Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mandatory merriment

The second office holiday party is today, and should be getting started right around the time this post goes up. For what it's worth, the previous party barely qualified as such, and was more of a large lunch provided in the office, with a little bit of holiday-themed decoration thrown up in the conference rooms. On the one hand I was spared the stiff socializing, but on the other hand it seemed strangely ... unnecessary? But as a bonus, there were copious leftovers for lunch the next day, so I absolutely got my money's worth. (Also, no major security violations. I'm sure you are all breathing a sigh of relief.)

Speaking of returns on investment, I have already paid out-of-pocket for today's lunch as well, and it is was a steeper price than last week's potluck but it's a sit-down at a nearby hotel, so that should balance out. More to the point, I'll be danged if I'm going to sit around the cube farm when I could blow off half the day, so that's worth a few extra bucks to me.

But only to me, you know? At the all-hands meeting back in November they reminded everyone about the holiday party and someone actually asked if spouses were invited. "Invited" of course is the wrong word; if I invite you over to my house for dinner, I don't expect you to cover the cost of your meal by forking over cash. So I suppose he meant "if spouses were allowed". To which the answer was, I guess? Seriously, the leadership kind of hemmed and hawed about it, saying that it has traditionally (always) been employees only, not least because it's in the middle of a workday. But they also granted that if someone's spouse were free that day, and really wanted to come, including paying for the meal, then it would be fine.

The unspoken implication, of course, was "What the hell is wrong with you?" Why would anyone go out of their way to attend a low-end banquet luncheon on a Tuesday which only justifies its existence within the sphere of the workplace by being slightly less depressing than doing nothing at all for Christmas at said workplace? Especially why would anyone do so when it's not their workplace? It's not even technically mandatory for us employees (my sardonic post-title notwithstanding), and people are allowed to say that it's not worth the admission price to shuffle over to a basement ballroom for rubber chicken and sparkling cider, and there are no repercussions for them.

I even tried thinking it through with an overabundance of benefit-of-the-doubt, as in maybe the thought of having lunch together on a weekday strikes this couple as a rare treat, maybe the husband always without fail works through lunch at his desk and on this one day a year when he's going to take a long lunch at a set time and could theoretically have his wife meet him there, they'd be fools not to make the most of it. But how much of a treat would it be for the two of them to be squeezed in with 8 other people around the table, almost all of whom will probably be compulsively talking shop the whole time? Forget being worth the cost outlay or not, is it worth doing at all?

Office Christmas parties to me are just one of those weird outgrowths of the nature of life in the Big Gray. They're inessential, but as I granted above, they're better than nothing. I don't hate them, they just occupy a very small place in my overall holiday experience every year. Maybe that's just me.

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