Office parties -- 12/20/07

This brings my total to ten...
Once upon a time this was the season for office parties, high alcohol content, out-of-control, lampshade-on-the-head office parties. They have faded into the past, driven out by MADD, insurance and liability concerns, equal opportunity workplaces, and sexual harassment lawsuits. All of which have given companies yet another opportunity to save some money they would once have wasted on employees when instead they could use those funds to increase executive compensation.

Actually, the most drunken office Christmas party I was ever at was the first one I had ever attended. It was my first real job. I was seventeen and working in a small furniture store. It was a family business... owned and operated by the widow and the son of the founder. They were both the management and the sales staff. There was also a woman who was the clerical and financial part of the business, keeping the books, answering the phones, etc. Her brother was the delivery department -- he assembled the furniture, drove the delivery truck, etc. I was the general purpose goffer. I helped assemble furniture, I dusted and vacuumed the showroom, I swept the sidewalk, I went out to get coffee (one week I even helped put down a new layer of tar on the roof of the building -- but mostly I assisted on furniture delivery days.

So it was Saturday, December 24, 1960. That morning and early afternoon we had been very busy with last minute deliveries but finally sometime around 1:30 or 2:00 we finished and got back to the store. There were no customers -- nobody goes furniture shopping on the afternoon of Christmas Eve (well, at least they didn't back then) although we were ready for them -- they would have been welcomed the same as they did the mailman and any of the neighboring businessmen who stopped in during that afternoon. Hey, have a drink! Have some cookies. Here, try one of these struffoli. How about a piece of panettone, mmm, raisins, candied fruit, try it, you'll like it. Hey. lemme freshen up your drink there. (Uh, yes, as a matter of fact, the owners were of Italian ancestry, how did you guess?)

There was lots of booze. Salesmen from the various furniture lines had been dropping off bottles as Christmas gifts for a month. We were drinking highballs (remember, this was 1960). I didn't like them, but I was 17 and it was booze and adults were letting me drink. Cool. I was used to drinking beer. I don't think I had ever actually drank booze (what kind -- I don't know -- but at a guess I'd say it was whiskey, probably Seagram's 7 mixed with 7-Up soda, a "Seven and Seven").

Yes, I got very drunk. Well, we all did.We drank and ate cakes and cookies and then drank and ate some more. We told jokes. We laughed. We sang along with the radio. Hey, have another drink!

When the bookkeeper's husband came to pick her up they gave me a ride home. My family was eating dinner -- in fact, I think they were almost finished. I must have phoned home that I was stuck at work and would not be home for dinner, but 47 years later I have no memory of doing that (the next day I might not have had a memory of that). I knew I was too drunk to spend any time with my family without being caught out so I told them that I had to bring Christmas presents to our minister's family, three blocks up the street. You see, I was going steady with the younger sister of our minister's wife. I think I thought I could successfully pretend to be sober if I were visiting at their house.

Yes, that gives you an idea of how mentally-impaired I was, with yet more alcohol in my stomach, queued up for its chance to get into my bloodstream, instead of staying home, I want to go visit our minister and his wife, my girlfiend's much older sister. (Okay, so she was only thirty, but...) I made it up the street and I think I must have spent about five or ten minutes sitting in their kitchen sipping a cup of coffee when the minister's wife suddenly grabbed my arm and told me that I needed to get to the bathroom right away. She was quite right. I spent a considerable amount of time kneeling by the white porcelain convenience. I'm glad that they were such an understanding couple and that they really liked me. I'm also glad that time has erased my memory of the hangover that must have followed.

I think of it as an educational experience.

I also think it is probably a good idea that that kind of heavy-drinking office party now seems to be history.

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