Our office holiday party was yesterday, and it was pretty fabulous.
The party was held off-campus in the Snyder Building Auditorium of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The room had a gigantic sloping ceiling and huge wood and glass chandeliers. One of the organizers had made pretty centerpieces made of red-bark dogwood, pine tree braches and ribbon.
The food was really very good! There was a lot of food that I was able to eat, even with the whole gluten-free deal-eo. I had a mixed greens salad, grilled vegetables, caprese salad and chicken with capers, nom nom nom! I had to pass on the orzo (Orzo is always frustrating. I want to go to the cook and say “You picked rice-shaped pasta! You meant to pick RICE!), the heavenly-smelling bread basket, and every single desert option, but after dinner I had some delicious apple cider with cinnamon sticks and was plenty satisfied.
There were a few short speeches and recognition awards, and a drawing for door prizes that seemed relatively benign – T-shirts with the company logo, some gift cards, etc – until the big winner opened his plain cardboard box to reveal a frickin’ iPad! Argh - so jealous! Apparently our department received the iPad as part of a promotion for ordering a whole slew of HPLC columns that we needed anyway. Order more! Order more! I need to do some chromotography on…uh…that dihydrogen monoxide over there (As an aside, this is the awesomest website on dihydrogen monoxide EVER)
Then came the event that I had been looking forward to for the whole week: The WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE!
I love white elephant exchanges because they’re humorous, slightly competitive and there’s always a chance you’ll walk away with something fun and exciting. Just in case you haven’t heard of a white elephant exchange, this is how it works:
1) Find something around the house that can be re-gifted. It can range from semi-nice (soaps collections, candles) to ugly (homemade ceramic fish) to very strange (huge green Hulk mitts that make growling sounds when you bash them together). The odd gifts are usually the most fun.
2) Wrap the present and bring it to the party. All of the presents go into a pile.
3) Everyone draws a number.
4) #1 goes to the pile and chooses a present. He/She unwraps the present and displays it for all to see.
5) #2 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” the present that #1 unwrapped. If #2 steals, then #1 gets to choose a replacement present from the pile.
6) #3 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” either of the other two already revealed presents. If someone’s gift gets stolen, he/she may either choose a new present or steal a different unwrapped present.
And so forth and so on until everyone has a present. Rules may vary. Our White Elephant Exchange had a rule that any given present may only be stolen three times. The person who got it on the third steal was safe; they could no longer have the present taken away.
We had 40 people participate, and there were some pretty silly and pretty decent presents in our pile. On my first turn I chose a wrapped present. It ended up being this ridiculous poker table/business card holder affair:
I figured that there was no way anyone would take this piece of crap present off of my hands. I mean…who keeps paper business cards anymore? But somewhere around #20 the big boss honcho took his turn. He looked at all of the unwrapped presents and then said something to the effect of, “What department supervisor doesn’t need a good place to store business cards? I’m stealing that poker table!”
Holy cow! Hardly believing my good luck, I handed over the business card holder and rushed to the stack of presents. I unwrapped a ~8″ wooden giraffe statue, which looked something like this:
Meh. Whatever. I could get down with a giraffe statue. But just a couple of turns later, a coworker stole the giraffe, proclaiming that it would be perfect for his little cousin who just loves giraffes (note the plea to sympathy to try to avoid having it stolen later down the line).
That was a good steal for me, because in the intervening time someone has unwrapped…a BRAIN CANDLE! It was beautiful with its gray, plump gyri and deep sulci, perhaps about the same size as adolescent human brain. It did have a severely flattened cerebellum and a noticeable lack of the rest of the hindbrain, but I suppose it was shaped to sit on a flat surface, so I was willing to forgive the designer his or her artistic license. Because, HELLO, it was a BRAIN CANDLE!
So I stole the brain candle and retreated to my corner, hoping that in the plethora of gifts available, no one would remember me and my little treasure. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the candle was stolen a few rounds later. After all, I was in a room full of nerdy scientists. Despondent and bored with the opened presents I went back to the mystery gift pile. I unwrapped a well-used, stained coffee cup/candle warming plate.
Crap! Well, that was going in the garbage. I’ve never owned nor wanted a warming plate, but I nodded, acknowledged my present and got back in line with everyone else. In other news, there was some drama over a very nice set of pasta pots that had been stolen once or twice. A few turns after I had drawn my lousy warming plate, the current holder of the pasta pots had them stolen from her.
Now whenever it was someone’s turn to choose between a wrapped gift and an already-opened gift, all of us who wanted to get rid of our crap presents would loudly market our wares to that person. When the pasta pot-less women came over toward me I pitched my plate, “You could use it to cook pasta. You know…if you used a very small pan.” Amazingly, she took the bait! I was free to choose another gift.
I was heading toward the pile of unopened gifts when inspiration struck. ”Hey!” I turned toward the emcee. ”Can I steal a present that has already been stolen from me?” After a brief huddle I was given the okay. I turned toward the brute who had so cruelly stolen the brain candle, raised my eyebrows and started sauntering in his direction. He made a sound of protest and looked down at the brain candle, which he was protectively cradling in his hands. He gave me a mock scowl, sniffed and handed it over.
Bonus: This was the third steal – the brain was henceforth protected from other present thieves! I returned to my seat with my new treasure, glowing with the excitement of having fought for and won my very own brain candle (and managing to weasel out of the other crap presents).