the ancient fruitcake, the murder mystery lunch, and other times holidays at work went wrong

Earlier this month, I asked readers to share your funniest office holiday party stories and funniest office gift debacles. Here are 15 of my favorites.

1. The statue

Was invited to my boss’s house for an employee holiday party. This small business was owned by a married couple who were also landlords, so they were pretty wealthy and had a huge house. I was walking around admiring their art when I came across a statue.

A nude statue.

A nude statue of my boss.

2. The dance

Our CEO loved hosting the annual Christmas party as he felt it was his personal thank you to all of the employees. He would spend weeks planning out the decorations, tasting food for catering, hand selecting the gifts, and always made sure there was a huge open bar with premium drinks for everyone to enjoy. The party started at 7pm, ended at 12 am, and then he would do an extended “after hours” party until 2am. Needless to say, people wound up pretty wasted at these parties and the CEO was the most wasted every year. Luckily, he was a happy go lucky type of drunk who usually just ended up thanking everyone profusely for their work.

One year the dance floor was pumping and everyone was having a grand old time when the DJ decided to play “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (you know, the song from Dirty Dancing). Suddenly the dance floor parted. The CEO stood at one end of the dance floor, zoned into the music. The VP of Sales locked eyes with the CEO and they began to fully run toward each other, each clearly assuming the other would catch him. They leapt into the air with drunken grace and enthusiasm. ::smack:: They landed on the concrete with a smack you could hear over the music and crowd. All we could see was some blood and two bodies trying to untangle.

They had both cracked their heads on the ground and gotten concussions. Neither gentleman wanted an ambulance called so someone’s sober wife packed them into her SUV (each of them with a roadie in-hand) and drove them off to the ER.

The next day we got an email from the CEO with the subject, “Each Year Gets More Epic” and a picture of him and the VP of Sales posing together at the ER with stitches on the side of their heads.

3. Not a pickle

One year, I was The Pickle Lady. I was obsessed with pickling, especially lacto-fermented pickles. I pickled anything I could get my hands on and, since my pickling was so prolific, I often shared the fruits of my labours with people in the office. I also talked a lot about pickling and would happily offer guidance to anyone seeking the way of the pickle. This also expanded into talking about making vinegars and kombuchas, and I freely offered bits of my SCOBYs to anyone who would ask. I often joked that I was the Queen of Controlled Rotting. In retrospect, I was probably a little obnoxious, but it was all in good fun.

One sweet, lovely coworker watched all of this happen without engaging with me about it much, so she must have misunderstood how fermentation works. She picked me for Secret Santa that year and when the office got together to open gifts, I ended up opening mine near last. It was this beautiful gift bag, just to my taste, and I pulled out my gift to find… A jar of mold. Just grey-green fuzziness throughout the entire jar. I was deeply confused and not originally sure what it was, so I tentatively opened the jar. The smell was eye-watering to say the least, and it quickly spread to those around me. They reacted with a mix of polite confusion, low-key revulsion, and concealed amusement. After a few jokes and confused noises, we all made nice, set the jar of life aside, and moved on with the party.

Later the coworker came to me, red in the face and with tears in her eyes, asking why everyone had hated her gift. I asked her to clarify what it was supposed to be. She said she knew that I loved all this “controlled rotting” business, so she had put some of her favourite foods in a jar and let them go bad in the hopes that I could use the mold to make my own treats. That way it would be like we were making them together. It was so adorable, so endearing, so loving, and so misguided. I thanked her for her intentions and we were eventually able to laugh about the misunderstanding.

Now I love to tell the story of the time I was gifted a jar of mold.

4. The sink

Years ago my office holiday party was held in one of the company buildings, which had a single person restroom. Everyone had a good time and the drinks were aplenty, but no shenanigans (or so we thought). The next day, one of employees sent out a photo he took at the end of the night of the bathroom sink completely torn off the wall and smashed on the ground. Nobody fessed up, but at the time I had access to the security footage so the IT guy and I checked it out. We saw our HR manager go into the (remember, single person) bathroom with their partner and then both snuck out several minutes later. The next person to go in was the one who sent out the photo. I don’t know what was going on in there, but hopefully it was worth it!

5. The questionnaire

When my office decided on a Secret Santa gift exchange, we all filled out short questionnaires (clearly labeled as being for the Secret Santa) that gave us an opportunity to describe things we like and don’t like. I drew my coworker’s name and was curious to know what she’d put about her likes/dislikes. This coworker, despite being very good at her job in many respect, was known around the office as someone who occasionally needed to be reminded to slow down and listen to or read the entirety of what someone was saying before speaking/acting. So I should not have been surprised to see that she’d listed her likes as “walks on the beach” and “sunsets,” or (my personal favorite) “making love.”

6. The finger

One year the office holiday part coincided with a visit from the company’s CEO (we were a satellite office), so the party planning committee had the brilliant idea to bring our ~40 person group to the bar on the top level of the Hancock Building in Chicago. Nice and fancy in theory, but the drinks there are so expensive that we were only budgeted for one each, and it’s really not a very big bar so it was very awkward fitting us all together. Things got worse when the CEO decided to make everybody go around and share what they hoped to see for the future of the company (so festive!). Suffice it to say the vibe was already very weird by the time we were ready to leave. I ended up taking the elevator down 95 floors in the same group as the CEO, who had been chatting with one of my office’s sales reps, and for some reason he pointed his finger at her while talking and, to the horror of the rest of us crammed in with them like sardines, she leaned forward and took his whole finger into her mouth. I have no idea why (not alcohol; we’d all just had the one weak cocktail apiece) but the stunned silence and awkward glances lasted for the rest of the ride.

7. The terrible cards

The worst corporate Christmas cards I’ve ever come across:

– Every year the CEO wrote everyone (100-ish people) a card with a quick message. This is a sweet idea.

