Nothing can bring out such a range of emotions — from fear and loathing to elation and sheer joy — than the office birthday party. How you react could depend in large part on which side of the party you’re on: the celebrant, an attendee, or the party giver. It can also depend on the party fixins. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a birthday celebrated without tea, but others can, so for me to be the party giver and not be able to serve tea is a bit on the horrifying side.
I tend to view birthdays as something that should be celebrated with sincerity. Most office birthday parties lack this essential ingredient. They are either expected and done as a duty or lumped together into one big “monthly birthday observance” (which short changes those born in one of the most birthday filled months like August) or outright banned as a distraction from work and an unnecessary expense.
One year, I got caught up in the “office birthday party trap.” The way it worked at this particular place was that the last one whose birthday was celebrated in the office had to provide the next birthday treats. I told them I didn’t want to be feted, but they did anyway, obligating me to treat the next person in turn.
Okay, I can handle this, I guess. I’ll just ignore the fact that the person having the birthday is a co-worker I hardly knew and who had barely spoken to me since my duties didn’t relate to hers. Also, I wanted to plan a nice tea event, but she heard about it, told the department head, and I was summarily informed that I had to serve what she wanted. That turned out to be orange juice and donuts.
Yeah, I said orange juice…
By this time I had figured out that the party giver had two basic roles here: money machine and gopher. That last part was the real trick. Have you ever carried a briefcase, two boxes (the big flat kind) containing a dozen glazed donuts each, two one-gallon bottles of orange juice, plus plastic cups and plates from the parking lot, through the security gate, into a crowded elevator, and finally to the break room to put the orange juice in the refrigerator? Two words here: not fun. Two more words: near catastrophe.
At the appointed hour (10 a.m.), I had everything set up and ready and waited for people to arrive so we could get this show on the road. Attendance was a bit low. I think word had got around about the menu. We had quite a few people in our department who were watching their intake of sweets, especially donuts. We got through it all without too much disappointment, and my duty was done.
When the event was over, the birthday girl was walking away, talking with another woman and berating the whole thing, saying how disappointed she was in the event.
I think I should have stuck with the tea party theme. Sigh!
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