The office party, as expected, was part Solondzian hell, part old-people-let-loose scenes from “Cocoon”. Honestly, I’ve never seen grown people so excited by the opportunity to drink in the middle of the day. When I was growing up, I never had the urge to break into my parents’ liquor cabinet when they were out of town, and I wasn’t so thrilled with milking the open bar dry just because the bosses were looking the other way. Drinking at work, let alone with people from work, just seems weird to me, so I opted for a Sprite.

What followed was some of the worst peer pressure I’ve ever experienced. Mind you, this was from the forty and fifty-year-old women at my table. I pointed out that Patty was drinking a Sprite, too, as if to deflect attention away from myself. It turned out Patty is eight months pregnant. Who knew? I clearly need to work on my observational skills. And, uh, congratulations, Patty.

Under duress, I finally caved and ordered a margarita. The table burst into cheers. Everyone in the room looked over to see what the commotion was about. So by caving to peer pressure, I actually invited even more attention. Mental note: just say no! “Attention everyone! Jerry just ordered a drink!” the (drunk) receptionist announced. More attention. Are they still looking at me? Can I leave now?

Then I had to actually drink the thing, which I say without hyperbole was the strongest margarita ever made. I was threatened with further ridicule if I didn’t finish it. By the time it came, dessert was being served, so I was going to have to hurry. Well, at least I know they like me enough to tease me. I still wish they liked me enough to smile at me and say hello in the hall, but this’ll have to do.

The Big Boss gets up to make his annual speech. People are really excited for this. I’m just wondering how long it’ll take for him to say something I can use to mock him in this blog. He starts off by taking a few shots at my boss, who skipped the luncheon. In a move characteristic of my boss’ hubris, he recently demanded a bigger office for himself. Since there were no bigger offices, one had to be created for him by moving someone else’s wall back five feet. This turned our entire workspace into a construction zone for about three weeks last month, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my boss happier. Some people really enjoy attention.

Then Big Boss set aside the schtick and moved toward the sincerity part of his unscripted, rambling speech. He was struggling a bit telling us all how much he appreciated our hard work blah blah blah when at some point, he uttered the phrase “this Christmas party”. “You mean Holiday party!” someone politically-corrected him. I was only halfway through the margarita at this point, so I trust my memory when it tells me that this is what follows:

“You know, I was having lunch with my daughter recently, and she was talking about how much she loves Jesus.” [I could have plenty of fun with that sentence alone, but trust me when I say the best is still to come. Continuing…] “And she asked me, ‘Daddy, why don’t Jewish people celebrate Christmas?’ ‘Well,’ I told her, ‘because Jewish people don’t believe in Jesus.'” [I only interrupt again to point out that there are about fifty people listening to this, and quite a few of them are Jewish. Continuing…] “I have never seen her so upset in my life. I still don’t think she’s recovered.” [This is the moment where, I assume, I hope, I pray the punchline/point of all this is finally going to be revealed…] “Anyway, that’s all. I guess now I’m an anti-Semite.” Big laughs. I don’t get it. The speech ends there.

The waiters take the last plates away, and as people start leaving, one woman runs around with a digital camera taking pictures of everything and everyone in sight. I quickly down the rest of my drink, pose for exactly one group picture with the rest of my table, and follow the throngs back to the office.

It turns out Camera Lady wasn’t just trying to beef up her personal photo album. A couple of hours later, she’s posting blow-ups on the break room message board, which is usually full of people’s baby pictures, along with her “funny” captions. I quickly spot the picture of my table. Seven people looking into the lens and smiling. Caption: “All of you! Go in the corner!” [Que?] I foolishly think I got off easy, until I spot another picture, a picture of me and me alone – in fact the only solo picture she’s hung up of anyone. It turns out she zoomed in and blew up that same group picture to feature just my face, which is now pixellated almost beyond recognition. Caption: “Jerry takes a walk on the wild side. He’s just one margarita away from breaking out into song. … take a walk on the wild side… doo de doo doo doo do doo.”

Every time I walk through that room, I see the picture. I see people looking at it. Inexplicably laughing. The lunch from Hell has been extended for a few more weeks, at least until the next batch of baby photos arrives. Patty, you screwed me on the Sprite, but you may just be my savior yet. Please be premature.

I refuse to say I’m glad I went, but I’ll concede that I’m grateful for the margarita, which made the rest of my work day much more tolerable. I’m beginning to understand how alcoholics are born.

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