– One year, the Design Director said she would design the cards. Also a fairly sweet idea.

– What she came up with was the weirdest card I’ve ever seen. No concession to Christmassy themes whatsoever. Dingy grey background with a checkbox list of the company values, so the CEO could tick whichever value he felt you most embodied. Sort of sweetly-intentioned (?) but deeply weird.

– So she gets the cards printed and drives over to the CEO’s house with them. They crack open a bottle of wine. They work through the cards. Tick, message, sign, tick, message, sign. There are worse ways to spend an evening, I guess.

– Except. For at least two people, he FAILED TO TICK ANY OF THE BOXES. So those two (at least) employees get a dingy grey card implying that the CEO does not think they embody any of the company values. NOT GOOD.

– A few days later, the Design Director sends out a very sheepish apology email.

8. The pet pictures

Job before last, my very shy, reserved coworker had a biiiiiiiiit too much to drink and went around the room demanding that people show her pictures of their pets. (This included the CEO, but fortunately he thought it was hilarious.) It culminated with Drunk Coworker bursting into tears when she was told one of our other coworkers didn’t have any pets, and saying, “You’re so nice, you deserve to have a dog.”

(She was mortified when we came back to work, so we didn’t tease her about it… much.)

9. The lap dance

My significant other’s holiday party is NIIICE. Lots of good food, like excessive amounts and lavish displays of every appetizer, main dish, etc. you can think of. The same with the alcohol and open bar, there literally isn’t a bottom shelf option. No Bud Light. No cheap vodka. No Two Buck Chuck wine to be had. The dress code is relaxed and ranges from tailored suits to guys in Carhart hoodies. It’s a work party that we actually look forward to because it’s so laid back and we really do have a good time. The last one was in 2019, and it may be the last one period. Or at least the last one where drinking isn’t monitored.

At the last party, an employee’s guest decided to give his girlfriend a lap dance. In full view of, well, everyone. People around the couple were half-heartedly trying to get him to stop, but they increased to frantic levels of “OMG STOP!” once he took his shirt off and could tell he was fully committed. Eventually someone got him to stop by tackling him to the ground with his pants around his ankles and his belt still in his hand, waving it around like a lasso.

10. The very bad writer

I was working for a vacation real estate company and we had a pretty big problem with the admin who did the newsletter/marketing/emails. She would NOT let anyone proofread her work or even allow anyone to correct anything and she had ZERO understanding of synonyms and misused words all the time and misused things like LOL and LMFAO, and also created her own bizarre shorthand to such an awful extent that it caused confusion, hilarity, and in some cases, offense and loss of business. Long story about the layout of the company, but we also had some rental units on-site for prospective buyers and a small spa, cafe, and bar. You know, vacation town stuff. She also did the menus and all the holiday announcements. This one was, and will always be, my favorite. It went out to over 15k former and current buyers and clients, inviting them to the company holiday party:

Cum celebrate our Holiday Szn with Secrete Santa! Fist four clients up and get a free giraffe of wine at their table!

What she was TRYING to say was that during our Secret Santa dinner and raffle, the first four clients who entered would get either a complimentary wine to take home or a carafe of wine at their table. Some other gems on the menu included “gooze breasts” “Bef stek” “Coozeberry Jam” and my absolute favorite “fresh tilabia.”

Some people thought she did this on purpose, I know for a fact she was just an absolute idiot.

11. The murder mystery lunch

My department went to a local, beloved restaurant as part of our holiday outing. We were going to go to their Holiday Murder Mystery lunch where, we assumed, we’d eat lunch while the play was going on. I personally thought there might be a little audience participation required but nothing like what we encountered.

Firstly, when booking the lunch, we were sent a picture of the room we’d be in. It was spacious and well-lit and beautifully decorated! When we got to the restaurant we were escorted into the basement where there were no windows, dim lighting, and a dingy bar. As we sat there, the actors came out dressed as elves, reindeer, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The costumes looked like they were picked up at the Halloween Store discount sale and smelled like they hadn’t been washed in years (yes, I could actually smell them). They moved from table to table, “in character” and even sat down with us many times… where they stayed for several minutes. Now, I can appreciate the work and skill it takes to improv but after about 10 minutes all I wanted to do was drink my Diet Coke and wait for the actual performance to start – not be forced to talk about Santa’s dismissal of labor laws with a guy in tights. After about 15 minutes of this I realized, with great horror, that this WAS the performance. These actors were going to improvise a play about a murder in Santa’s Workshop for the next 2 hours.

It. Was. Dreadful. I have never been so uncomfortable in such a “festive” setting. The most surreal part was when they would make dirty jokes and break into song. A guy dressed in a muscle suit with reindeer antlers on his head gyrated behind me as I stared intensely at the table. If there was a crack in the floor, I would’ve slid into it.

What made it worse was the fact that the poor waitress (who apparently been pulled aside at the last minute and told she was going to be waiting on 30 people by herself), was struggling to take orders that we had already placed when we booked the event. We got there at 12pm and by 2pm, we still hadn’t been served. Not only that, but no one had been murdered yet!

When we finally got our food, I realized that things were not going to get any better. The food looked like it could get up and walk away and the dessert was, what I assumed to be, canned apple pie filling with Redi-Whip on top.

We got a break from the show while we ate (or chose not to), at which point we were forced to tell the actors that we had to be back on the bus by 3pm and someone had better get murdered soon. They picked up the improv pace and the workshop inspector faced death-by-wrapping-paper. We were given pieces of paper to write down who we thought did it and turned them in. The motive behind the murder was of a sexual nature, which I thought was a bit inappropriate for an office outing, and we were able to get out of there in time to get back to our bus.

