When I worked at my last real office job—about ten years ago now, which is wild to think about—I always took a lot of pleasure in the special events. You know, those days where you have to be at work, but no one is really working. And it’s somehow more relaxing than even being at home would be: you’re dressed up office-smart, sitting at your desk, but people keep bringing round treats or drinks or funny videos, and everyone is chatting and no one’s getting anything done. It diminishes the veil between your Self and your Work Self, reminding all of you just for a moment that you exist outside the office—and more so, that you exist inside the office, as a real person, with an inner life.
That last office job was exactly the sort of job I imagined having when I watched TV as a child and lazily pictured adulthood: everyone wore business-casual-to-business-fancy clothes, we hosted extravagant client dinners, people took The Quarterly Numbers very seriously, I had responsibilities that felt really silly to me sometimes. Once, we held a team planning meeting in a fancy hotel for absolutely no reason, and when we arrived there were little dishes of polished rocks at everyone’s seat at the table, which baffled all of us until I decided to take the initiative and put one into my mouth: reader, they were chocolates. The polished rock sheen was the candy shell. Money makes you do stupid things.
The party I remember with most fondness from this time (besides maybe the day after the holiday party, when the snacks they brought in for brunch were McDonald’s cheeseburgers and bloody marys) was The Tuesday Before The Thursday. This was a party just for my team, planned I think by the Wine Men: all the middle-aged men on the team wore suits every day and wanted to be sommeliers. (They were very nice, and learned your tastes, and would buy fancy bottles for you at those extravagant client dinners. RECOMMENDED FRIEND CATEGORY, at least in the short term.)
As you might have guessed The Tuesday Before The Thursday was our team’s pre-Thanksgiving celebration: we couldn’t have it on Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve) because most people were out, and had to travel either that morning or the morning after. We couldn’t have it on Monday, because a major theme of the party was Wine, and we all had to work on Tuesday. So: it became what it was always going to be. We did a potluck, but because we were Busy Working People most of us brought food from our favorite lunch restaurants, though very possibly some of us cooked. Naturally, there was ample wine. We huddled up together in the otherwise empty cafeteria, with its panoramic nighttime view of Chicago, and made increasingly silly toasts until we all mutually insisted that we should take cabs home instead of the El (though I usually still took the El).
I remember how cold it was, how it usually hadn’t snowed yet, but the air already smelled of it. One year, a day or two after this party, Dave and I took the bus (the bus!) to Madison for Thanksgiving with his parents, and when his mom picked us up at the Capitol building, and by then it actually was snowing, so we felt lucky, like we had just missed a minor catastrophe, and when we woke up the world was so soft and so white.
This year we’re cooking in Tucson: my mission today is to ready some pie crust and poach a bunch of pears. There was no Tuesday Before The Thursday this year, because my only co-worker now is my dog, although we did go out for tacos with Dave’s brother & our sister-in-law, and one of their co-workers who we’re all friends with, and the co-worker also got fresas con crema, which turned out to be an elementary-school-milk style carton of frozen strawberries (advertising 20% sugar! That was on the box!) with whipped cream. It was outrageously good, and the co-worker (who ate most of it) later said his sugar crash was “ego-destroying,” so I guess it wasn’t so different from the classic Wednesday Before The Thursday crash, when your work-self and your self-self and your family-self suddenly and majestically collide, until you can curl up and go to sleep, and outside it is cold, but inside it is, I hope, quite warm.