Maxed out 

Santa Claus is coming to party

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‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa La La La La La La”...etc.

In honour of the jolly season upon us, I have resolved to be not just jolly, but jovial, jocular, joyful, jubilant, merry, mirthful, and just plain happy. I might be even more things next year if Santa brings me a real thesaurus this year instead of the quickie I found at www.needawordtakeaword.com .

But in light of the impending holidays — you did know The Holidays are just around the calendrical corner, didn’t you? — I will embody the spirit of goodwill and holiday cheer for the rest of the year. If I practice hard enough and ignore global climate change, the threat Bush may indeed start WWIII, the Olympics, muni budget guidelines, and the large expanse of blue ice I tried to ski across yesterday, my eyes may even twinkle and my voice go all ho, ho, ho.

Oops! There you go; it’s just that easy to let a little negativity creep in and ruin your holiday cheer. Better have another shot of holiday cheer. Come to think of it, better keep that tank topped up.

All holidays are, apparently, stressful. But this holiday, and all those other quasi-religious, secular and just plain silly holidays people around the world celebrate between now and the first holiday of next year, is particularly stressful. The good people who make their living off our collective stress always stress this point. They advise us of ways to combat the sorts of stresses we’re likely to face over the course of the next couple of weeks.

This kind of free advice used to seem rather self-defeating to me. I mean, if stressed-out people are your bread and butter, why would you try to help people avoid stress?

Like so many things in modern life, the answer was diabolically clever. And simple. Simple and clever. Kind of like the bill of goods the neocons tried to sell… darn it. And I try so hard. Obviously being jocular is difficult. Probably even stressful.

Okay, where was I. Ah, yes, simple and clever. You can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper right now — perhaps even this one — without reading solemn advice about how to avoid stress over the holidays. For example, in even so dry a periodical as Modern Office Manager, there’s an article entitled, Ten Ways to Keep From Making An Ass of Yourself at the Office Party.

Even people who have no intention of making an ass of themselves at the office party get a spike in their stress level just knowing there’s someone in the world who (a) cares if they do, and (b) advises them how not to. Ironically, most of the 10 ways involve abstinence of one sort or another. Don’t pound tequila shots even if they’re being served from the receptionist’s cleavage is one. Leave your automatic weapons at home is another. Nowhere in the 10 is the suggestion you simply not go to the office party, which seems the most logical solution considering you already spend 40 hours a week with these losers.

In fact, the best office Christmas party I ever went to turned out to be for an office I didn’t work in. It was being held at a large, downtown hotel in one of the conference/party rooms located in a labyrinth of catacombs somewhere in the bowels of the building. Wearing a Santa hat and beard — it didn’t seem like such a weird idea at the time, given I’d been pounding shots of tequila from the receptionist’s cleavage all afternoon — I stumbled into the Aztec Room where a gaggle of somber-faced people were making merry and firing automatic weapons.

Admittedly, it seemed a little less sedate than the usual barbiturate fest most bank parties normally were. But it was a party… just not the right one. The party I was looking for was in the Inca Room, as it turned out. That party hadn’t yet swung into high gear because the modern office manager — who’d posted the article from Modern Office Manager in the coffee room, taking care to underline in two colours of highlighter ass-avoidance suggestion #3: The sixties are over. No one thinks it’s cute to spike the punch with LSD. Don’t do it again. — was arguing with the division head about whether it was too early in the evening to start playing A Chipmunk Christmas on the wheezy cassette player he’d borrowed from his preteen daughter, a pink Barbie at the Beach number that was stolen by evening’s end. I only found out about that excitement when I finally went back to work after New Years.

I never did find out who was throwing the party I ended up crashing in the Aztec Room but the amazing point of the story — let’s be generous and call it a point — is that no one cared that I was there. No one even seemed to think I didn’t belong there. They just assumed they didn’t know me in much the same way I assumed I didn’t know them. I could have wondered why I didn’t see anyone all evening I knew but frankly, I didn’t like the people I worked with and didn’t really care.

The important lesson I learned was that there was an 11 th way to avoid making an ass of yourself at the office party: go to someone else’s party.

This time of year, in this town, there’s a lot of wisdom in that observation. Suppose you’re a liftie, a retail clerk, a housekeeper, a whatever. Maybe they have an office party where you work, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. The fact is, there are some good parties every night of the week around here this time of the year. Many involve very good food; most involve at least some form of liquor. Obviously you’re not invited to these parties.

But Santa is.

Santa is always welcome at a Christmas party. You don’t even have to know whose party it is. What do you care? A party’s a party. Just walk in, give ’em a bit of the old Ho-Ho-Ho and start mingling in a direct line to the bar/buffet/tequila shots. No one’s going to shake down Santa for ID unless they want to go to the head of the Naughty List. And if someone does try to engage you in more meaningful conversation, saying, for example, “Who the hell are you?” ask ’em if they’ve been a good boy or girl or see if they want to whisper in your ear what it is they want for Christmas. If you stay in character, no one’s going to press the point very far and run the risk of violating suggestion #8 from Ten Ways to Keep From Making An Ass of Yourself at the Office Party: Don’t remove Santa’s beard… or any other item of his clothing.

Enjoy the party.

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