We complained to management but were met with not much more than a shrug. If the food was at least decent, I could’ve brushed off that cringe-worthy “murder mystery” but, alas, there was really nothing redeeming about this outing. Except maybe the waitress, who has my condolences.

12. Phillippe

One place I worked had a fruitcake of undetermined origin which had been passed around for at least 10 years (longest tenured employee remembered it at her first holiday party, but it had been there prior to her). It had a name (Phillippe). Whoever won it built a shrine to Phillippe in their cube and proudly displayed it until the next year… Might have been a cheap gag gift, but dang the competition for Phillippe was intense.

The end of Phillippe’s story: An intern won it one year after I left and hadn’t realized that this wasn’t supposed to be eaten. Apparently Claxon Fruit Cake is still edible after at least 13 years. She brought Phillippe II for the next gift swap … All interns are now warned not to eat Phillippe II.

13. The perfume

My father’s story from a good 25 years ago. One time he’s telling us about what gifts they bought for all the staff. It was perfume (don’t get me started on the gendered nature of it, that’s a whole other thing) but one he didn’t recognize, and the salesperson from somewhere like Macy’s had “recommended” to him. He’s telling us this, and says it’s called something like “plah-sen-tay” like it’s French, he thinks (shades of A Christmas Story here). My mother and i start snickering. Really dad? She recommended it? And you said sure, sounds good? And he’s saying what, what? as we started laughing so hard we were crying and falling out of our seats at Boston Market… because he apparently had no idea he’d bought every woman on his staff PLACENTA perfume. Like something that had that in it, and it was maybe supposed to be a beauty aid? It was unclear, but we surmised that the salesperson had a truckload of this stuff to unload and could tell he had no idea what he was doing. He sits there horrified, and reflects, “Huh… i was wondering why people seemed a little weird about it. There was a lot of talking in hushed groups afterward.”

14. The buffalo

I’d been working in an office that would do the yankee swap/dirty santa style of gift exchange, where folks could steal a gift from each other. One year someone had found a photograph of a couple of water buffalo in their office. It was a BIG photo, framed, close to three feet wide. The water buffalo were pretty scroungy and dirty looking. It was not an attractive photo! But wrapped up, it looked like an impressive gift. As someone found out the hard way when they “won” it.

I thought it was pretty funny in its awfulness. So the next year I deliberately took it, and hung it with pride in my office.

The next year I hid the photo behind a couch in the party room, and then added my “gift” to the swap: A small, wrapped box, that held a note, “You won the buffalo photo.” I can’t remember who won it, but they were not amused.

I went back to visit, years later. There were the buffalo, hanging over a colleague’s desk. Everyone who had gotten it since had signed and dated the back.

15. The apology

Quite a few years ago, my husband and I attended a Christmas party at a local hotel, put on by the construction company he worked for. It was the first year we’d attended and because of past instances of drunk driving, the company had not only paid for the catered meal but also reserved rooms for all the attendees.

Among the highlights of the evening were the multiple escorts who were hired to attend with guests. One of them ended up sitting at our table. Her ‘date’ had hired her because he had recently broken up with the boss’s daughter and didn’t want to be seen attending alone. He proceeded to get drop-dead drunk on the table wine, and boozily monologue about his romantic difficulties. Full credit to the escort, she was among the best company at our table and when she wasn’t babysitting her maudlin charge, was a lovely conversationalist.

But it wasn’t until after dinner had concluded that the wheels *really* fell off the bus. To this day, I don’t know exactly what some of the attendees *did* in the indoor swimming pool that necessitated it being drained, but my husband says the clean-up charges were in the thousands. Being confirmed non-partiers, Mr. Jam and I were eager to avoid the impending trainwreck and when we were invited back to his co-worker’s suite to join three or four other of the more down to earth employees, we were anticipating fun, low-key evening playing cards or shooting the breeze.

We get to “Mike’s” room and settle down on the sofa. While we’re chatting, Mike suddenly grabs this duffle bag and starts rummaging around in it. I assume he’s eager to get out of the monkey suit but that’s not what was packed in his luggage. Instead, he starts organizing these thick baggies on the coffee table in front of us. Folks are making themselves at home, and he’s pouring what must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of hard drugs onto the table six inches from my knees. He’s chopping and chatting and telling jokes and all the while, he’s making little white lines, like he’s playing in Pablo Escobar’s sandtable!

I have no idea what to say and just want out of this awkward encounter. Mr. Jam and I have a frantic, yet totally silent, marital conversation, consisting entirely of raised eyebrows and shoulder shrugs, the result being my developing, quite out of the blue, a sudden and blinding headache from the half glass of red wine I’d had earlier at supper. Alerted to my suffering, Mike generously offers me a thick joint, promising that it will fix whatever ails me, but I decline very politely and retreat with all haste back to own, blissfully drug-free hotel room.

After I leave, Mike apparently realizes just what he’s done to make me so uncomfortable and he begins apologizing profusely to my husband on my behalf. You see, while he’d been cutting the hundreds of dollars of cocaine right in front of us, he’d also been telling a mildly off-colour joke, the punch line of which included a word that rhymes with truck. Clearly, my delicate ears couldn’t bear to hear such salty language. Mike’s apology went on and on as he promised my husband with absolutely sincerity that in future, he would remember to watch his language more carefully whenever he was around me. Mr. Jam assured him that I wouldn’t hold the joke against him, I was just especially sensitive to bold reds, but Mike remained doubtful.

And then there is this party coda. A few years later, after my husband had been gone from the company a couple of years, we chanced to run into ‘Mike’ in the parking lot of a big box store. In between inquiring about our kids and Mr. Jam’s new job, he once again took the time to apologize to me for the joke he’d told all those years earlier. Neither of us mentioned the drugs!

