Friday, December 02, 2005

"Food On A Stick Season" Begins

Last night was the company holiday party.

Usually it's held after business hours at a restaurant around the corner from the office. This year, management must have landed a great deal on a place on Park Avenue South, which means they listened to the people who'd grumbled that the place around the corner was too damn small.

And usually, around a quarter to six, everybody just gets up out of their cubicle and moseys in little groups over to the restaurant around the corner. Yesterday, however, people looked up at about a quarter to six and said, "Uh...who knows how to get there?"

This resulted in impromptu meetings about the feasibility of shared cabs during rush hour versus buses versus trains, with the consensus being the "R" train and a short walk. It also resulted in little groups congregating on the subway platform, standing in little circles and shifting back and forth on their heels with their hands in their coat pockets and a "what do I say to these people outside the office" look on their faces. Of course, dissing those not present is always a fine way to break the ice.

The restaurant was in a renovated loft building. There was an open bar, and snacks were plentiful. No sit-down dinner, but there were crudites and there was a huge platter of cheese. The international head of our division was at the cheese with me, and I complimented the choice of venue. There was also a hearty complement of waitstaff cruising by with platters of hors d'ouerves and kebabs.

My department established a beachhead at one of the tables, with people from other groups shmoozing by. There was an interesting conversation with one of the techno guys, the kind of guy you sort of don't notice usually but always proves to be one of the genuinely nice people around. He was relating stories about the new condo he bought with his wife, and how they were doing the repairs and painting with the help of his teen stepson. He also warmly greeted one of the waiters, who he knew from somewhere. Given the bursting of the tech bubble, perhaps this was another tech guy taking an extra job.

Every year at the holiday party, the highlight is the management trainees putting on their "skit," where they spoof their supervisors with the kind of in-jokes nobody outside the company will get. As somebody who's had professional experience, I was taught that it was a form of blasphemy to use the word "skit" instead of the word "sketch," so I was a snob about it. Until I figured out that some of those management trainees are ringers: People who've had experience in their college drama club, or summer stock, or an improv group, and have somehow gravitated towards corporate life instead.

This year, the skit was in the form of a film, which explains why I looked up from my cubicle a few weeks ago to see a camera pointed at me. I haven't found out who edited it yet, but given the use in the titles of more typefaces than a ransom note, it was somebody outside the graphics department. The caricatured portrayals of the executives were broad enough to get laughs without being libelous. And one of the great things about having some female executives is seeing young male assistants putting on wigs and skirt suits--guys who you're pretty sure don't do that every weekend, although who knows these days.

After the skit is usually when the big exodus occurs. Being that I've become an old person, I've been in that exodus. In my younger days, I would stay until the bitter end of such festivities, when you would be at a table with people who usually don't give you the time of day, and they would have had just enough alcohol to start telling you what they really thought about their jobs and their lives. For some confidants, this would have been an opportunity for blackmail, but for me it was always reassurance that the "normal" people in the suits had their problems in life, too.

The food on a stick had been filling enough to count as dinner, but extremely salty. So on the agenda when I got home was a peanut butter sandwich washed down with a gallon of milk, while enjoying the much-hyped Dave and Oprah Reunion.

When I came in to work this morning, some people were wearing chinos. Yesterday had been "business casual" all day, with some women going for "light festive,"sequined sweaters and stuff like that. Our company only does business casual in the Summer, but it seems strange to have business casual on Thursday and then back to formal business attire on Friday, an orphaned day of formal business attire between Thursday and the weekend. Some people aren't in at all, giving themselves a three day weekend. It could be because they're partied out. It could also be because you can't carry over your unused vacation days from one year to the next, or trade them for cash. So it's use them or lose them, and I'm planning on using them.

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