Wreck the halls: The office holiday party

December 19, 2012

Tis the season to see disheveled-looking people in office attire stumbling down the sidewalk at 8 p.m. on a weeknight. That’s right. It’s work holiday party time, where, for some reason, grown adults get more wrecked than at any other type of function. Weddings, New Years Eve, bachelor parties: none of these hold a candle when it comes to the holiday party and people obliterating themselves.

I remember my first office holiday party. I was working at a tiny ad agency and didn’t expect much in terms of a celebration. I probably even joked to some friends that maybe I’d get to see people dancing around with lamp shades on their heads and wearing their ties in unusual places.

The evening began quite classily, actually, with cocktails at the Union League Club. But cut to a few hours later when the party was winding down: my boss was handing me full, unopened bottles of wine he had stolen from behind the bar for me to hide in my large purse and one of the younger women on staff was snuggling up to a man who was definitely old enough to be her great-uncle. We went to the W for more drinks and the young lady lost her ability to sit up straight, and later, to keep her food in her stomach.

Another time, a roommate of mine came home distraught from holiday work festivities: she had lost her keys on the way home. But perhaps the problem was that she was wearing somebody else's coat, not her own? Welcome to the office Christmas party.

Why do people get so smashed at these things? Part of it is logistics. The parties start early, typically involve tiny amounts of food, and run right through dinner time, so people are drinking on an empty stomach. Then, because people are idiots (I have been this idiot), instead of going home afterwards where they should eat, drink some water and take an Advil, they tend to go out and keep the party going. Drinking for five hours with two cubes of cheddar rolling around in your stomach isn’t always a recipe for success.

Part of it, too, is the social TNT that is drinking with co-workers. You don’t need to drink with your friends because you already like your friends, and being with them is a celebration in and of itself. (It should be, anyway, or else you need new friends.) But if you’re not drinking with your co-workers, you’re kind of just working (Which is why I never was too keen on going to the alcohol-free office picnics at my old job. Doing a water balloon toss sober? I would rather sit in my office alone – and did.) Between the unwinding from work, social awkwardness of acting like you're friends with your co-workers and the inevitable smack-talking that goes down, alcohol and work-parties go hand in hand.

Finally, I think it’s just that poor decision making at holiday parties is something that’s almost inevitable, almost expected. If you got office-party-drunk every weekend, you might have a drinking problem. But if you do it once a year, you get the write-off: it's the office Christmas party and these things happen. If you’re not the one making a jerk of yourself this year, don’t get smug, because it probably was you last year or will be you the next year.

Which is why I’m not judging, just observing. I patented the “go to work the day after the Christmas party with a plastic shopping bag in my purse just in case I have to throw up before I get there” routine.  So now you share with me: what are some of the most shameful office holiday party shenanigans you ever observed (or were a part of?)