{ 237 comments… read them below }

  1. dontusuallypost*

    Ha! I am 99.9% certain I worked at the company number 7 posted about. Very unchristmassy cards and also quite weird, as I didn’t think the CEO knew very much about which values I embodied most!

  2. Dust Bunny*

    8. The pet pictures

    HA HA HA fair warning, drunk people–if you do this to me, I will whip out my Flickr app and bore you to sleep with approximately 2,000 pictures of pets, past and present.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      I got extremely drunk at my sister’s bachelorette (not enough food) and reportedly ran across the street several times to pet dogs. I would be thrilled to run into you.

    2. JayemGriffin*

      #8 is why I’m grateful our work parties don’t have open bars, because I would *absolutely* do this, and then cry because they’re all so adorable.

    3. Princesss Sparklepony*

      Yup, I’m not seeing the problem with pet photos. Although one person I worked with for a day did show me her lizard photos and I did try to show interest. But lizards aren’t really my thing.

  3. don't eat the pictures*

    As someone who worked in museum/”teh arts” for years (RIP arts career), the 1st one reminds me how weird my job was. Lots of nude art (sometimes of people I knew/worked with), the HR challenges of figure models (again, people I knew/worked with)…not even reaching the lower level of how weird that job could get.

    1. occasional figure model*

      As someone who moonlights as a figure model outside of my regular job, I would *never* think of displaying my nude artwork for colleagues at my colleagues at my day job and try my best to keep the two worlds as separate as possible.

      For those who are wondering: (1) I’m personally quite comfortable with nudity but recognize that other people are not, and (2) yes, management at my regular job is aware of my figure model work and doesn’t have a problem with it, and (3) yes, people at my at my regular job have encountered my work as a model but only after choosing to to events that were advertised as having nude models or nude artwork present.

  4. IndustriousLabRat*

    #10 I just had to fake a coughing fit and then busy myself with the contents of the recycling bin under my desk because I am DYYYYYING over here. TILABIA!!!!! I used to be an actual professional tilapia aquaculturist (perhaps akin to llama wrangling but wetter and smellier) and will no longer ever call them anything else.

      1. Anonym*

        I exploded with laughter and ran into the other room to force my partner to read it. I love it so, so much. I hope this OP is feeling the holiday spirit and decides to share more gems from this very confident, creative writer.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        A giraffe of wine as payment for fisting four clients seems very steep, but maybe it’s reallllly good wine.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          This needs to happen! Set it on the table next to Carolyn Hax’s vomiting rooster gravy dispenser.

      3. Princesss Sparklepony*

        I saw that and now I will always be disappointed that wine carafes do not come in the form of giraffes.

      1. Popinki*

        Also, what the heck was “coozeberry” supposed to be? Cranberry? Gooseberry? Quit trying to fathom the thought processes of a complete ninny?

    1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

      I mis-read at first and thought you wrote tilapia acupuncturist. Which, would be weirder .

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        Nah, that was closer to what I was doing with salmon at a different fishyfarm. Little wire inserted into the base of the adipose fin with a tiny tracker chip that could be read at fish ladders. To be fair, it DID kind of look like an acupuncture needle sticking out!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      …. I totally read your comment as having been a professional tilapia ACUPUNCTURIST and had SO MANY QUESTIONS before I went back and reread it. (Now I have different questions, but mostly just think that’s really cool, haha.)

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          You kinda have to gently hold them in a cradle thing to get the needle in the right spot. I can’t remember what we used for a sedative, but they WERE somewhat anaesthetized. Fun fact, farm-raised migratory fish are tagged and fin-clipped to identify them as nonwild in origin and track where they go, and whether they, in the case of river-released fish, eventually become migratory. Yes fish and needles… see also above… :)

          1. quill*

            I heard it’s possible with a specific clove-extracted chemical? But I’m just gonna assume whatever it is is water soluble.

          2. Quack Quack No*

            Your comments have turned this thread from merely funny to delighfully informative (and also funny)!

            1. IndustriousLabRat*

              It’s one of my favorite things about this site and the crackling wit of the Commentariat. We learn so much delightful minutia along with the real life lessons. Every day I’m thankful to be here, picking through and sorting the memories and scars of old workplaces for the bright spots and the things that, knowing in hindsight, will make the present and future that much better :)

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I did just that and dang it! It’s too late to add a giraffe carafe to my Christmas list. They are delightful.

          1. Anonny NonErson*

            I did just that and dang it! It’s too late to add a giraffe carafe to my Christmas list. They are delightful.

            But oh, do my children now have a link to *exactly* what I’d like for Mother’s Day….

        2. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I did google it and I realize that I need one with legs. The ones sitting down are meh.

          And the giraffe wine bottle holder with the giraffe deep thoating a bottle of wine… that is something, something else. I think I may end up with nightmares on that one.

      1. Turquoises*

        The giraffe carafe would go right along with Danny Kay’s chalice with the palace, and the vessel with the pestle!!

    3. Arifault*

      My better half almost laughed himself to the floor on that one while I choked on my coffee. Good god, what a gaffe!

    4. Roy G. Biv*

      Yep, # 10 just made me laugh until I cried. “Giraffe of wine.” It is difficult to come up with good malapropisms, but numbskulls like this person … Genius! Just genius!

    5. Jay*

      O.K, I have four clients who will never sit comfortably again and an active arrest warrant for Impersonating A Proctologist. NOW. WHERE. IS. MY. GIRAFFE!?!?!

      1. Popinki*


        I hope that in the pic of them at the ER with their stitches, they were at least doing metal hands or something.

      1. Heidi*

        My favorite part of the story is how they both just assumed they were Jennifer Grey and not Patrick Swayze.

    1. Marcina*

      “I also talked a lot about pickling and would happily offer guidance to anyone seeking the way of the pickle.”

