The first recorded holiday office party held in Washington, D.C. took place during the Ice Age on the spot where the National Zoo now stands. Workmen on the site found this message on fragmented tablets:
The Association of Glacial Epoch Executives Invites You to Celebrate the Og Season and Share a Handful of Nog With Us. Casual Dress: No Polyester No Wives Cave-side: 6-8 p.m. Regrets Only
The Holiday Office Party has come a long way since the days of Og and Nog. There are those, however, who say, "Le plus things change, le plus they remain the same." Others are silent, wondering what "le plus" means.
This fable is offered in the spirit of the season; if it prevents even one soul from succumbing to HYPE (Holiday Ymas Party Excess), we'll be surprised.
Sybelline de Gravlax applied another coat of "Love's Luster Looms" Red to her anticipatory lips as she waited for the elevator door to open on the penthouse suite of Baroque, Bialys, Blue and Barracuda, an advertising-association-public relations-law firm in Washington, D.C.
She was stunning in her white glitter stockings complementing her hug-me high heels (so sharp they were gouging a hole in the elevator floor), and her red leather, new-wave dress with a plunging neckline saved from suicide only by the hem. She casually tossed a black leather tie around her neck, chicly completing her dress-for-success look.
Somewhere a wolf howled and the elevator doors opened.
"Hi," said a guest in a dark blue pin-striped, double-vested suit. "Who are you? What do you do? Who do you know?"
He handed Sybelline a decanter of vodka and apologized. "They must be cutting back this year. Last Christmas each guest was given a direct hose to the distillery. Hard times, hard times."
Guiding her into the poinsettiaed conference room he piled her plate high with Les Circles du Viandes (meatballs), Mortadella a la Fromage avec Pain (baloney and cheese sandwich) and Trio of Vegetables Jardinaire (carrot and celery sticks in a jar). In the corner she spotted the lobbyist from WHINE talking to stockbroker, L. Argilla Robinson.
"C'mon, Argilla. Your husband isn't here, my wife is at home in a float tank. What will it hurt?"
Argilla opened her dyed newt-leather attache' case and whipped out a prospectus.
"I'm telling you Howie, if you don't buy this stock now you're going to lose out."
"One kiss, Argilla . . ." his eyes crossed crazily as he pursed his lips.
"Kiss, shmiss," snapped Argilla. "Don't you read New York magazine? Sex is through, blue chip is in." She placed the prospectus in Howie's lips and made her way through the crowd, flinging business cards in her wake.
Howie lurched toward Sybelline. "How about a chicken drummette, pineapple kabob, barbecued riblet? How about a walk on the balcony? It overlooks the White House if you overlook the 10 buildings in between. How about you let me refill your decanter?"
Decanter-less, Sybelline wended her way through the room carefully avoiding the plants and meaningful sculpture lining the walls but bumping into Brougham Barracuda, chief counsel for the firm.
"Mind if I remove one of my vests?" asked Barracuda, snapping his cuffs to reveal the Rolex Presidential. "I start perspiring when I remember party time is not billable."
Sybelline tried out her party laugh, a slow mellifluous tinkle that rose to a hearty crescendo. Barracuda, startled, grabbed her around the waist and whispered, "That dress-for-success look you're wearing is succeeding."
"Elliott from purchasing here," interrupted an intern. "There's a guest in the copier room who's trying to send himself parcel post to Curacao. He's yelling he can't go through one more Washington winter--cars sliding all over the place just anticipating the snow. He's already used up $569 worth of stamps--he's insisting he go first class."
"Well, he's right on the button there," said Barracuda, releasing Sybelline, "a lot more leg room in first class."
Waving a cheery host-like hello with one hand to a gaggle of environmentalists looking for sludge in the punch bowl, he proffered a weak salute with the other to the representatives of four unfriendly countries--all sitting on a hassock drinking herbal tea.
"Gotta go kids," smiled Barracuda. "Did you see who just came in? The Prez, that's who. I don't believe it--he's eating a chicken drummette. No, wait a minute, he's put down the drummette and veering toward the pineapple kabobs. Bialys said the kabobs were popular, but who knew they'd beat out drummettes? I bet that Bialys raises his hourly rate because of this."
Sybelline sat down on the ultrasueded couch and watched the secretaries refuse to get coffee for the guests as the word processors flashed "Have a Nice Day" in holiday green.
"So," said Howie, returning with the decanter, "great party isn't it?"
"Not quite," said Sybelline, lifting the tip of Howie's ersatz Hermes tie from the decanter. "Something's missing."
"What?" wailed Howie. "You've eaten, imbibed, walked on our industrial carpeting. What could be missing?"
Sybelline smiled and walked down the hall to one of the executive offices. Settling back into the blue pin-striped Louis XVI chair she picked up the phone's receiver and punched "O."
"Operator, get me Moscow," said Sybelline, humming the first bars of "reach out and touch someone."
"Yes, Moscow, Russia. I'd like to speak to Chairman Yuri Andropov. I want to reach out," she sang, "and just say 'Hi.' And operator, just bill it to this number."