By ROBERT RECTOR
I am a freelancer. I am unencumbered, unattached, unleashed.
And one of the best things about my status is that I am longer required to attend an office Christmas party.
I'v seem enough lampshade-on-the-head, photocopy-your-butt merriment to last me a lifetime.
Or as Corey Ford wrote way back in 1951:
"The annual office party starts along about noon on December 24 and ends two or three months later, depending on how long it takes the boss to find out who set fire to his waste basket, threw the water cooler out the window, and betrayed Miss O'Malley in the men's washroom."
It hasn't changed a lot since then.
Among other oddities, I've seen a couple of careers blindsided over the years.
There was the time when an ambitious new employee decided to take the opportunity to show off his sophisitication and smarts with every boss in the room. After an evening of working the room like a politician running for office, he discovered his fly was unzipped the entire time.
Then there was the occasion when a young married couple decided to bring their 2 year-old for reasons I can't begin to fathom. The kid headed straight to the nut dish, consumed its contents then proceeded to get sick all over the bosses new carpet.
I've seen drunk and disorderly. I've seen employees boo Santa Claus. I've seen boozy romantic liaisons that disolved in the cold light of dawn.
I've also seen deadly dull. There's nothing like compulsory attendance to sap the holiday spirit right out of a party. One such affair I attended resembled a wax museum.
Want a receipe for potential disaster? Try this: Mix superiors and subordinates, cronies and rivals, the ambitious and the apathetic, stir in weird secret Santa gifts and social anxiety, add a generous dose of alcohol and see what happens.
A recent survey by a professional women's group found that drinking too much was the number one regret of women at their office parties. Sixty percent of the women surveyed changed their opinion of a co-worker after experiencing chardonay-fueled hijinks, according to one report.
But if you really need a reason to avoid, or to party lite, at the annual holiday bash, consider this: Drunken antics at office Christmas parties are increasingly being filmed and posted on the Internet, a report from ViralVideoChart.com says. The web chart firm says footage from office bashes posted on video share websites tripled in 2006 to 150,000.
Clips included a woman complaining about her boss, who, unknown to her, was standing behind her.
It would smart to avoid seeing your Yuletide on YouTube.
One historian traces the office party to the feast of Saturn, the god of agriculture, a Roman favorite. Citizens would untie the bound feet of the god's statue on Dec. 17, and a week of carrying on would begin.
"Loose reins are given to public dissipation," the philosopher Seneca reported.
Gifts were exchanged. Masters and slaves swapped roles. Drinking, gambling, feasting and "singing naked" would take place, according to one writer of the time.
Sounds just like the party over at Acme Widgets.
But even if you behave yourself, the holiday party can contain hidden pitfalls, according to authors Noel Boivin and Christopher Lombardo:
"While you may want to skip home in sheer delight at not having offended anyone during your company's holiday hootenanny, remember to step lively and keep a keen eye out for open manhole covers. If you don't you might end up like a Korean man did following his company's year-end blowout: the man fell 18 feet into an open sewer, where he spent the next 8 days sleeping on a foam mat and sipping from a puddle of clean water before his screams for help caught the attention of a passerby."