For weeks beforehand, my office was abuzz with talk of the holiday party.
“Are you going?” asked the woman in the next cubicle.
“To the christmas party?” I asked. “Yeah.”
“You know it’s a holiday party not a christmas party?” she asked, gently. Sure, I nodded, taking in her ‘seasonal’ decorations of red and green snowmen which covered the walls of her cubicle.
At the party itself, I took in the red and green centerpieces and the playlist picked by someone with an overabundance of christmas spirit. I found myself a seat and leaned in to hear my coworkers gossip of parties past.When my group broke up, I got up to find a place to stash my coat.
“How’s it going?” asked my colleague, and our resident party planner, when he spotted me on my own. I was maneuvering between cramped tables in the basement of a downtown bar, where people clustered awkwardly between the tables at which no one seemed eager to sit. The lighting was dim, the music loud, the ambiance uncomfortable – for those who were still sober because of those who no longer were.
“Good!” I exclaimed, my smile stretched to what I assumed he would take for an enthusiastic grin. In the fifteen minutes since I’d walked in, I’d checked my watch three times and was going for a fourth when the organizer had spotted me.
“Great!” he exclaimed in return, in what appeared to be genuine happiness. “Just remember not to have anything.” And with that he walked away.
Every year, my office has held a holiday party, organized and paid for by the staff. It includes a buffet meal and an open bar – as long as you’re drinking one of the four house specials. It’s heavily subsidized by the managers, so that everyone can afford the $25 to $35 cover charge. So, managers are put out by excessive expense they bear, staff are annoyed they have to pay, and people who keep kosher are allowed to attend for free as long as they don’t eat or drink, water included.