THE YULETIDE CHALLENGE

The most dangerous party is not the Communist Party. It is the office Christmas party. The Communist Party merely wants to rule the world, but the office Christmas party creates chaos, organizational upheaval, dyspepsia and, frequently, unemployment.

Last year’s Yuletide bash at the Whimsey Widget Company contained two typically volatile ingredients. First, there was the pretension of a democratic camaraderie in a group accustomed to a stringent caste system. When the second ingredient, alcohol, was added, the results were staggering.

Festivities began with a merry speech by Vice President Cuthbert Mainchance. In his rare appearances at the office, Mr. Mainchance usually acknowledges underling employees with a regal nod. But tonight he is a jolly elf calling out mostly inaccurate first-name greetings.

As the revelers smile politely at Mr. Mainchance’s feeble attempts at drollery, they reflect on his energetic rise to the top: how he had the forsight to befriend President Whimsey and the courage to marry his aging daughter. To say there is a warm feeling in breast of each employee for Mr. Mainchance would be an understatement. It is much warmer than warm. It resembles heartburn.

Mr. Mainchance does not now speak of boring business details. This is, after all, a holiday party and besides, he knows very little about the business and is not entirely sure what the company makes, but he knows, to the penny, what he makes.

He praises key employees like Simon Hartless, the office manager who he says “treats his staff like his own family.” Everyone nods agreement. Mr. Hartless’ family ran away several years ago.

There is also a polite bow to old Mr. Coote of accounting who has been with Whimsey Widgets longer than anyone can remember, including Mr. Coote.

Newcomers are welcomed and, Mr. Mainchance said, must be embraced into the bosom of the organization. The most recent hiree is young Miss Zowie, a stenographer. Two boys from the shipping department attempt to carry out the vice president’s order and are restrained by the security staff.

After yet another of the V.P.’s “in conclusions”, the audience gradually wanders off to the buffet table where there is a divided opinion on the quality. Some say it’s not as good as last year’s. Others maintain it’s comprised mostly of last year’s leftovers.

But the drinks are fresh and, according to Miss Zowie, so are the shipping department boys. She has locked herself in the ladies room. After his third Manhattan, Mr. Coote, who hardly ever speaks to anyone, is loudly muttering about a planned Caribbean trip just before the next audit.

Miss Zowie has accidentally set off the burglar alarm while climbing out the ladies room window. A police squad has burst into the building and is slipping and sliding on outdated hors d’ouevres. Cuthbert Mainchance, resenting the intrusion, stares down the intruders and turns once more to the few remaining bleary-eyed employees. He begins: “And in conclusion…..”


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