Even Scrooge likes Christmas
Ms. Ferguson, my loyal office
manager, buzzed me on the intercom.
"Iíve got the final head count for the Christmas party,
she said, knowing Iíd be interested.
I cringed. "How many are coming?"
"Including you, 65."
"Sixty-Five!!! How did it get so high?"
She was enjoying this. "48 employees, 17 guests. Donít
worry, the guests are paying $20 per person."
Ms. Ferguson was aware of my propensity in past years of
getting caught up in the spirit of the party, slapping an employee on the
back and telling them not to worry about paying me for their guests.
"Yes, in advance. Iíve already collected."
"Good." I said. "You know, I donít mind an
employee bringing a guest, but $20 doesnít even cover the total cost of
drinks and dinner. We should have charged $30."
"Merry Christmas, Ebenezer," said Ms. Ferguson,
As usual, she was right. My attitude needed some adjusting. I
vowed to work on it before the big event.
And I tried. We had the Christmas party at a local restaurant
last week, and the turnout was excellent. Everyone who said they were coming
showed up. And that meant everyone who worked for me. "Everyone!"
I cried incredulously to my general manager, Ralph, as I scanned the group
before dinner. "Weíve never had 100 percent attendance. Why this
year, when I can least afford it?"
"Times are tough," Ralph replied, munching a little
too quickly on an appetizer. "No one wanted to pass up a free dinner
and night on the town."
Ms. Ferguson wandered over. "Itís time for the Kris
Kringle," she said cheerily, referring to our annual custom of drawing
a name from a hat and then buying a gift for that person.
The drawing had occurred two weeks before the party. I had
drawn Fred, a recent addition to our sales staff. The problem was,
unbeknownst to him, there was a good chance Fred was going to be laid off
right after the New Year.
I thought long and hard, but I decided a reference letter would
not be an appropriate gift.
I got him a jacket instead. He loved it, despite recognizing it
as coming from the close-out rack in one of our stores.
I received my gift from Anita, and it was lovely. My only
disappointment was that I recognized it as something that was not purchased
from one of our stores.
We then sat down to dinner. By this time a few thousands
appetizers had been consumed, and I saw no need to order an actual dinner.
Everyone else, unfortunately, saw otherwise.
With a party this size, it would be wise to get a fixed price
menu with perhaps a choice of beef or chicken. But I prefer to let everyone
order whatever they want off the full menu. That way I can see who really
cares about the company.
Itís also the eternal optimist in me. Every year I assume the
favorite choice will be the Ground Round Steak for $6.95, including salad.
And every year Iím disappointed.
Fortunately, by the time dinner rolls around, so have the
cocktails. Not only have most employees or guests lost their inhibitions
about what to order, but I have lost my ability to care. Much
I still manage, however, to take a few mental notes. After
delivering a convincing speech encouraging everyone to satisfy their every
gastronomical whim, I listen carefully as the orders are placed. My
$6.95 to $10.95: on the verge of becoming true friends.
$7.95 to $13.95: unless they have some special talent, not
likely to remain with the company for life.
$14.95 to 16.95: theyíd better eat every bit. It will
probably be their last party.
$17.95 to "market price": Fired on the spot.
I was sitting next to Ralph and Ms. Ferguson. The waiter came
to take our order. I went the $9.95 route, playing it safe. Not too cheap,
not too extravagant.
Ralph ordered lobster, Ms. Ferguson the rack of lamb -- $17.95 each.
While I was banging my head on the table, they laughed and raised their
glasses, toasting my generosity.
Iíll miss them.