Thursday, December 22, 2005

A magnificently unsophisticated office Christmas party

Back in my graduate school days, I interviewed with major consulting firms. They wined and dined me as a prospective employee. I was flown to corporate headquarters and lodged in first class hotels. Grueling interviewing sessions were followed by drinks and dinner. When I bothered to envision office Christmas parties, I imagined sophisticated evenings out, cocktails and elegant dining. All that glamor came with a significant price tag, though. Massive amounts of over time was a given, extensive travel was mandatory, and regular schmoozing a job requirement. While acceptable in small doses, those three things would have put a real kink in my plan to have a full and fulfilling life that did not revolve around the office, so I bowed out. I'm also the kind of gal who chooses comfort over style 99.44% of the time.

I eventually stumbled my way into a position with my current employer. We are corporate, but we cater to a primarily conservative membership base. That membership base colors everything about our company's corporate culture, right down to our Christmas parties. Today, we were at our unsophisticated best, and I loved it.

This morning began with Christmas caroling in the main lobby. One of our VP's, who is an exquisite pianist, set up with a rather cheesy synthesizer just inside the main doors. Twenty to thirty of my co-workers milled around in front of the elevators with paperback songbooks and sang a wide range of Christmas carols for about half an hour. They took turns barking out song requests that ranged the gamut from Rudolph to Silent Night. They were not the best-sounding choir, but their voices rang out through the entire building with unselfconscious joy and merriment.

Lunch was provided by the company and consisted of brisket and sausage smoked by employees and potato salad, cole slaw and tossed salad. Since no bar-b-que would be complete without bread, pickles and onions, we had those as well. Dessert was apple pie, peach cobbler or ice cream sundaes. Definitely down-home cooking and very delicious! They even had a four man band playing and singing Christmas songs with a honkytonk flair while we ate. We even had drawings (in which I won a little tree that died some weeks ago and shed little leaves and branches through the entire trip back up to my office).

It was great fun with the most senior VP's sitting down with the most junior of clerks. All 400+ employees mingled together, enjoying each other's company and the boisterous playings of the honkytonk Christmas band. There was no alcohol, but people still managed to have a good time.

The diehards who thought the festivities were incomplete set up a tailgate party in the parking lot after the office closed early at 2:30 this afternoon. Mr. W. and I have never been a part of those festivities, but they occur every year, and we will see the tailgaters again following the office New Years early close. Some traditions just never die.

I am oddly proud to work with so many people who are not ashamed to be precisely what they are. Very few of my co-workers bother to waste time putting on sophisticated airs, and that suits me just fine.

Merry Christmas, ya'll.


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