Today the office Christmas Party season reaches its peak. You will see revellers everywhere. Shouting and talking shite during the performances at comedy clubs, ordering ‘sure why not’ side dishes in restaurants, crying and talking to the pavement while having their hair held back by a friend, fighting with another office party in a chipper.
Like many big occasions, the best part of the Christmas party is arguably the day at work that precedes it. There are approximately two hours of work done before the organisation loses its tenuous grip on discipline and descends into a loosely connected procession of buying breakfast rolls for ‘soakage’, sitting on the edge of desks discussing where to have the pre-pints and replaying some highlights from last year’s do.
Women are on half-days to get the hair done. The office wiseguy will interrupt a conversation about dresses with a well-placed zinger: “I’ll probably wear a lacy black number meself.”
Some parties move seamlessly from work to the venue but that can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a well-known fact that ‘The One That’s One Too Many’ from the advertisement is not drunk at the end of the night. A messy night is far more likely if you have ‘The Four That are Four Too Many’ at the very start of the night.
The more sensible approach is to go home to get changed. And it’s always nice to arrive slightly late at a party. There will be squeals as women who have seen each other only two hours before greet each other again in their transformed states and disagree over who has the more gorgeous dress. “Omigod your dress is gorgeous. OMG no YOUR dress is gorgeous.” Men nudge each other and say things like “A tie Franky? Hah? Are you the solicitor or the defendant? HAH?”
The Christmas Party will also feature the denouement of at least one budding office romance. This may have been simmering gently during the autumn via flirty email discussions and it’s quite possible, one side of the exchange got the wrong idea.
It can start with an email which was initially sent with business-like intent, but a slight frisson in the reply encouraged someone to ratchet up the hormones a little.
“Hey Mary, can you let me know when your test team are ready to move to Phase 2.1 as we’re nearly done on our side now. “
“Hi there, yeah we’re nearly ready hon. See ya”
HON!!!! She called me hon! She totally wants me. Let’s see if I can’t take this up to another level with the reply. And so it goes. Over the course of the ensuing weeks’ email exchanges, subtle questions are asked and answers misinterpreted. “So..erm..Any plans for the weekend?” Lines are read between to see whether there’s a Significant Other lurking around. It builds up to an unstoppable momentum that will surely see something happen at The Christmas Party. There may even be an absurd maneouvre to get to sit near them at the dinner table. “Anyone sitting here Colm?” “Yes I think Mary is sitting there” “But she’s not here yet” “She will be. NOW FECK OFF BEFORE I PLANT THIS FORK IN YOUR LEG” The last bit of that statement is uttered internally but your face says it all.
With so much latent tension, either this will end in a Titanic-like moment of pure romance with both of you standing on the front of a ship – before being escorted away by a security guard – or a Titanic-like sinking feeling. “Who’s the guy talking to Mary?” “Oh that’s her boyfriend, Gary. Just back from working for Concern” So you can’t even hate him. The altruistic bollox. ”Oh that’s great. Where was he back from?” “I think he was in the Horn of Africa” Oh the bitter irony.
Time to move on and in the hour you’ve been barking up the wrong tree you may not have noticed that the tone of the party has changed. When a large group of people all start drinking around the same time, quite often they will simultaneously reach a tipping point. The room changes from ‘merry and good natured’ to a vista which resembles the orgy scene in the film The Ten Commandments. Women are doing Beyonce dancing. The most unlikely people are wearing the Santa hats. Away in the darkness, on the dinner chairs, murky shifting has commenced. And the one guy who is drunker than everyone else, had decided now is the time to talk to the MD. The following Monday he will admit that the last thing he remembers saying was: “Look, I probably shouldn’t say this but” and then he woke up on his couch with a kebab in his suit pocket.
The person with the unenviable task of controlling the bar tab watches with alarm as a junior employee carts away trays of foul-smelling, flaming spirits. He tries to get the attention of the bar staff to shut it down, but they pretend not to see him for as long as possible, preferring to serve someone fifteen Coors Light first.
The dance floor is now full. The bosses who fancy themselves as being ‘a bit of craic’ are swaying awkwardly like they’re at a Daniel O’Donnell concert. You don’t get where they are by being good at dancing. Except when Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing’ comes on and the air-mikes and guitars are brandished.
At this point, the ‘quiet guy’ will suddenly appear on the edge of the dance-floor and announce his arrival by sliding across on his knees. The whooping and cheering he receives will goad him into ever more ambitious moves. Hammertime, a crap moonwalk, that breakdancing move where you hop around on one leg. The last one will be the bridge too far for Quiet Guy and topple him headfirst into the groin of the most senior woman in the company. She takes it all in good spirits but has noted it for future reference when picking her ‘Change Management’ team.
The music stops. This is the point when everyone should go home but a hardcore group of people are determined to continue on. They style themselves as ‘Legends’. Though their legendary status comes from being able to drink all night rather than fighting dragons or multi-headed dogs.
It is the stories from these people that will filter back over the course of the following weeks like stories of lost Roman legionaries on the wrong side of Hadrian’s Wall. They’ll mutter that ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ and tap the side of their nose conspiratorially.
Them were the days. Now, my wife and I both work from home so our party will be a little more subdued affair. Although I’d say I might be in with a chance. Yesterday she called me “Hon”.