Monday, December 17, 2012

The Office Christmas Lunch/Party

This is the time of year when many corporate offices/teams have the annual Christmas party or lunch.

I hate this.

It's nothing personal of course but I would just as soon not go to lunch with most of the people I work with. And I have even less desire to attend an official "FUN" event with them. My basic outlook on work is "Let's just keep it arm's distance shall we? Mmmmm-okay". I've been told on and off the record countless times that this attitude is a personal failing that limits my upward mobility. Well that's tough. Even if I wanted to I'm not changing primal personality traits at this point in my life.

There are a number of reasons I dislike the Christmas lunch/party. I usually attend out of a baseline sense of politesse and career protection but honestly I'd rather not. Why do I feel that way?

1) People are nasty. Yes it's true. We all have just oodles of bacteria, viruses and parasites living meaningful lives (or in the case of viruses semi-lives) on/inside us right this moment. This can't be altered. It's part of human life. But I'd rather have a choice as to whose invisible little nasties I'm exposed to instead of being forced to share eating space and a table with someone whom I know for a fact does not wash their hands after using the bathroom, or furtively picks their nose/teeth/ears in status meetings, or like a cat or dog, thinks that their saliva is nature's WD-40 and can be used for just about any daily problem they encounter. No don't pass me the breadsticks, Typhoid Mary. I'll get them myself.

2) People have different standards of propriety. I was raised that you don't double dip. That's even among family for goodness' sake.Your food is your food. My food is my food. Unless we are intimate that's just the way it's gonna be. And even then chances are I'll prefer some level of separation when it comes to eating. So you can imagine my horror at one Christmas luncheon, when having declined the dishes ordered by my co-workers and ordered myself a platter of steak fries, I saw the fellow next to me reach his grubby little hands into my meal, pour ketchup on the fries and start eating. In the ensuing "discussion" I learned that in his country it was usual for people to share such items and he learned that in my country you better not touch my food unless you like having your hand forked to the table.

3) People get a little too festive. Hey you made it another year without getting terminated. You might have some alcohol in you. You're probably about to be off for Christmas break and may even have some bonus money coming your way. So you're feeling good. Now MUST be the time to make your clumsy but long planned move on that flirtatious married blonde in legal who wears the tight sweaters. Right? Wrong. There is nothing worse than seeing people do or say things that they otherwise wouldn't dream of just because they're buzzed and/or it's Christmas. Now is not the time to sidle up to me and ask me what do black people really think about topic x or how come I never asked you out. In either case, if I wanted you to WOULD know. 

4) People over share. At one Christmas luncheon a co-worker ordered a particular type of meat. The co-worker's boss was sitting next to that person and started a long diatribe about how bad that meat smelled, why they never liked it and how could anyone eat it. Now if your boss does that once, ok. But I wasn't surprised when after ten minutes of this nonsense the co-worker gave up trying to eat in peace and called for a doggie bag. What is really bad for me is being trapped next to a talkative person who simply won't stop droning on. When you're at the same table there really is no place to run. It's pure torture. Short of telling someone "Why won't you shut the f*** up?!!!", there's not much you can do. At another holiday party a boss decided it would be the perfect time to let me know how lazy their spouse was and if they didn't straighten up and fly right divorce would be imminent. Ok. Now that I know that what do I do? Yet another boss thought that all of her direct reports attending the Christmas lunch had to be informed (repeatedly) that she really really really hated her boss. Unsurprisingly, that information got passed on to said boss and blabbermouth was shortly removed from her position. Co-workers should know that if I didn't ask I probably don't care about your personal problems. This goes double if you are a boss. Too much personal information can only make things uncomfortable for both of us. ARM'S DISTANCE folks.

5) People state the obvious. If I had ten dollars for every time I've gone to some Christmas lunch or party and some mensa member has told me "You're quiet", I'd be retired already. "Yes, Sherlock I'm quiet. Incredible discovery. How long did it take you to ferret that out? Next you'll be telling me that the sun rises in the East!!!" I don't really do small talk well. I've learned the hard way that discussing things like politics, religion and other sensitive topics with people who sign your checks or evaluate your work is not really an intelligent thing to do. So sports, traffic, cars and weather are about the only things I discuss at work. Once those subjects are exhausted I'm pretty much tapped out. I don't talk for the sake of talking which from my pov appears to be about what 99% of the discussions at office parties/lunches really are. about those Detroit Lions eh?

Does your organization have Christmas parties/lunches?
Do you always attend?
Did you ever embarrass yourself?
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