My shoes already hurt. I only wear them twice a year, and each time this happens. I get a sort of shoe blister amnesia every time I pull them out of the wardrobe. ‘Oh those look pretty!’ But they do, and they match my new Next dress. Although this year I made sure to stow some plasters in my bag.
I’m the last one to arrive. Our office isn’t massive. There are maybe twenty employees. Most people buggered off to the Christmas venue as soon as noon arrived. Not much work gets done on the Friday morning before the Christmas lunch. Cursory efforts at appearing to work, shifting of files from one location to another, the staring at the email inbox. No one is fooling anyone, but we all play along.
The Black Horse is our usual Christmas party location. The backroom is laid out like a Christmas dream. A beautifully decorated tree sits in the corner and reaches the ceiling. It must be real; I can swear I smell pine needles. Multicoloured twinkle lights line the walls, and each table is laid out with layers of green and red cloth.
No one is seated just yet. Everyone is sipping their drinks and polite chatter and laughter reign. I see my team. I join them, have a glass of red wine and we bitch about paperwork. Last week they introduced a second set of forms to fill in for each order. Utter waste of time.
The meal was lovely as always, three courses of rocket and pressed foie gras, poached salmon, mango soup. A couple bottles of wine came and went with co-workers filling up each other’s glasses. Idle chatter prevails:
“How’s your Sarah doing at uni?”
“You went to Paris last year, didn’t you?”
“When are you moving house?”
During round two of the quiz I receive a text. Luckily I’ve only had two glasses of wine in two hours. My daughter needs picking up and my other half had somehow killed the battery in his car. I excuse myself and promise to return after I see my daughter safely home.
Door to door two hours later, I return to the pub.
When I got out of the car I could hear loud cackling, like the Macbeth witches had come to life. I hear the breaking of glass. I parked next to a car whose alarm is ringing out unchecked.
I walk into the pub. The party has spilled out from the back room to the front.
Chairs and tables are overturned.
A small fire burns on the bar and someone is yelling at the flames, “Fuck you pointless admin bullshit!”
A couple makes out in the corner.
One woman sits on her own talking to herself and crying.
Two men are having two separate conversations but at each other.
Behind me three temps are speaking loudly.
“Weren’t you a giant slag at uni?”
“Only on Fridays.”
“I am totally going to nail our new neighbour.”
A violent drinking game is being played at one of the tables. More breaking glass.
Two women feel each other’s breasts and give feedback.
From the back room I can hear indistinct sounds until there is a crashing of chairs followed by cheering. Someone yells “Two to one! Best of five!” There is a second crashing of chairs and booing this time.
I go to the bar and order myself a bottle of wine.
Written by Cat Hummell from the key phrase Office Christmas Party.