It is holiday party week, where people you know will be making nice in an office, eating snacks off napkins; there will be catching up and loud music, so why not. You can do worse than small talk and bummed smokes. You go and it is all of those things and because it is winter, you have forgotten a little about being around people. You know about being around plants and cats, you know about their careful feeding and minor barfing problem. You go to one party and you revel in free food and someone to put a cut lime in yr water, which is reason enough leave the house anyhow: ice cubes & limes & the water that bubbles. It feels like a virgin experience.
<--- (this, friends, seems to be an okay holiday party story.)
* * *
I am prone to overexaggertion, proven fact. But I used react to acquaintances "Here is My Horrible Stereotypical Office Party Description" with kind of a yawn. I'm a bitch. I have seen Office Space, 700 times, yo, thank you. I KNOW, I know, I know. Pass the cake, Milts, etc. It can't be that bad. But now? Now, I know.
Now you will come to me, and I will cradle you. I will hold you in my loving arms, and we will cry together at the memory of so much innocence lost. I feel you, Holiday Party Suffrs. Let me be yr Oprah.
* * *
Last year I worked in a soul-anihilating job at a brain-withering company, an office built from cold hearts and gray-n-mauve patterned carpet and young skinny pale peons who flinched when you raised your hand above your waist. I didn't realize just how bad it was til I left - it's like I'm still going through Stockholm Synd. rehab.
I barfed in a trash can my first day on the job.
One of my bosses consistently called me "Lily." Not my name.
The company holiday party in short: the food was bad, the boxed Chard was watered down, and the HR people grunted menacingly as they thrust holiday bonus checks into yr hand (the only good thing to ever come of that work experience, and even the CHECKS were mean-lookin') Also, they gave us lawn chairs with the company logo on it, leftovers from a failed promotional campaign. Merry fucking something something. At the throwdown in the 7th floor conference room, I talked to the one person I vaguely knew, met a spouse of another employee (the Mrs. was wearing a sticky angora sweater and kept wanting to talk about the rabbit pens she kept in her backyard), ate some dry satay-on-a-stick, and then left early down the back staircase- cleverly, I thought, inserting myself the smokers on their way down to the parking deck. My supervisor (homophobic homosexual, Republican, meaner than a snake) gave me the stink eye as I escaped.
No one knew each other in our department. We were all contractors and didn't work in the actual office most days, only spending a bizarrely silent afternoon once or twice a month together filling out timesheets and stuff in shared windowless rooms. No one decorated their walls. I had a computer, a set of files, and a dead plant on my desk.
One time I came into the office, and my computer was gone. The IT guys had just given it to someone else.
I started an internet blahhg because it was either that, or take some sort of sharp weapon to my own skull.
To spread the cheer, a department holiday function was also held (3:30 to 4:45 PM, group cleanup til 5). Think a few short minutes of potluck scarfing, followed by 45 minutes of berating (because SOME employees didn't bring their mandatory company notebooks to the POTLUCK, even though it's still a TEAMBUILDING function, and we HOPE THAT'S NOT HOW YOU ACT ON CLIENT SITE, TOO because you must have FORGOTTEN that it is your job to WRITE and that means recording EVERYTHING even at HOLIDAY PARTIES now DOESN'T IT??????????), followed by the dessert table in the office supply room. No really, you must try Patricia's mallowbars. No, really. IT IS COMPANY POLICY THAT EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM TASTE A MALLOW BAR. You like having a job, no?
A month or two later, and the project I was assigned to was still sucking my will to live despite management snarks that "this can only get better," the money was tight, and every third employee was being laid off.
* * *
This is where I become a beacon of hope, a light at the end of yr Holiday Office Party Tunnel. You, oh damaged employees, pissed upon and downtrodden: now is the time of year to reevaluate! you, too, can quit yr job!
I escaped, I am happier x eleventy billion. I work for a nice ol' Dem now, not known for bouts of pas-aggress pouting and snarky opinions on my home remodeling projects and strange political rants and weird nonsequitor declarations about how he used to be a surfer-model in Cali. I no longer have to take bizarre government-funded trips to sexist, terrifying events (Ask me about how the US reaallllly spends money, besides playing war!)
Last night I ate like a champ at one of the city's best restaurants. That is how we roll here in the newest career digs. The only scarring I have to show for it is blisters from a 15 block walk in heels (???i know???) because A) I am too mentally limited to find a cab B) I don't know how to wear high heels and C) and by the time I started walking, I was like: eh, fuck it.
I like my now-oldish new job.
Happy Holidays, Cubesisters and brothers, far n wide.