      The commenters on this site tend to write exceedingly well. Many are amazing raconteurs. But in the absolute wealth of stories today, this one sentence just absolutely delighted me – It was a shiny little Christmas gift that I will keep for a long time.

    2. Need a WFH policy*

      I think it is the sweetest. It went so wrong but if something really epitomizes it’s the thought that counts, this is the gift.

  5. a fun guy*

    My absolute favorite is the mold…I feel badly for the coworker, but I also wonder how she survived to adulthood!

    1. Jackalope*

      To be fair, there are a number of foods made in ways that seem kind of disgusting if you just hear about it, including cheese (made with real mold!), kombucha (grow your own live bacteria culture!), and even yeast. And having tried to make some of these things before, it doesn’t always work out right and sometimes you end up with a random inedible mold culture. So I can totally see how someone who had heard of this but didn’t know the ins and outs of fermented food might possibly get confused and not know, for example, that you can’t use just any old mold.

      1. Winston*

        A lot of dairy products are the result of controlling the environment to get milk to go bad in just the right way.

      2. tamarack & fireweed*

        Welllll… if you want to gift home-made foodstuffs you should at least have consulted a book or other instruction material about them at some point during your engagement with the process!

    2. WellRed*

      You must be much kinder than I. All I could think was what a dumbass. Not hard to poke around for info (feign interest with a few questions) or google.

      1. Jackalope*

        I’ve certainly had the experience of making what to someone in the know would be a super foolish mistake because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So I can easily imagine that being the issue here.

        1. CatCat*

          I can definitely imagine it. I’m in an online fermenting group that welcomes beginner questions and we get confused posts with pictures of moldy ferments by folks who had googled it or read in a book, but didn’t fully understand the process yet and missed something. They’re not dumb. They’re inexperienced.

        2. tamarack & fireweed*

          I guess a good rule of thumb would be that if you’re inexperienced with a homemade food to the point of being unable to judge whether your preparation was successful or not, you should not even think of gifting it. Maybe just start by a) comparing it to pictures followed by b) consuming it yourself followed by c) serving it at your own table.

    3. Burger Bob*

      I’m thinking she just kind of half heard these conversations and allusions to “rotting thing” and didn’t ever get the context of what she was hearing about. So she just thought, “Well, it’s a weird hobby, but OP is really into it, so who am I to judge? I’ll just go with it and get this weird hobby gift.” From that perspective, it was kind of sweet. She was at least trying to be thoughtful.

  6. The Smiling Pug*

    It’s stories like these that make me want to go and thank all my coworkers for being rational human beings around this time of year…

  7. awesome3*

    Phillipe II and the “pickle” are making me rethink the notion that food is a simple holiday work gift.

    Also actually gagging at the pickle story

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        The intern eating the antique fruitcake reminded me of a similar incident at the living history museum where I work.

        Years ago, as part of our “St. Nicholas Day” (that’s December 6th) program, we set up a display of typical 1750-style holiday treats, including a plate of cookies. Those cookies were stuck to the plates with “museum putty”, had been sprayed with shellac and were AT LEAST 10 years old – quite possibly much older. The visitors were all told that, unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to serve them any food and that these cookies were for display only.

        After the many visitors that day had come and gone, we were putting away the display cookies only to find that…yes, you guessed it, one of them was missing; some guest had sneaked it off the plate and, presumably, eaten it. The thought of actually eating that decade (at least!) old, shellacked cookie was, to put it mildly, unappetizing…but hey, they couldn’t say they weren’t warned!

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          One hopes that once they got it off the plate they realized what they had and threw it away… but it’s kinda funny to think of them trying to take a bite.

    1. hallucinating hack*

      The demise of Phillipe has me wondering whether the fruit cake really kept that well for TEN YEARS, or whether the intern somehow thought that the smell/taste/texture was normal…in which case I have other concerns about the intern.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And the autographing with year – it just makes it so much more awesome. You have a semi history of people who have worked at the company.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      As this was a long time problem, I suppose not :)

      I pretty much understand the rest but my non-native English skills fail me at “fist four clients up and get”. I see that it’s supposed to be first instead of fist, but is “up and” also a misspelling for something, or is it supposed to be that way?

  8. KiwiK*

    Omg – #11

    I work for a company that does those lunches (not an actor but more of the organizer) and believe me they are just a painful behind the scenes too. The scripts are terribly outdated but for some reason the owner loves them.

    I feel your pain!

  9. EPLawyer*

    Oh the “dance.” that sounds like a fun CEO. I hope working there was a enjoyable as the holiday parties.

    Pickle Lady — at least everyone was kind about it.

    #10 — WHY ON EARTH did this woman still have a job? First time she refused proofreading and something bizarre went out, would have been the last time. You LOST BUSINESS over it and no one fired her?

    RIP Philippe I

    1. Jackalope*

      And don’t forget that she invited 15k people to their Christmas party. What kind of venue could possibly host that many people comfortably? To say nothing of the likelihood that people might bring +1s.

      1. Dusk*

        Oh my god, I was so distracted by the rest of the (hilarious) disaster that was that invite that I missed the size of the mailing list. Imagine if thousands of people tried to compete for the four wine giraffes…

    2. Tara*

      Indeed. I mean i try to be open-minded re writing errors – the English language can be a tricky mistress at the best of times even if you grew up speaking it. But did this unfortunate writer not have any software with a spell check function she could run the message through?

  10. Phony Genius*

    Sitting here wondering if fisting four clients is too high a price to pay to see a giraffe of wine.

  11. Pants*

    Preeeeeetty sure we all know what the HR manager and their partner were doing to demolish the sink.

    These are excellent! Thank you!

