During this time of year, one might feel obligated to attend his or her company holiday party. If you are anything like me, this may be your response: “Why in the world would I want to spend any more time with these people than I already do? Plus I always get shafted during the white elephant exchange.”

Understood. Your reasons are completely valid. My advice? Don’t skip the festivities. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to enjoy some free food, bad karaoke and (hopefully) an open bar. Just make sure that the office party you attend isn’t for your office; it’s much more fun that way.

Rewind to my first job in LA… I still remember how giddy I felt as I walked out of that fateful interview. Immediately I called my dad and exclaimed, “That’s where I want to work!” It was love at first sight. A few weeks later, I was sitting at my new desk and desperately trying to remember everyone’s name. I instantly bonded with my fellow coworkers; yet as the weeks and years went by, I realized as most adults do that my job had its highs and lows. What exactly was my job? Hmm… How to put this delicately? In a nutshell, I was the meanie. I was the one who yelled at you if you lost your parking pass. I was the one who told you that you didn’t have enough vacation days left for that trip home over Christmas. That kind of thing. As you might have guessed, I was super popular.

Also as you might have guessed, I like to write and that just wasn’t happening while I had this job. Of course 99.9% of people in Los Angeles have a “day job” while they work toward their dream of being an actor/director/big shot. It’s a hard line to walk. So eventually I decided that it was time for me to move on and tearfully said goodbye to my work family.

But whaddya know, they liked me! They really liked me! I had my doubts, but hugs never lie, and nothing beats showing up at the holiday party of a company you’ve quit and getting inundated with dozens of hugs.

And of course there’s the gossip.

This is the real reason why you should adopt a strict “only if I don’t work there anymore” policy when accepting an office party invitation. Even better is if you show up a few hours after the party has begun; by then most of your former coworkers have indulged in a drink or two or ten, and not only are so happy to see you, but also they almost immediately launch into all the good gossip. They know you, so they feel comfortable with you. Since you don’t work there anymore, you’re also a safe outlet. They don’t have to worry that come Monday morning you’ll tell all your coworkers that so-and-so did this-and-that with whats-his-face. It’s a win-win for everyone.

With one exception. If at the end of the evening you realize that you’re the only sober person left in the building, you have a choice to make. Either you silently slink out and say a quick prayer that your former coworkers get home safely despite their inebriated state, or you suck it up and offer them a ride. However, should you allow that holiday-induced “good will toward men” attitude to guide your actions, you just might end up with a half-dozen drunken holiday revelers stuffed into your compact backseat… and possibly someone in the trunk as well. Don’t ask me how I know this, but consider yourself warned.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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