Dangerous liaisons

Ah yes, and here we all are, wading once again through another season of the Official Party. Official as in The Office. As is usually the case, Americans can be divided into two distinct camps when it comes to this venerated and venereal institution: office party-o-philes and office party-o-phobes.

The Philes are easily found. They’re the folks who are between 20 and 35, fairly broke when it comes to cash, and dangerously attracted to the notion of having a whole bunch of drinks on the company tab. This attraction stems from the commonly held attitude among Philes that they’re getting hosed by the boss in terms of salary (usually a provable proposition) so they will often show up at The Party with an attitude of thirsty vengeance, quite intent on making those rat bastard employers pay with a daring abuse of the open bar. When the company is taking care of the bar bill, it’s not uncommon for gaggles of Philes to band together and decimate supplies of Jackie D, Jaeger, and whatever quality tequila might be in stock.

Unfortunately for most Philes, this glug glug glug of the 80-proof grog can lead to some real problems. Namely, the greatly increased chance that the following equation will come into play—attractive co-worker plus open bar plus suggestive, gyrating dance tunes equals the classic office party horndog rendezvous. This can then lead to a thrilling, intra-office romance (8 percent of the time) or a situation of hyper-embarrassment (92 percent), which can in turn lead to intense ribbing from office colleagues, a solid dose of angst, and, occasionally, suicide.

But that prospect never stops a genuine Phile. That is, after all, why he or she is a Phile.

After a few collisions with those festive inevitabilities, though, Philes slowly morph into Phobes.

Phobes might be too heavy-handed of a word. They don’t actually hate the office party, they just grow very wary of these particular events. Phobes are the folks who’ve been around the office-party block more than a few times, and who now approach the annual December get-together with cool, efficient reserve. The basic Phobe sees the office party as mainly a chance to knock off a decent dinner on the company tab, and knock off a few glasses of pretty good wine, but also make damned sure that they don’t get anywhere close to being “faced.” Because “faced” means trouble, in so many ways. And as soon as the DJ makes the musical transition from Enya’s “Silent Night” to Otis Day and the Night’s “Shout,” your standard Phobe is basically a vapor trail heading to the parking lot. They have already been in a few too many Christmas Conga Lines, and they have zero desire to wake up in a colleague’s bathtub, or, even worse, bed. Plus, if they get home fast, they can get away with just giving the sitter a 20.