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Plausible deniability…….I mean, I like to think they were practicing their martial arts in close quarters and there was a…..mishap. You don’t know! :-)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s funnier if it was something like trying to fix a ripped seam, and someone fell, and now no one at work can hear about the “accident” without snickering.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      Makes me think back to the ever so sweet Brambly Hedge children’s book series. I could see a Coozeberry Jam on the holiday table in the Hedgerow!

  12. quill*

    “we had to be back on the bus by 3pm and someone had better get murdered soon.”

    *Dying in former theater kid* Thank you for this. I have been in some embarrassing performances but DEFINITELY better than this.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Same here! Through my years of high school and college performances, I’ve been fortunate to never do a show like this…

      1. quill*

        I mean, my personal worst was having to act in my second language with kids who were NOT in theater. Not… murder improv in a basement.

        1. The Smiling Pug*

          Yikes!! I think my personal worst was when I was rehearsing for a show and I almost took the set down because I stepped wrong. But yeah, murder improv in a basement has never crossed my path, fortunately…

          1. quill*

            Oh, worst on STAGE was definitely my first high school play, when I tripped on my skirt during a stage vault, skinned my elbows and knees, and accidentally launched one of my shoes directly into the district english curriculum coordinator’s face.

            The acting in spanish class example was the worst because I was in hell trying to get anyone to not mumble and to face the audience…

            1. EchoGirl*

              In a middle school play, I was supposed to walk across the stage before sitting down on the edge of said stage, but because I also had to look over my shoulder to talk to my scene partner, I ended up misjudging the edge of the stage and stepping off it without realizing. It wasn’t a very high stage thankfully, so I was able to just kind of sit down hard, but I’m pretty sure the last word of my line turned into something of a startled yelp. In my defense, I was an understudy, so it wasn’t like I had a lot of practice doing that scene like the girl who was actually cast in the role did.

  13. Cringing 24/7*

    Oh, bless her heart! The coworker who gave a jar of mold to someone had the purest intentions and biggest misinterpretation of what was being talked about. I’d be telling that story until the day I die!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      My thoughts exactly. “It would be like we were making them together.”

      This calls for a claymation special!

  14. 3DogNight*

    Pablo Escobar’s Sandbox! I love it! I’m picturing this scene played out in Narco style, LOL Geezus!

      1. Jay*

        Desperately fleeing the Admin from #10, who is chasing them with a funnel, a 50 gal drum of Boons Farm, and a set of crazy eyes puts Harly Quinn to shame.

  15. Shiba Dad*

    #11 never said who the murderer was. I’m guessing it was Mrs. Claus in the toy shop with a jack-in-the-box.

  16. willow for now*

    I live #2, and the subsequent email of bosses with stitches. Hey, when you mess up that badly in front of so many people, you may as well just own it!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – sounds like the boss there is a good guy, who had a few too many. That they choose to own it and laugh at themselves says good things (unlike the lap dance from a later letter).

  17. Cat Lady*

    #10: This, right here, is why no one with an ego problem should be allowed to do any kind of communications stuff for an organization. If you’d rather tell people to “cum” see “Secrete Santa” at an event with “giraffes of wine” than have someone do a once over of your work… what can I say but yikes.

      1. Quack Quack No*

        Honestly. I cannot imagine refusing to have any of my work writing proofread (indeed when I had to do the school newsletter I actively chased my boss around for proofreading/event confirmation). Every boss I’ve had would’ve torn strips off me for that.

        1. Cat Lady*

          Same here! My work gets proofread all the time, it’s just a necessary part of the process. My boss is a pretty level and reasonable person, but she would probably hit the roof if I tried something like this (and I would die of embarrassment, but that’s beside the point).

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Management fail is right. I can’t imagine what kind of manager would let someone get away with such blatant insubordination. Because that’s what it is.

        “NO, boss, you absolutely may NOT proofread my work, and forget about making any changes, let alone correcting any of my startlingly egregious errors! Why? Because I said so, of course.” *stamps foot*

        Who does that, and more importantly, who lers them get away with it?

  18. Junebug*

    #15 Mike knew exactly why they left. He was trying to assess HOW upset they were about the drugs and smooth things over without mentioning the unmentionable.

    1. Jo*

      I don’t know, since he apologized for the joke a couple of years later. I suspect he assumed they were in fact there FOR the drugs, since in my experience finding your way into the drug room at a party is an “in the know” kind of thing, not a stated out loud kind of thing.

  19. Phony Genius*

    “Not only that, but no one had been murdered yet!”

    Out of context, this sentence would be quite disturbing. Even in context, I’m a little troubled.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      If your “murder-mystery” has been running for two hours and no one’s dead yet, is it even a murder mystery at that point?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I see it slowly driving one of the guests to fake-murder a cast member.

          “There! Bob the Elf is dead! Now let’s just move on to dessert already.”

    2. Lunch Ghost*

      Oh, being in plays where people die means you hear plenty of quotes that sound really odd out of context. “When I’m dying, please fix my feet.” “I was just dead for like half an hour.” “If you’re dead, go downstairs.” “Please get rid of the dead body because someone else is about to die, and that’s too many bodies.”

  20. Girasol*

    11 reminds me of our Christmas party. It was a catered lunch affair in the biggest conference room with the whole department invited. We were sipping and mingling before the meal when a woman I hadn’t met came up to me and started talking to me about how someone had been unfaithful to her. As she went on she got more tearful and louder and louder until all the talk in the room died down and everyone was staring at the two of us. I had no idea what to do. It took awhile before someone else finally spoke and I gradually realized that the reason I didn’t know this coworker was because she wasn’t a coworker at all but a hired actress who was starting up one of those murder mystery games. I still shudder to remember it.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Oh my GAWD that’s incredible. Incredibly awkward.

      Anyone hosting a mystery party should make everyone aware that’s what’s going on!!

  21. Elizabeth West*

    10. The very bad writer

    I really don’t want to laugh at anyone who might have a learning disability or something, but “gooze breasts” had me wheezing.

