Through the December gloom comes an email like a little ray of sunshine. It’s from Google, with which I have dealings as a technology writer: ‘Google Christmas Drinks cancelled’ is the subject header. Oh, good.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” it begins, “unfortunately we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the Christmas drinks on Tuesday…”
Unfortunately? What can they mean? It’s marvellous news!
This will be the 43rd Christmas party season of my professional life, and I’m afraid I’m now very much over them. But I don’t like to appear the miserable old party-pooping curmudgeon, even though I most certainly am. It’s a joyous thing the Google bash has been abandoned – clearly, they had googled ‘omicron’ and seen the warning from Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, telling us not to socialise unless we really have to.
Naturally, I did the sociable thing and replied, saying I couldn’t wait to be there. And the nice young people at Google never need know I didn’t much fancy it in the first place. Neither will I have to endure the grim ritual of the Christmas drunks on the Tube home after the party.
I am not wholly anti-social. I love the colleagues and competitors I bump into at these dos. I’ve been to a handful of Christmas celebrations that were actually quite fun.
I’m partial to a drink or six, and even if warm Cava isn’t my first choice, at least it’s free warm Cava. And I absolutely love canapés. I could live on canapés. Come to think of it, my wonderful new girlfriend is trying to accustom me to portion control as a way of shrinking my waistline, so I’m pretty much living on canapés.
No, the problem for me is that with increasing years and grumpiness, I can’t really be doing with small talk any more – especially in a noisy place where my own voice, which I can’t stand at the best of times, has a weird habit of ringing in my head like a church bell.
I used to be fine at small talk. And I certainly don’t want to spend social events engaged in big talk – philosophy, politics, Covid, no thanks.
Middle talk – you know, holidays, kids, who the boss is having a thing with – is fine, but I can’t even do that very well any more. I used to be quite interesting on a good day, but now I’m having to check myself in case I start showing colleagues cute photos of my grandchildren.
So think about it, Google. Some of your younger staffers might have been quite looking forward to that cancelled do. But if it had gone ahead, you could have ended up stuck with me.