One thing I won't miss now that corporate America has kicked me to the curb: office holiday parties. Folks who've entered the workforce in recent years may be asking: "Cassandra, what on Earth are you talking about? We don't have holiday parties at our company." Count your blessings. The bottom-line-obsessed managers at many corporations have done away with this dreaded tradition, although for many of us, it died a slow and sad death.
Back in the day, the office Christmas Party (yes, we could say "Christmas" back then) would be held in early December at some swanky hotel or banquet facility. You and you long-suffering spouse were expected to attend. The only reasons for your spouse to want to attend were (1) to drive your drunken ass home and/or (2) to meet the bizarre sociopathic folks you'd been ranting about all year.
You'd also be expected to dress up to impress management. If you didn't already have something suitable, off you went to buy a nice dress or suit coat and the other trappings of corporate respectability. While the cost of the party was paid for by the company (back in the day), you'd still need to pay for babysitting, gas, and parking. Alchohol (back in the day) was free.
Adding free and unlimited alcohol to a room full of anxious people who'd really rather be elsewhere didn't always create the festive mood intended by the party planners. For some attendees, this turned out to be the evening when their inhibitions fell by the wayside and they said or did career-ending things. Fortunately, this was long before the days of mobile phones with embedded cameras, so the documentation was merely anecdotal. Nowadays with Twitter and Facebook, your career could be ruined at future employers as well as your current employer.
Trying to fit in, you'd mingle with people and eat hors d'oeuvres dripping with cholesterol, making small talk, all the while wondering "who the hell is this person, anyway? Does she work here? Is she someone's wife?" In this early phase of the party, you were still mobile, so you could always escape to the bar or the restroom if things got too weird.
Once you were seated for the meal, however, you were trapped like a rat for at least the next hour. Selecting table-mates who shared your cynicism and gallows humor was a must, as you'd soon be subjected to scratch-you-eyes-out boring speeches from company executives extolling the virtues of the hard working employees who made this another fantastic year for the company. The only saving grace to this tedious part of the proceedings was the likelihood that one or more of the speakers was drunk enough to be entertaining.
After dinner, it was time for another trip to the bar, then to the dance floor, where you'd see moves you really never imagined, and surely did not want to see again. Somewhere along the line, office party planners realized that many people would bolt at this point to head home, having paid their dues. Thus were born "door prizes": all sorts of cool items raffled off to attendees. The catch: you had to be there to claim your prize. Otherwise that nice set of luggage or toaster oven or a year's worth of car washes would go to that dweeb in accounting.
Someone invariably took lots and lots of photos, and by the following Monday morning, they'd be plastered all over the cafeteria (yes, kids, this was before the days of Facebook, and thank [insert name of deity here] for that). Trust me: nobody looks good in those photos, and the things that went on... well, let's just say that photodocumentation enabled us all to relive the horror, whether as participants or spectators.
So when companies began to charge people to attend their holiday parties (which were then held after the holidays to - you know - save money), they started down the slippery slope of Holiday Party Elimination. Nowadays, if there's any party at all, it's some potluck lunch in the office, no spouses involved, and get back to your freakin' cubicle and back to work. Don't get me started on the fate of holiday (or any) bonuses.
Count yourselves lucky to have escaped the living hell that the rest of us endured back in the day. Because really: who would want to spend an evening hanging out with the people who treated us like nothing more than cells on a spreadsheet all year? Bah, humbug!