Those of us who served time in the corporate working world are all too familiar with the often-loathsome office party – the annual end-of-the-year gathering where coworkers pretend they’ve loved spending so much of their time throughout the year with one another. One good thing about working freelance is that I’ve been able to avoid such mundane bacchanalias. But 2020 has allowed many in the workforce to evade the antics of business life.
At the end of 1999, executives at the bank in Dallas where I worked conjured up the bright idea of staging quarterly workplace assemblages to encourage team building. This was also when the idiotic concept of multi-tasking had become forcibly fashionable. In January of 2000, we were to gather at a restaurant / gaming house to have dinner and then engage in some kind of laser tag amusement. Since it took place after work, I informed my manager and constituents I could not make it; that it would cut into my free time, which would only serve to aggravate me and not make me love them any more than I already didn’t. I wasn’t the only one with the same sentiment. In April we took off in the middle of the day to patronize…a bowling alley. I absolutely HATE bowling. Like golf, I don’t consider anything near a sport. Any activity where people dress up in ugly slacks or short pants and consume alcohol at the same time isn’t a sport! But, as Gloria Gaynor once bellowed, I survived.
In July, we gathered after work for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we were to stroll to a local movie theatre and watch “The Perfect Storm”, which had just been released. I had already read the book of the same name written by Sebastian Junger. I would have liked to see the movie, but not right then, seated alongside my coworkers. Besides, dinner and a movie doesn’t sound like a team-building exercise; it sounds more like a date. Again I expressed myself and didn’t go to the movie, even though the bank was paying for it.
The following month all hell seemed to break loose, when the bank underwent a major management rearrangement and several mid-level managers (including mine) had their jobs eliminated. So much for team-building!
Photographer and filmmaker Alex Prager obviously comprehends the uncomfortable nature of the dreaded office party and has captured its mendacity in a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Farewell, Work Holiday Parties” pays homage to the drudgery of the working world and the demands it often imposes upon its minions who often spend more time at work than at home. The exhibit features about a dozen sculptures that look eerily like real people when photographed. They’re bizarre moments of debauchery and stupidity perpetrated under the guise of workplace camaraderie. It’s a little bit of “The Poseidon Adventure” (a New Year’s party wrecked by a rogue wave) mixed with “Die Hard” (an office Christmas party ravaged by well-dressed terrorists).
Regardless, the images are certain to bring tears and/or smiles to many and a general sense of, “Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that shit anymore!”