Friday, December 11, 2009

Office Holiday Party Gift Exchange

Good evening sports fans, and welcome to another office holiday party gift exchange wrap-up (no pun intended). This is actually my third annual gift exchange recap. If you're looking for gift exchange ideas, you might want to also read my 2007 or 2008 posts. I'm happy to report that this year's gift exchange turned out much better than last year.

The gift I brought last year was a swing-and-a-miss. It was a snowball-fight-kit with a snowball-making device (sort of a scoop that made very nicely round snowballs) and a snow-fort brick mold. Hey now, I thought they were pretty cool. I even got some for us to use at our house at the same time as I bought the gift. Unfortunately, the coworker who picked up the gift I brought had just found out he was moving to Florida. He most definitely did NOT see any snow-forts or snowball fights in his future, and nobody else in the office thought that the gift was cool enough to steal, so he got stuck with it. (Sorry, Chris! I hope the weather is nice down there in Florida!)

Last year, the big hits that traded hands several times were the hot sauce sampler set and the coffee items (Starbucks gift card, bags of ground coffee, etc), so this year I went in search of some hot sauce for the gift exchange. I checked both the Fort Myer PX and the Henderson Hall MCX and came up empty handed. Wednesday evening, my wife had me stop at Target on the way home from work to pick up something for the boys, and while I was there I browsed the aisles for something for the gift exchange.

I had no luck in finding hot sauce in a gift-pack type of package. (Aside - If I wasn't such a procrastinator, then I would have placed an order with the Chiliman in time to get THAT. But alas, I didn't plan ahead.) I did, however, happen upon a good looking set of martini mix and a martini shaker. I got the chocolate-peppermint martini mix and a bag of Ghiradelli's Peppermint Chocolate candy.

Fast Forward.

We had our office holiday luncheon at Mackey's Public House in Crystal City today. I had a beef briscuit sandwich with fries and cole slaw and washed it down with a pint of Smithwicks. The food and service were excellent, although I thought it was a little pricey.

As we started off the gift exchange part of the event, I made a mental note-to-self for next year:

Self, most of your coworkers commute via public transit and they DON'T want anything big or heavy to carry home with them on the bus.

The bottle of martini mix I bought was fairly heavy, and along with the shaker was in a decent-sized box. As a result, it was in a gift bag that was probably the largest item on the table. Since people were concerned about what they had to carry home with them on the bus, nobody even touched my gift bag until about half the presents were gone. I was really starting to worry that I was having another swing-and-a-miss on my gift choice this year.

Then someone picked mine.

There were hushed "oooooooohs" and "aaaaaaahs" around the table. Flashback image in my head: Ralphy in A Christmas Story with a grin from ear to ear as his teacher reads his essay, writes on the chalkboard and exclaims, "A! PLUS! PLUS! PLUS! PLUS! PLUS! PLUS!..." No, no, my coworkers didn't lift me up on their shoulders and carry me out cheering and clapping or anything like that. However, much to my surprise and delight, the gift was subsequently stolen in the next three rounds. Gifts were only allowed to be stolen three times, so then it was stuck. After it was all said and done, it even got traded one more time with the other hottest gift: home made beer.

Here's what else was up for grabs in the gift exchange this year:
- 4 bottles of home made beer with fancy labels (stolen 3 times then traded afterwards)
- Chocolate-peppermint martini mix, shaker, and Ghiradelli's peppermint bark (stolen 3 times then traded afterwards)
- A sampler pack of little bottles of liquor (stolen 2 times)
A Starbucks gift card and some Ghiradelli chocolate (stolen 2 times)
XXXL adult size Superman and Batman underoos (my condolences to Brenda who ended up with these and kept trying to convince somebody to steal them)
- A handheld electronic poker game (that looked suspiciously like one that was gifted last year and never stolen)
- Christmas salt and pepper shakers
Fancy Candles and lotion (stolen once)
The "What your poo tells you" daily calendar (stolen once - this is the gift that is going to keep on giving for the rest of the year in our office, sort of like the Chia Shrek that is still in our office from last year's holiday party gift exchange.)
- A bottle of wine (stolen once)
A sampler pack of Jack Daniels marinades (surprisingly not stolen at all, but it was opened fairly late in the game)
An unrated version of Bad Santa on DVD
- Texas Chili mix (I was the LAST person to draw and this was the only gift left, so I got this one, but it looks like it might be pretty good. Thank goodness there's no MSG in the ingredients!)

For those of you reading this because of a Google search looking for ideas for your gift exchange, let me offer one other tidbit of advice. Unless you enjoy the Calvinball* aspect of watching your coworkers argue about how many times the gift is allowed to be stolen each round or over the entire game and whether you can steal it back in the same round or in a subsequent round, etc, etc, etc, then I recommend whoever organizes your gift exchange should WRITE DOWN the RULES** and declare them to the group before hand. There are many variations one can do with gift exchange rules, and if you don't specify it, then Calvinball will be the result as your coworkers try to either keep or steal the gift that they want.

* Aside #1: Calvinball really deserves a Wikipedia entry of its own, doesn't it? You have to scroll pretty far down the Calvin and Hobbes Wikipedia page to get to the section about Calvinball, but there IS a full subsection devoted specifically to Calvinball.

** Aside #2: Certain members of my family will most likely post comments CLAIMING that I made the neighborhood kids sign a copy of the rules before we could play laser tag in our neighborhood. Such claims are boundless and certainly the result of some delusional revisionist history. Maybe there was some other anal-retentive kid in our neighborhood who made the kids do that, but surely not me.

P.S. Go Navy! Beat Army!

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