Saturday, December 9, 2006

The Company Holiday Party

I dread company holiday parties. Too many people use the occasion to suck up to their bosses and "be seen." My evil biotech company is a large one, so there will probably be around 200 people there, next weekend. I'm not very good at politicking, and I despise sucking up, so I stick to a minimum of greetings. Combine that with my seeming inability to find decent seats for me and my spousal unit, and you find us off in the corner sitting at a table with new employees I hardly know from other departments, and their wives or girlfriends. It's sort of like "the loser's table" in high school cafeterias. I shake hands and make a little small talk with the new guys, then there is the uncomfortable silence. Now, I have a little bit of a hearing problem in crowded rooms full of chattering people, so when I say "uncomfortable silence," I actually mean "can't hear a damned thing anyone says even when they say something." Truthfully, I can't say I really *want* to see folks. I see most of them all day every day at work. Why would I want to spend my pitifully short amount of child-free personal time doing more of the same? When I do talk with them, it starts with small talk ("How are those adorable children doing?") but inevitably degrades into discussions about work ("So, what do you think of the new TPS reports?"). So I paste on a smile and pick at my dinner roll at my corner table. Doubtless the other couples at my table are thinking the same as me: "Why the hell did we come to this thing when we could have seen 'Casino Royale?'" The kids are at the sitter's, after all. How often does that happen?

And then I remember why we came. Free food. I can't say the food is great, and my wife and I are pretty picky eaters, but it's decent given the atmosphere, and it's free. To get to the food from my distant table I pretty much have to work my way through the gauntlet of employees again, stopping now and then to say hi so that I don't seem anti-social, but not lingering long enough to seem like a suck-up. Then we wait in line for our roast beast and mixed vegetables, and make our way back to the loser's table. The meal is occasionally broken up with "Please pass the butter" and "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said." The treat comes at dessert. Admittedly, that hotel is good at desserts. There is no shortage of good stuff of every chocolate variety, and it more than makes up for the other food. Call me a pig, but I typically get two helpings. Did I mention that it's free? After dessert, a significant percentage of folks leave. This includes most of the suck-ups, who have achieved their mission, and most of the folks there for the free food, like me. But the party isn't over.

To be fair, my company's Holiday Party is a lot better than it used to be, years ago, when the after-dinner entertainment was the presentation of an Employee of the Year Award (often going to the best suck-up) and a talent show (which was supposed to be a showcase of employee talents, but sadly was populated by children of employees showing off piano and violin skills). Now there aren't children (thank god!), and there are no more of the lame awards or talent shows. A couple years ago they had live disco music by a relatively-talented local band. I stayed that year by choice, as I am a disco junky. It's the only music I really dance to (of course, "dance" is a relative term which usually doesn't apply to my spastic attempts, but I enjoyed myself). Last year, and this year, it is "Vegas Night" with a rented company that brings tables for roulette, craps, and blackjack, complete with poker chips and dealers. You are given a certain number of chips to start, and your winnings can be turned in for prize drawing entries. There's no real money involved. Plenty of people enjoy it. Kudos. I stayed for it last year because my lovely wife thought it would be fun. She seemed to enjoy herself, so that made it worthwhile, but I'm too conservative a gambler, even with fake money.

So am I going this year? I'm pretty sure I talked my wife out of it. She wanted to go just for the food, but we have other (non-work) parties to go to around that date. I think it won't be missed. Perhaps we'll see "Casino Royale" instead.

(Update: We hung out with friends instead. Thank goodness, since I heard the company hired an Elvis impersonater this year who wandered from table to table and did a song & dance routine. People avoided him.)


Kevin said...

Ah yes, my antisocial friend...I must agree with you. We're going to my company party for the first time in probably 5 years this year. I'm sure there will be good food, and at least my company is small enough that I have a few pretty good friends that we can socialize with before making an early escape. :)

Mike Haubrich said...

Yea! I finally work for a big company that doesn't play that stupid christmas party game. Instead we do something in the summer. Instead of sitting at the loser's table, we can go outside. And escape from the din and the suckups.