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When I agreed to be a member of my company’s 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee, it wasn’t because I was filled with Can’t-Sleep-Only-328-More-Days-Til-Christmas spirit, and it definitely wasn’t out of the altruistic kindness of my heart. I can’t even argue that it was to quietly prove my unwavering dedication for my job to colleagues. No, what I had in mind was far more devious. Self-serving, even. I know – tsk, tsk/shame on me/but it’s Jesus’ birthday!! All that. Let me start at the beginning.
She’s a lawyer, so to say she wasn’t aware of what she was doing is pointless. Like Wendy Peffercorn, she knew exactly what she was doing. I was a pawn in getting what she wanted, and at the time, my agreement in the matter was only maddeningly emboldened by my own personal motives.
She wanted out of the Christmas Party Planning Committee. I wanted nothing more than to avoid just saying Christmas Party Planning Committee. Yuck. What a mouthful of corporate pomposity that is for a supposedly fun group of holiday merriment makers (now THERE’S a real title). And to throw the words “party” and “committee” in one name?
I should have known right then and there what I was getting into.
She approached me in person one late Friday afternoon in February, knowing I’d be miles away from the office in the confines of my mind, a prisoner in this 10×10 cube by nothing more than physicality. Smart. She obviously had studied her prey carefully. Unfocused. Relatively new to the company. A girl. Girls adore organizing fun holiday shenanigans, right? Besides, those vats of coffee on her desk scream “I know partying!”
Which, ok. Right on.
I could have said no to an email. Would have indefinitely. But as she menacingly (maybe not menacingly) blocked off my only escape route from my work-sweet-workspace, she schmoozed her way into a yes, confusing me with cunning lawyer-speak:
“Wanna take my place on the 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee?” she asked. Calculatingly. Craftily.
“Sure, whatever. I’ll do the thing,” I said waving at her in distracted agreement. It was February. It was FRIDAY!
She flashed what I’m sure was a grateful (evil?) smile and the tails of her cardigan upon quickly disappearing down the hallway before I could even look up as an afterthought to ask what my responsibilities would be.
She blatantly knew she was doing me a disservice. I did, too, but was temporarily incapable of thinking past the season finale of the Bachelorette. (Team Ben!) And sure – my assuredness that I’d be long gone before having to commit any actual time to the committee may have motivated an overly-enthusiastic response. With plans to relocate in May, I had particular reasons for agreeing to be on the committee. Namely, as a resume builder. In my mind, the interview for my perfect position would inevitably go something like this:
Interviewer: “And do you partake in any after work groups or activities? As communicators within the Red Sox organization, we pride ourselves for being well-rounded, involved stewards of the Boston area community.”
Me: “Why, yes! I happen to be on…” (dramatic pause as I lean forward conspiratorially) “…a committee.”
Interviewer: “A committee! Well I never! One hand flutters to chest as she gasps in incredulity. “What type of committee, you sweet, selfless girl?”
Me: “One of the Christmas party planning variety, as luck would have it.”
Interviewer: “Committing your free time to organizing an event that surely forever resonates in and changes the lives of your colleagues? How wonderfully lovely.”
Me:. “I did, didn’t I?” Chuckles modestly. “I guess I did. But you know? That time of year, it’s really about putting the “Christ” in Christmas, you know?”
Interviewer: “We would all do better to think as nobly as you. I think the bear hug – are we well-acquainted enough for a bear hug? – I’m about to give you sums it up, but HIRED!”
Me: “Bring it in for a big one, lil bear!”
Then we’d dance in circles hand in hand laughing and screaming in joy like little girls before grabbing a skinny peppermint mocha latte together and gossiping about Jed Lowrie’s beautiful beard.
While the move never came, the 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee Meetings did with a vengeance alongside an unmistakable hint that I’d perhaps made a hasty decision: the committee’s co-chairs sent a meeting invite labeled “2k11 XMAS Site Approval Mtg.”
Oh, God, I thought in a full-on panic. Engineers!
There are going to be so many Excel spreadsheets.
Although the meetings were dispersed in a way that made commitment levels tolerable, there wasn’t a discussion about the party that went by that didn’t have me questioning my sanity while simultaneously silencing the voices in my head screaming “AHHHHHHHH!!!!”
Should we have roast beef or chicken? We could have roast beef AND chicken. No, everyone always has roast beef for Christmas. They do? Well, what about pork? Well, we can’t have TWO white meats – that would be ridiculous. We could have steak and pork. I don’t know, I had a cow and pig as pets as a kid. Daisy and Bacon Bits, we called them. I was very emotionally attached. Of course. Understandable…well, what about chicken fried chicken? What, so our guests think they aren’t good enough for chicken fried steak?! Look, Daisy was a member of our family whether you like it or not! How about we discuss side dishes for a while? As long as there are no bacon bits on the side salads.
As part of the communications and decorations committee (Clearly I don’t know how to say no, even when feeding myself to the wolves – “Well, maybe just a little nibble on my arm. Can’t have you starving, can we, cute little wolf…AHHHHH!!”), I was mostly just looking forward to December’s light at the end of a dark tunnel of “We’re going to have to reword this; it’s not PC enough [for an informal Christmas party]” and
“What if we got together one weekend and built gingerbread houses for décor?”
Until, finally the night of the party was upon us, bringing me to the only other reason I said yes to being on the committee – for a well-deserved half day off to decorate.
Of course on that afternoon, I had a mountain of work to get through. The engineers strongly suggested it could wait, as most of our 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee had decided their efforts were no longer required and said as much nonverbally by not showing up at our last meeting to volunteer to help out. Nice.
I bit my lip, but not hard enough to stop myself from telling them, “First rule of journalism: the news doesn’t wait for anyone.”
They blinked in apathy, not even remotely getting my subtle Fight Club reference. Engineers.
“Guys, seriously. It’s like the rapture.”
Not a peep.
I took off work at noon.
Surprisingly enough for everyone on the committee, the party went off without a hitch, with everyone’s sanity still somehow in check. The following Monday, the lawyer came to congratulate me on a job well done.
“Now comes the hardest part of all,” she said with a slight smirk. I looked up inquisitively, the horror clearly etched on my face. It was a common theme now.
“Good luck trying to find a replacement on the committee,” she said, the laughter and wryness in her words almost palpable. As she turned and walked down the hallway, her last words and a string of relieved (evil?) cackles echoed in her midst. “Took me three years!”
I can still hear her laughter on the quietest of winter nights.