Hands up if you love Christmas in the office! Anybody? Thought not – that explains why the staff christmas party is most enjoyable to those of us who end up comatose behind the pot plants. The modern workplace is a mausoleum of soul-killing drudgery, and at no point will you feel more alienated by your co-workers than when it’s time for secret santa.
You spend more time with these people than you do with your own children, yet apparently none of them knows you well enough to realise that you didn’t want a selection of indigestible chocolates shaped like willies. You wanted the DVD of Downton Abbey, not a voucher to get your eyebrows threaded or a scuffed copy of The Da Vinci Code. In Hungarian.
The avalanche of mediocre office gifts results from an unspoken social anxiety that will inevitably prevent your secret santa from getting you what you really want. Your colleagues would sooner strip naked in a board meeting than admit that, after ten years in a cubicle eight inches from your every thought, they know you better than the woman who birthed you. They’re well aware you secretly adore One Direction; they know that you’d love a fluffy new bathrobe; they live with the knowledge that your TV blanket is stained with lonely tears. This is a profound and crushing burden, and so they disguise it by getting you a voucher from WH Smith like you’re nothing but a stranger. They’re well aware you’re phobic of staplers and can’t even read – they simply cannot look you in the eye and admit it.
This year is different. You know these people, you know everything they love, you know every dirty little secret. Show them you care by getting them what you know they need, not what polite convention tells you to. Just ensure it’s legal, non-toxic and not more than £20, or HR will send out another stroppy email on Monday.
THE TIPSY SECRETARY
She resents all people under fifty, and hates any technology more modern than the abacus, but she’s the one person who’s hard to get wrong. If it’s wet, comes in a glass bottle and catches on fire, you’re on the right track. This either means cheap perfume or supermarket gin, and after a few swigs who can tell the difference anyway? Her estranged husband, maybe.
OFFICE COMEDY GUY
You’re shopping for the wacky bloke who never stops talking. You know that all the hours you spent listening to this guy act out his favourite sketches from Little Britain adds up to longer than the time you spent holding hands with your first love? You’re never getting that time back. Suck on that one for a minute, then order him a book of depressing French philosophy, the new Morrissey album and a box of Kleenex with WE ARE ALL ALONE written on it in dried blood.
LITTLE MISS OFFICE POLITICS
Reads everybody’s emails, whispers about you in hallways and is at the centre of more webs of intrigue than the News Of The World. Buy her a fancy faux-bling case for her iPhone 5, so fancy that she doesn’t notice the tiny recording device inserted by Korean engineers with no morals and fast upload speeds. Next Christmas, she’s buying you gifts, master blackmailer.
THE IT WARLOCK
He seldom talks, is allergic to toothpaste and his mum still makes his sandwiches at age 37. Whatever this guy is into, you can be sure there’s an internet site dedicated to weird, rare versions of it. Just make really sure you understand Dutch/Japanese/Elvish, unless you want to be spending Christmas explaining to customs why you thought the fleshy, latex contents of that package were something quite different based on the website description.
Some men never grow up, probably because acting like a tedious adolescent in the office is no hindrance to reaching management level as long as you have a sexual harassment lawyer on speed dial. They spend an incredible amount of time involved in cringe-inducing ‘comedy banter,’ forwarding racist jokes via email and generally ruining your working life. Why not splash out and get them an airline ticket to a faraway place where the girls are hot, the parties are crazy, and the local vice squad will pick people up following anonymous bribes sent via PayPal. See you in fifteen years lads, don’t forget the ping pong balls.
THE HUMOURLESS OLD PERSON
Comedy banter may be the bane of the workplace, but it’s a toss up whether the endless parade of Jimmy Savile jokes is worse than ending up on the desk next to the co-worker who’s been around so long that they turned into a shrivelled husk animated only by resentment and the opportunity to spread misery. Their only happy moments are the pleasure taken in the mistakes and misfortune of others, so you can’t go wrong with a DVD boxset of ‘World’s Most Awful Natural Disasters’ or a subscription to True Crime Murder Monthly Magazine.
The big man, the CEO, the number one – you drew the secret santa short straw. Who really knows the boss? Not even his secretary and/or mistress, certainly not the taxman. He’s an enigma to all, unless you were smart and installed spyware on his laptop to check you’re not about to get fired. Of course, now you regret it, because expense claims aren’t the only thing he’s cracking down on. Do you really want to give the game away by getting him the perfect pressie of a leather riding crop, a stormtrooper uniform and some marshmallows? Two options: play it safe and buy another voucher for the golf shop; or pretend the gift is from Kevin in accounts and get him a gag ball, a few albums by Wagner and a nude oil painting of Margaret Thatcher.