My latest article for the Galway Now Magazine... So go on out and buy the Mag as there is much better stuff in it than what I write...
While driving to work recently, I spotted something on the footpath that brought back memories. It was a crumpled up fast food bag spilling out the remains of a half eaten hamburger and about a dozen chips. The blackbirds were having it for breakfast. What evoked the memories though, was that beside these stale remnants of the night before was a stiletto-heeled shoe. Just one. Ah yes, it all came flooding back, that first office party I ever went to. It was the Christmas party and I was about 20, not long out of college and clueless as to what I should expect.
I played safe and borrowed a classic LBD (little black dress) from a friend. OK then, the dress wasn’t all that little, but back then I was, which meant that the cleavage gaped across my breast like an open handbag, and one of the straps kept slipping down my shoulder. My feet were squeezed so tightly into my high heel shoes that I could have given lessons to Cinderella’s stepsisters in the art of wearing shoes that are at least two sizes too small. And that’s about as much as I remember.
I do vaguely remember free drinks. There was champagne upon arrival, wine with dinner and after that either a free bar or a lot of generous people handing me whatever took my fancy – pints, shorts, cocktails and shots.
|The way it should be - bring back the olden days!|
Oh and singing. I remember singing along to one of the songs but as nobody was listening I decided it would be hilarious to climb onto a table and perform the song from there. It must have been the tight shoes that made me trip. After that all I remember is waking up the next morning to find a rip in the cleavage of the dress (yes, I was wearing it in bed), and one shoe missing. So somewhere between rolling off the table and waking up fully clothed in my own bed, I lost a shoe. And that’s why the other day when I saw that shoe beside the fast food bag, I couldn’t help but wonder if my shoe from all those years ago might have found the same fate?
I guess I’ll never know. There are gaps that I have not filled to this day. How did I get home? Where was my shoe? And why did I get funny looks from everyone in the office for the next six months?
There are some things you will never find out, so I decided not to beat myself up over it. Instead, I would learn from my mistakes and never let something that stupid happen ever again. Especially not when it came to the professional world where you have to work with the people who you have ridiculed yourself in front of.
I learned from these mistakes and never erred again. NOT. In fact, it got worse. Spilling drinks on colleagues and bosses, coming home without both shoes, without my glasses, my money, my phone, my coat, or worse, not coming home at all. My most cringeworthy Christmas party party-piece was removing my boss’s lovely white fur coat from the cloakroom and believing that it would be hysterically funny to put it on my lap and pretend it was a kitty cat. When she gave me the evil eye across the room I made a catlike claw sign with my hands, while hissing the word ‘meow’ in her direction – really funny! After that I danced around the dance floor pretending the coat was a polar bear. It was great fun but the rest of the work crowd didn’t join in and I knew it was only because they were afraid of the boss. All the same, I think she took in good sport. I never got a chance to chat to her about it because shortly after that night I was let go due to some unexpected changes in company strategy that meant my role was no longer viable. It seemed that the business of Christmas parties wasn’t as much fun as they were before, and that it probably isn’t a good idea to dance with coats or lose shoes.
So these days, as a Christmas Party veteran I would suggest the following advice to all those planning their Office night out.
1. Turn up. Despite the fact that I may have been a lot better off never showing up to the office party, and also might still have that shoe and the other lost items, as a rule, it is expected that you do actually turn up. From there it’s up to you to keep it sane.
2. Dress appropriately. Rule of thumb, if it’s too short, tight, see-through, or comes with flashing lights; don’t wear it.
3. Take a page out of Cinder’s book and leave the party before someone else suggests that it’s time for you to go home.
4. Limit what you drink. Easier said than done. But do you really want to arrive home with one shoe? You can plan your drinking by starting with soft drinks and having your first alcoholic drink later in the evening.
5. Promise nothing. I read an article recently about how an employee asked his manager for a pay rise at the Christmas party. The manager agreed that this would happen, and even though the promise was vague, when the pay rise never happened the employee left the company and sued on the grounds of constructive dismissal.
6. Plan how you will get home. Order a taxi in advance or have a lift arranged. You do want to get home, don’t you?
7. Careful about who you bring. Some office parties invite people to bring guests. I a friend of mine invited a guy along who she barely knew. As the night progressed her date got into a fistfight with another guy at the party. It was so bad that one of them broke his nose. Since then my friend is constantly reminded of the ‘nose incident’. You just never know what trouble other people will get you into.
Do remember to enjoy yourself. These parties are great if you get the balance right. So go on and have a great night, just not too great!