How am *I* the best-dressed one here?

 

Office Party by redteam

Office Party by redteam

There’s certain protocols one must get used to working the office environment. That’s correct: I’m turning into Dilbert. Anyway, amongst the dress-down Fridays, shared boxes of tea bags, and colour-coded inboxes, there’s the likes of staff parties. 

 

Does anyone enjoy these? I’ve yet to attend an institution-wide event at anywhere I’ve worked, and don’t feel worse off for it. At my last job I treated the annual gala with outright contempt – somewhere so short of money should not spend that much on a chocolate fountain. But something that’s pretty much unavoidable is the leaving do, that heroic bastion of all-inclusive awkwardness. FiftySomethingMan captures the moment pretty much exactly.

Yesterday I attended the ‘do’ of a friend in a different department – she’d worked with me for a while last year, and we remain on good terms, so I said I’d swing by. I envisaged an informal, mingly kind of affair; lurking around the crisps, too many half-full bottles of wine, orange juice for the ladies (and me). I got there, and it’s a closed door to the departmental conference room, and everyone sat on sofas tightly gathered around the cakes (and crisps, fear not) on a low table in the midst. Assume game face.

By the time I’d stuck my head in, I’d realised that it was too late to just beat a hasty retreat, so there I was with about 20 people I’d never even seen before, one I knew, and her fella, who I sort of know, a bit. That said, you get the opportunity to really observe the social anthropology of an environment in a situation like this…

There’s one that’ll take it upon himself to be the vocal, jovial one, the one who lightheartedly makes fun of you when you spill the orange juice rather than mopping up, the one who’ll cut across tentative, embryonic conversations to loudly discuss the intricacies of Arsene Wenger’s game plan. The Boor, if you like.

There’s the Timid One, perhaps on secondment from HR. He’ll try and make conversation, but be overwhelmed by the Boor’s might. There’s the Awkward one, usually a late middle-aged lady in an ill-fitting sweatshirt that takes handfuls of peanuts that are just that touch too large, and that few people talk to. There’s the Quiet-But-Important one, who is trying his best to fit in with his underlings but doesn’t really have any social skill to talk of. Next to him, Gushing Boss who stares a little too hard and leaves awkward pauses when she’s not describing how wonderful the leaving individual is. 

There’s also Innocuous Motorbike Lady, Angry Girl who dresses in the most pointedly non-feminist fashion and responds to everything with increasing levels of sarcasm, and occasionally – just occasionally mind – the normal one. 

Thrust me into the midst of that, squeezed onto aforementioned sofas, and you have a recipe for a good twenty minutes of silence as either shop or football or random is talked. The key thing is that I showed willing, but my opinion, as literally always, is that other people suck.

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