JJ Vincent has to run the Black Sheep Dirty Santa at his weekly knitting group. And he discovers you haven’t fought until you’ve had a bar room brawl over yarn.
I know that some of you are knitters. Or you crochet. Admit it. It’s ok. There are a lot of us. There must be, or the publishers would stop publishing pattern books for us and the people who run our knitting retreats would not occasionally be found in corners, curled up in balls, mumbling to themselves and a skein of worsted alpaca (alpaca—big fuzzy things with lollipop heads).
My partner and I have been part of a local knit/crochet/etc. group for about 7 years. We are not your Gramma’s knitters, unless your Gramma and her friends are really cool. We meet in a side room at a local restaurant, and our conversations are PG-13 on a good night. The ratio of women to men is about 3:1, and if at least one person per night does not get the B-word screamed at them, something is very wrong. Weekly show-and-tell runs the gamut from freshly spun wool to handmade glass penis beads to fresh tattoos to yarn spun from the chest-hair of musk ox (it’s called quivit, and one good sized ball will set you back more than a box of good cigars). We’ve got farmers, housewives, engineers, programmers, retirees, small business owners, college students, nurses, gamer geeks…people who seemingly have nothing in common except a love of making things and minds that roll around in the same gutter.
I tell you all of this as background for what happened the other night. You’ve probably heard of Dirty Santa…each person contributes a gift and then takes a gift in turn, and when it’s your turn you either pick from the pile or steal someone else’s stuff. After a set number of “steals”, the item is declared dead. We do one of these in December, one about June, and one in the fall called “Black Sheep”, which is everyone’s chance to offload their unloved, unwanted, and sometimes just plain hideous yarn on someone else. The good part is, you get rid of stuff you hate. The bad part is that you are revealing to everyone that at one time, you thought that that red and silver tinsel-and-pom pom yarn was awesome. The best part is that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The scary part is what people will do for that treasure.
So on this night, I am running the Black Sheep Dirty Santa, outfitted in my usual work clothes (jeans, shirt, wookboots), and wearing a pink-and-purple tiara so I could be seen in the crowd. Part of being the Sheep Runner is keeping order. Usually, Black Sheep is a pretty easy gig, since people tend to play keep away with the bulk of the items, planning their steals so they do NOT get stuck with something. But this time, there was a lot of Really Good Stuff in the mix. And this means war. I’m barely 5’4″. There are a lot of pointy sticks. There are two other men there (F-M ratio 5:1). One is a guest and more interested in starting trouble than referreeing it. The other is trying to untangle a huge tangled pile of chainmaille rings. I am utterly alone. The game (12 players, 24 gifts, each player has 2 numbers) begins quite sedately until #4 steals from #2 who steals from #1 who then takes from the gift pile. #5. #6. #7 steals from #2 (who has now been stolen from twice) who steals from #5 who steals from #1 who calls #5 a b—-who then climbs over a chair and the person in it to steal from #6 who takes from the gift pile. Now, finally, we move along to #8. I have taken up a position against the wall and shout my orders, or I am going to be trampled. The whispering has begun, as partnerships form to negotiate who is going for what, with The Big Male guest, well known for instigating trouble, smiling in a most unnerving way. #9, #10.
#12 is wondering if anything she wants will still be alive when her first number is up. I am now standing on a chair, trying to make myself heard and not get run over. The steals are running long now, six or seven a turn. #13. #14 to #3 to #8 to #6 to #9 to #10 to #1 to the gift pile. We’ve got a running tally now. 5 b—-hes, 3 you a**hole, a sprinkling of F-Us, some “THAT WAS MINES”, numerous threats of parking lot theft, at least one “I know where you live”, and an offer to trade a three-year-old for that bag of cashmere. Despite my tiara, I am rendered powerless to do anything more than keep track of what number we are on, tell people to hold up “in play” items, and hope that that last “I will cut you,” was someone talking to their yarn. Also note, the room has a gigantic window open to the bar, so those people got a lot more than they bargained for.
An hour and a half later, it is over. Everyone has two somethings. The wheeling and dealing is underway—bargains, trades, promises, favors, outright bribery, shameless manipulation, begging, wheedling, and even Big Man trying to dash out the door with an armful of goods, only to be stopped bodily in his tracks by two women half his size.
It seems knitting really is a full contact sport.
photo: calliope / flickr