    Seriously, as a manager (and an editor, gah), I would just take that away and give the admin a thing she’s actually good at to replace it and tell her we’re in dire need of her experience with X. Assuming there is an X.

    1. river*

      Reminds me of when I was about 7 years old. My older brother was anooying me, as usual, (about 2 years older) and poking his finger in my face. I told him if he kept doing it, I’d bite his finger. He didn’t believe me, kept doing it, so I bit his finger. He cried to my parent, who had heard the exchange, (we were in the car) and my parent laughed and said, that’ll teach you, won’t it?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lol – my parents did something similar with my younger brother when I left him a few times in HS. He was told the car leaves at this time, if you want a ride to school you need to be in the car before it leaves. I issued the final warning in front of parents – and left him the very next morning. His flabber was gasted when I didn’t get in trouble but he got raked over the coals.

        (He is better about waking up in the morning now – but it took him being left behind six times before the lesson took hold.)

  22. Jessica*

    #2 – I had to google a few things reading this column, but is a “roadie” here like a drink for the road? Because if you read it meaning “a member of the band’s road crew” the story goes up a notch.

    #15 – I couldn’t believe the husband just STAYED IN THE DRUG ROOM!

    1. It's not Monday*

      Yes, a “roadie” is a drink for the road. Especially important to have one when being driven to the emergency room after suffering a booze-involved injury!

    2. River Otter*

      I assumed the second meaning, and I assumed it was referring to a person to sit with them and make sure they were OK. Now that I know it was a drink for the road, O.o

  23. LargeHippo*

    Sometimes I read or hear about employees like the admin in number 10 and wonder what about them got them hired and keeps them employed.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      In this case… pure entertainment value, it seems! Though the ‘alienating clients’ bit is problematic.

    2. KH_Tas*

      IIRC, this employee was protected by a highly-placed relative, but after that incident she was reined in.

  24. AppleStan*

    I haven’t yet made it past #2, however, I want to somehow work for that company. Any CEO that can laugh at themselves and recognize that they are human beings are the sort of people I wanna work for.

    I have no idea what that company does, but I’ll happy learn.

  25. Chwarlie*

    Thank god for the pandemic making holiday parties mostly obsolete for me. The last one I went to, I realized after getting home that somehow the hardboiled egg that I had brought home from work to throw away had slipped out of the silicone ziplock in my bag and was rolling around somewhere, likely under a chair, in the home of the Very Fancy and Accomplished Consultant in My Field who held the party. He is well-known enough that his name comes up pretty frequently at my current job, and I still wonder whether he ever found the egg (did it start to smell??) or a dog ate it. Luckily, I don’t think it was traceable to me (the perfect crime). Just imagine the feeling of horror that dawned on me, a drunk intern, when I got home and opened my bag and realized that the EGG WAS MISSING.

    1. OhNo*

      Now I’m just imagining this story from the other side… Telling the story of the one year they hosted a fancy holiday party and at the end of the night found just a single, random, hardboiled egg on the floor. At a party where (presumably) no such eggs were served.

      If it’s any consolation, you probably gave them the best holiday party story in any conversation!

  26. Anon for this*

    I used to run swimming pools, I am actually going to guess that the cleaning charges for draining the pool was broken glass in the pool. That’s the only thing I can think of where you’re ALWAYS obligated to drain the pool and then sweep/shopvac the dry pool bottom, to get the glass out, because of the risk of someone stepping on the glass and cutting themselves.

    I bet a lot of you right now are thinking, “Oh but what about blood/vomit/feces?” You don’t need to change the water out for those. You just scoop out the solid bits, raise the chlorine and let it sit to disinfect and filter. You have to carefully test the chlorine levels all around the pool multiple times during the process to make sure it has disinfected evenly.

    That said, if it was a small pool, they might opt to drain it anyway, especially if the maintenance staff walked in and was just like “Oh hell no, that’s NASTY.”

    1. quill*

      Thanks, I’m never going to touch a hotel pool again.

      You know, assuming covid didn’t already make that decision for me.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        To clarify: my understanding is the pool would still be closed anywhere from 12-48 hours after a biological incident. Chlorine is bleach after all. The not draining the pool doesn’t mean it isn’t disinfected, and doesn’t mean people go back in it right away.

        1. Burger Bob*

          This is one of those things where I know logically that it really is fine from a sanitary perspective to swim in a pool that has had to be disinfected in such a way, but it just feels incredibly wrong.

        2. Anon for this*

          It depends on the chlorine level and the type of incident, yes. There’s a chart on the CDC’s website. If it’s just “regular” solid feces or vomit (a healthy little kid has a potty accident or swallows too much water bouncing around is the most common reason) and the chlorine levels are in the “normal” range you’d close for 30-45 minutes. But if someone is ill or it’s diarrhea you’re looking at shocking the pool to 20 and you’ll be closed for days while you bring the chlorine up, hold it for the right amount of time to sterilize, and then bring it back down to safe levels for swimming. Plus of course backwashing the filters and disinfecting the pool area.

          If someone who has been in the pool area- doesn’t even have to have gone in the pool, just been near it for a sufficient length of time- has had meningitis, some state health departments will shut the pool for a long quarantine and then require it be drained and refilled. But that’s a pretty rare situation.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          From my time working in a hotel – can confirm we closed the pool for 72 hours if we had to shock it.

          The only time we had to drain and clean the pool involved a bunch of very drunk softball players*. The clay from the infield destroyed the filtration system and the pool was down for two weeks waiting for replacement filter parts. You bet we both charged them for the damage and banned the group from ever staying at the property again.

          *They partied at the fields, we’re covered in orange clay, and jumped/threw teammates in full gear including cleats into the pool to “clean off.” They did have liquor in the pool area, but it was fortunately aluminum cans of bud light.

