Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas Party

Last Thursday I went to my 30th holiday (formerly known as Christmas) party-- not all with the same company, of course. Some were elaborate affairs at fancy hotels, others were little more than fruit punch and cookies set out on a picnic table, but they have all been occasions to visit with co-workers whom one doesn’t see too often.

Our long and liquid lunch was held at One Market, a nearby upscale restaurant. The men donned coats and ties, and the women wore evening dresses. Our employer, like others in the Financial District, has had a “business casual” dress code since the late Nineties. The holiday party has evolved into an occasion where employees voluntarily take their suits out of mothballs and dress up as a sign of respect for the season, for each other, and for the way we once were.

A couple of executives usually start the proceedings. If business has prospered, the mood is cheerful, and the jokes are lighthearted. If the company has had a “difficult” year---and who, if they’ve had a few seasons under their belt, hasn’t---the speakers thank the gathering for all their efforts, ladle out the sympathy, and encourage one and all to take a break from the grind and enjoy each other’s society.

My company invites retirees to the celebration. At my first party there was only one retired person; then, the median age of the attendees was 35, and collecting a pension was far from everyone’s mind. At the 2004 luncheon there were a dozen retirees present, and I knew them all. I hadn’t seen most since last year, so I spent more time talking to them than I did with my co-workers.

In truth I identify more with the codgers than the callow. I listened attentively to one fellow’s description of his knee operation but only gave half an ear to a thirty-something’s enthusiastic recounting of her Kenya safari. Sans children and a significant other, and with plenty of disposable income, the world is her oyster.

By five o’clock I had had enough dessert, wine, and conversation and went back to the office for my briefcase. The energetic continued to bar-hop until the wee hours. For the young the night was still young, but I’m not and it wasn’t, so I went home.

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