There’s a grinch in our midst known globally as the Credit Crunch. Unlike the Grinch created by Dr Seuss, the likelihood of it turning friendly and good natured before December 25 has been extinguished.
Like all things there is a yin and yang; a good and bad side. The cutting back on the excesses of the traditional office Christmas party seems to be happening in most workplaces. Some have cut the fun completely while others will still enjoy a little festive frivolity but will definitely stem the flow of free booze in an attempt at belt tightening.
However the cost of a Christmas party can never be measured in money and from the people I’ve been speaking to, it might even be good to take a break this year. Apparently it was all getting rather samey and predictable in recent years. The hazards of a Christmas party are many; the embarrassing drink fuelled gyrating to Slade, the even more embarrassing secret santa presents and there’s always the quiet one who goes overboard on the free drink and decides it’s a good time to be completely honest and get a year’s worth of bottled up anxiety off the chest. Mind you the latter, when it happened, always made the whole thing much more interesting.
The cutback in Christmas office fun might also be good news for casualty departments everywhere. Removing photocopier glass from the backside of an overweight drunken salesman is not every medical worker’s idea of a productive evening! Now you may think that the idea of someone photocopying their bottom or other bits at an office Christmas party is the stuff of Hollywood myth and legend but I actually witnessed such madness in the early nineties in London.
It all started off rather humourously, if a little childishly at an office party held in the actual office. Managing to hoist himself up onto the large freestanding photocopier with his trousers around his ankles was, for this individual, an achievement in itself and one that got a large cheer from the not so innocent bystanders who were egging him on. The glass withstood the abuse for a few seconds but just after the start button was pushed the inevitable sound of breaking glass was heard. His middle part disappeared into the machine and it took two other men to dislodge him. With a bloodied ass, he had to crawl, face down, onto the back seat of a taxi to be taken to hospital! To preserve his dignity we did put his coat on, but the trousers were removed completely and laid neatly beside him. Although I don’t recall the face of this ex colleague too well, I can still vividly see the face of the cockney cab driver who was trying desperately not to laugh out loud.
Isn’t it amazing what drink can do. In sobriety this man knew that a photocopier is designed to take the weight of one leaf of paper at a time. In a drunken stupor it seemed perfectly logical that one sheet of paper was the equivalent of a 16 stone man! You would think that would have been enough fun for one Christmas party but it didn’t end there. Because of the damage done the boss had to be told. Now he wasn’t a witness because he had left the party to finish some ‘important business in his office.’ Having loaded the injured man into a taxi someone decided to go and find the boss on the top floor. They found him doing business in his office alright, but it was with the receptionist and they were both engaged in an industry that we weren’t aware the company was involved in! If you saw it on television you wouldn’t believe it.
The following year the Christmas party was held at an outside venue, not a photocopier in sight. Our married boss, who was now having a full blown affair with the same receptionist, wasn’t drinking too much that night as he said he was being picked up early. The receptionist had declined the invitation to the party altogether. Unfortunately his immediate underlings decided to spike his beer with shots. Inevitably they took effect.
He wasn’t lying when he said he was being picked up early and promptly left at the appointed time, although rather unsteadily. His chariot arrived driven by the receptionist, to find her captain of industry lover totally inebriated and urinating against the outside wall of the restaurant! Needless to remark this woman’s memories of Christmas parties are not happy ones. The office parties I have attended in Ireland since then have never reached such dizzying heights of gossip fodder, although there have been reported lewd fumblings here and there.
I suppose it’s not called the silly season for nothing but isn’t it quite remarkable how every year thousands of mature, professional people let their hair down in a most unusual way? Is the drink different at Christmas or is it just that they are intoxicated by the fact that it is being paid for by those ‘stingy b@*%€ards’ they work for all year round? (I’m just assuming that’s their attitude.)
This year will be different even though one would think if ever there was a year for a party this would be it. All this talk of recession, job losses and rising food and fuel prices should give those with a job one hell of an excuse to party like never before. It will also be interesting to see the companies who cancel or scale back on parties if their competitors are still going the whole hog. Does it suggest one is prudent and the other irresponsible or is it that one is actually doing better than the other? For the insecure it could cause much soul searching. Of course if you do have to make job cuts next year you could use the office party to identify the eejits! From the worker’s point of view even if they have never enjoyed one of these dos they may feel quite shortchanged by a cancellation. So you see with or without actually having a Christmas office party it still causes great anxiety.
As I’m self employed the Christmas party has been off my agenda for a few years now so this year will be pretty much the same as last year for me. Fortunately I have no adjustment to make. However if you are going to one, for God’s sake see it for the minefield that it is or if the Crunch has stolen your party, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise and saving you from stomach churning embarrassment in the new year or indeed witnessing some unsavoury aspects of your colleagues’ personalities. You see there is an upside to everything!