In October, my small (350?) agency was broken up. My division of about 50 folks became part of a new economic development “super agency” cobbled together from various existing offices.
My former agency’s home was a medium-sized three story building. My new agency’s home is a large five story building. There wasn’t room for us in the building so we’re across the street on half a floor of another building.
The key phrase of this introduction is “large five story building.” Because it became the centerpiece for the mother of all office holiday parties.
Even at my former agency, a holiday party for the entire department was not practical. So each division held its own luncheon. And that’s what happened for Thanksgiving at the new agency.
So I was surprised when top management of the new agency announced a department luncheon for Christmas. Since no room could hold all of us, staff would wander from office unit to office unit where food tables would be set up in common areas. This would have a “business” aspect by encouraging conversation about what that office did, thereby furthering education about who did what in the new agency and perhaps even instilling some “espirit d’ corps.’
I was very skeptical about this luncheon. The idea of having to wander from office to eat, instead of sitting down, did not appeal to me. On the other hand, only managers were bringing food. That was appealing to me since I’m not a manager.
On the day of the luncheon, I made a spur of the moment decision to attend. And I was glad I did! The consensus of everyone I talked to who attended was the same: it was the most “over the top” luncheon we’d ever seen. No one had ever seen so much food in one place at one time.
On each floor, it was a short walk from a group of food tables to the next. Although of course there were many similar offerings, especially in desserts, there were also many “only here” delights.
At the top of my list was the General Counsel’s office, which featured eight crock pots of chili. There was mild, medium, hot and even vegetarian. I sampled the “hot” (which met my standard to be called that) and also a mild.
Another office had smoked turkey wings whose meat fell off the bone. Their table also included Chicken a la King over rice, collard greens, corn bread and desserts. I sampled all of it except the desserts.
Another area had two large tables groaning with lots of beautiful looking desserts, including some very rich brownies. They also offered salad, cheeses, veggie assortment, and chips with all sorts of various dips and salsas. I asked where I was and then noticed the sign – it was my own division! (Since we had no offices in that building, we had to “borrow” some space.)
I managed to eat through four floors in 90 minutes. A good pace considering time in line and chatting a bit with folks I knew.
But by the time I finished the third floor, I knew how this would end. It was like an episode of Man vs. Food. Unfortunately, Food was going to win this one even though I wanted so badly to go the distance and set a “personal best” record. The spirit was willing but the stomach was packed hard as a brick.
I had thought I would succeed because my strategy was to be very selective. I passed on the ham sliders. I passed on the hot dogs (and I like hot dogs). I searched, unsuccessfully, for the Holy Grail: the spare ribs rumored to be “somewhere.” But they were only heard of, never seen.
As I completed the fourth floor, I realized my folly in thinking I could finish five floors. There was food to the left of me, food to the right of me, and food in front of me. And it was too much. I could go forward no more. Into the Valley of Tums walked the hundreds.
I decided not to even look at what was available on the fifth floor. Why subject myself to the mental anguish if I could look but not indulge?
I accepted the wisdom of the TV food warriors: it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. Next year, I’ll try again!