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      Indeed. Imagine the frustration of draining the pool only to find that the Floating Poo was just a chocolate bar…

  27. Myrin*

    I thought the mold story was my favourite because it’s very sweet and kind at its core but I’m sorry, the idea of fisting up to four guys at the spa had me in absolute hysterics.

  28. Loredena Frisealach*

    #9 gave me flashbacks!
    It was the 90s. I’d been in the corporate world for about 5 years post-college, I was probably the youngest person at my company at that time. I was single, and it’s possible that many in payroll were as well, but most of my coworkers were married.

    The Christmas party each year was a Big Deal. Employee only, no spouses; food, open bar, dancing, dress to the nines. Many of the women would rent shared hotel rooms and leave work early to dress, attend the party, and then spend the night. The dancing was important enough that a group of the women in payroll made a point of teaching me the line dance du jour in advance (they were black and had rhythm. I’m white and have none)

    The story in advance this year was that the VP sponsor of the planning committee wanted to hire a special act but the rest of the committee overruled her. Making it a true surprise bonus feature when Santa stripper showed up and proceeded to do lap dances with all the women.

  29. alienor*

    I’m WEEPING with laughter at #10. I would not fist a single client even to get a real live giraffe.

  30. Anonymous Luddite*


    A very good friend of mine does facility work for a remarkably large international food service company. Their discussions on how to retrofit several hundred stores with “F-proof sinks” were hilarious.

    1. Jam on Toast*

      @Anonymous Luddite The product testing reports on those sinks would make for more interesting reading than most! :) Quality control demands sacrifices.

  31. Jam on Toast*

    2021 is ending on the highest of notes!! Mr. Jam’s Christmas party (#15) making Alison’s list of favourite holiday get-together shenanigan stories takes pride of place in my “What did you accomplish in 2021?” list.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a wonderful example of when everything is so much better if you do focus on the intent.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        To clarify, a one-off with someone you have a positive relationship with who you think didn’t mean this the way it landed. Lots of times only outcomes matter. But not all times.

  32. Bones*

    I’ve read hundreds of posts on this site but none have emotionally affected me like Mold Lady. Actually brought a tear to my eye. If Hallmark doesn’t adapt this into a Christmas/holiday movie…

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – she had a really good thought – but the execution totally failed.

      At least she sounded young and willing to learn.

  33. WantonSeedStitch*

    I was almost in tears over #10. That is…just…well, I was absolutely LMFAO.

    Re: #12, my husband LOVES Claxton’s, which is not sold near us, and just bought a case of TEN POUNDS of the stuff from the company. I suspect we might have some left in 13 years. To his credit, though, he put all but 2 loaves of it into the deep freeze, and the other 2 are in the fridge.

  34. Ampersand*

    I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. This might be the funniest list of stories I’ve read on AAM!

  35. zolk*

    This year my office arranged a holiday party and no one I talked to had RSVP’d yes because, you know, omicron. A week or two after sending out the invite, they changed it from food and drinks in a nice part of town to _bowling_. I mean I wasn’t going to go either way but… bowling? In a pandemic? I definitely wasn’t going to go stick my fingers into shared bowling ball holes.

    In a regular meeting our director asked who would be attending. Every single person on the call chimed in to say “not me!” with variations on “a family member has covid” or “that seems unsafe, considering”. She seemed confused.

    Five minutes later (during the same meeting, and before she had a chance to pass that feedback further up the chain) the party was cancelled because the government had finally said “hey don’t do that”.

    A few days later we received a gift card each from this same director. I messaged a coworker that it was a surprisingly thoughtful gift from this person. They replied that I shouldn’t be so impressed: the executive assistant had pushed the director to do this.

    A mess, top to bottom.

    1. zolk*

      I suppose related, many years ago at a different job: our holiday lunch ( a very nice meal! at a nice restaurant! ) doubled as a review of the 5 year strategic plan (WHY) and I, a very junior person, wound up seated with several high-level execs.

      We were supposed to brainstorm ways to improve morale after a survey showed our division had the lowest job satisfaction across the entire very large org. Whenever I or someone else suggested things like “Idk tell people thank you and that you appreciate their work,” the execs would laugh us off and say that was stupid. To our faces.

  36. Geogia*

    “Cum celebrate our Holiday Szn with Secrete Santa! Fist four clients up and get a free giraffe of wine at their table!”

    I just spit tea out over my keyboard. I would like a free giraffe of wine.

  37. Secrete Santa*

    I’m the #10 OP and for some details I didn’t mention:
    This admin was older and related to one of the owners/executives who wouldn’t hear a word against her no matter what problems her interesting spelling caused. She refused to use our shared docs drive so we could check any of her written communication, she’d print the menus herself on very expensive stationary, box them up and not let anyone see them until it was too late. She was the only user approved for the email marketing software, and her relative in leadership was so chuffed that she was the “voice of the company”. If anyone offered to help or pointed out a mistake, she’d fly off the handle and retaliation was pretty swift. It was a small, family owned, rural company and retaliation was the soup of the day. There was only so much any of us were willing to put up with so it wasn’t that we hanging her out to dry and not helping her or giving her tasks she couldn’t handle. It became a lot easier to laugh and let her do her thing.

  38. nnn*

    Pickle question!

    I google “lacto-fermented” because it’s a new word to me, and it turns out that’s what I think of as the usual way of making pickles.

    So what other kinds of pickling are there? (In other words, lacto-fermented as opposed to what?) I’m struggling to google it because I don’t know the word for it!

  39. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    When my younger daughter was 6 she didn’t spell as badly as the admin in #10. Although my older daughter thought that she had testicles, because they were the skin around her fingernails. But I would love a giraffe of wine.

Comments are closed.