless in your Christmas gift-giving. And the movie's not even in it's original DVD box, Carl. It's in a blank box with the words "The Matrix: Reloaded" written on the front in Sharpie.
What's wrong with you, Carl? I'm not mad about the gifts. It's not even about the gifts. It's about the principle of the thing, because it can't possibly be that hard for you to be considerate. This year, I gave Carol and candle and a gift card to Bath & Body Works, and I don't know her at all. She's only worked here for a few weeks, and all I know is that she's 40 and divorced. So I got her a candle, because everyone likes a good candle. Then I got her a gift card to a store that I know sells pillows because older, divorced women love how superfluous pillows make empty beds feel less lonely. Was it the best gift? No, but at least I am trying. You, on the other hand, are being rude as fuck.
What Was Given: Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success
What I Said: Thanks! You know, I've really been looking forward to reading this.
What I Meant: Let's get one thing straight, Carl: It's rude for anyone other than myself to buy me a self-help book. What are you trying to say, Carl? Huh? You know what, you got married last year, and I was happy to be there for you even though you didn't have an open bar at the reception, you stingy bastard. And now that you feel secure and comfortable in your marriage, you've put on a little weight. But you don't see me buying you books about weight loss, now do you, Carl? No. Instead, You see me using words like "body positivity" and "I also keep my shirt on when I go swimming at the beach." Because I'm there for you, Carl. I support you, Carl. I see you more often than I see my own mother, Carl, and I'm trying to make this workplace acquaintanceship work. But, despite my best efforts, you turn around and give me a book like you're some kind of bougie aunt. How dare you, Carl. Also, you left the price tag on the book because you're uncouth as all hell. So now I know that this book cost you 75 cents and was bought at the same Goodwill you where you got The Matrix Reloaded last year.
Gift: Lottery Tickets
What I Said: Oh boy, I sure hope one of these is a winner!
What I Meant To Say: You didn't invest any thought into this. This looks like you were checking out at the grocery store and thought, "Oh yeah, I've got to get a gift for that guy I've known and worked with and spoken to every day for the better part of a decade. I know! How 'bout I get him $5 worth of garbage." And then, Carl, upon handing me the lottery tickets, you had the audacity to smile, look me dead in the eyes, and say, "If you win, you gotta give me half."
I ain't giving you shit, Carl.
You know what? I hope I do win. I hope I win a whole shitload of money. But I'd never even dream of giving you half, Carl. What I'm going to do instead is take your wife out to a fabulous lunch before escorting her on the shopping spree of her dreams. I'm going to take her to all the fanciest stores. You probably take her to Nordstrom Rack, but I'm going to take her to a regular-ass Nordstrom.
She's going to have a great time, Carl. She's going to feel young again. She's going to get so caught up in our platonic merriment that she'll eventually lean in to kiss me. But don't worry, Carl. I won't kiss her back. Instead, I'll pull back with a look of disgust and say. "Karen, what are you doing? You're married. Please, stop embarrassing yourself."
Then I'll leave her to take a taxi back home because she's too old to know about Uber. And then, when she gets home, she'll feel bad for her infidelities and you'll feel bad that you're too cheap to buy nice things for your wife. You'll fight for a while, and all the marital problems between you two will come bubbling to the surface. You'll scream, she'll shout, and by the end, it'll be too late to take back all that was said.
The divorce will be amicable. For the first time in your cheap life, Carl, you won't put up a fight when Karen's lawyers demand you pay up. She'll spend her alimony checks on excess pillows, and you'll wonder what went wrong as you attempt to fill the void in your heart with booze and prescription painkillers. You'll spend most of your time drunk, high, and alone, staring at old wedding photos and wondering where it all went wrong.
It won't be until years after the separation that you suddenly realize how all that grief and misery could've been easily avoided had you just once given me a decent fucking Christmas present.
Gift: A third corkscrew
What I Said: Fuck you, Carl.
What I Meant: Fuck you, Carl.