Friday, 20 May 2011

Dignity in the face of an unwanted gift

At my school we celebrate Teachers Day.

This means a slap up meal at a posh hotel followed by a raffle and a karaoke.

Problem is that the raffle brings out the worst in human pettiness.

Weeks before we were asked what we’d like to receive as a present up to 300 Mexican pesos in value. I opted for an MP3 player until I was told that there was no guarantee we would get the presents we’d selected as names are pulled out of a box and after that a number for that person, designating a gift. So, I changed my choice to “gift token” and thought “if I don’t get it I’m not that arsed as it isn’t that big a deal”.

It was only hours later that I realised this was me being “a bit childish” as the gift was something I wasn’t entitled to and it was being given by the good grace of my boss. Problem is, despite what anyone says, feeling an emotion and pretending you’re feeling an emotion are two completely different things.

Come the day we sat in the swanky Tamaulipas suite of the local 5 star hotel and after dining on some exquisite edible dishes we waited with baited breath for the “drawing of the numbers”.

The gifts were all laid out over and in front of four large tables and they ranged from not one but TWO MP3 players, to a folding chair to a storage box to a multi-tool set to a DVD player. We whispered in our huddles of two or three that if “I get what you want and you’ve got what I want or something equally as cool will you swap me?” and craned to get a look of just what people were getting. I inwardly groaned as my neighbour got one of the MP3 players and she offhandedly said “no, I think I’ll keep it it might be useful” narking me off at her casual attitude to WHAT I WANTED.

When my name was pulled out I rummaged around in the Tupperware box and got number 12….a portable barbecue. I dutifully posed for my photo, grinning broadly and returned to the table, placing the green and silver contraption on it so that anyone wanting to do swapsies could see it and make a beeline for me after the last person had been up.

How I inwardly chortled when the two guys opposite me got a cool bag (for keeping drinks cold on picnics) and a golfing bag.

When they finally thanked us and began to plug in the karaoke me and a couple of others scurried up to the lady who’d supervised the draws to ask if we could swap. You see, the Jeep multi tool set comprised of a leatherman and lock knife was still unclaimed and as I walked up with my portable fish and steak griller I found one of my colleagues was already arguing her case.

I asked the draw lady if I could have it too and my equally eager colleague turned to me, fixing me with an icy stare and said flatly that it was “needed” for her husband. The powers that be decided the best thing was to have another raffle for the right to swap for the unclaimed items and lo and behold I got it. One multi-tool and lock knife set (endorsed by Jeep) was mine and as I sat there clutching my new gift, while the barbecue resided back on the table, now unwanted and unclaimed, the lady whose husband had needed it asked if she could have a look and then through tight lips asked “what exactly do YOU need it for?”

Overall I realised that even when we are promised something that we wouldn’t have otherwise had, most people revert back to being children at Christmas when given something they don’t want, regardless of whether it’s free or not. Part of my brain was telling me to be grateful and that the barbecue would make a nice present for my girlfriend’s family. The other part was sulking and kicking the walls of its bedroom for not getting the nice MP3 player that he wanted.

Dignity is sometimes a hard mask to wear.

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