Hump Day: Wild office parties should stay in the past

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Available only online this week!

I read an article recently about how drinking during office hours – and by that I mean the stereotypical three-martini lunch – has fallen into disfavour in recent times.

In the ‘olden days’ not that long ago, it was not uncommon for business executives to have a few drinks at lunch – especially on Fridays. More often than not, they would fail to even return to the office. Although I haven’t seen it happen that often, I’m sure it has – and I’ve certainly heard stories.

Like many families, mine has more than its fair share of alcoholics. Lucky for me, that gene skipped me. I get a hangover after a mere two glasses of anything with alcohol in it: wine, beer, spirits… anything. And no, I’m not exaggerating. I would not be one of those legendary 1960s businessmen having a number of drinks at lunch and then returning to work. I’d be at my desk giggling and telling everyone that I love them – all while nursing a hangover.

I have no attraction to booze. I’ll have a drink now and then – and have had a few too many from time to time – but those occasions are rare – and growing even rarer as I age. Put a box of donuts in front of me, though, and I’d tear apart a gathering of innocent nuns to get at them.

It’s a good thing that it’s no longer kosher to drink during office hours – or in the workplace at all. While I have no interest in drinking during a business lunch, I have attended a few pretty wild office parties in my time. One former employer, especially, was renowned for its office Christmas parties which were open to staff, clients, suppliers and friends of the company.

Nearly 20 years later, they’re still remembered fondly among many locals – albeit a big foggily, too – complete with married attendees (to other people) spending an hour behind a locked office door and one legendary year when members of a local hockey team were paid to bartend and serve drinks. By the end of the night, partygoers of various genders and sexualities were urging the players to serve drinks shirtless – and a few did, earning substantial tips for the night. (For the record, they were all over 19.)

Then there was the year that one long-gone local politician showed up completely hammered and had to be asked to leave – a number of times. (A sincere apology was subsequently offered — and accepted.) After that, management realized things were getting out of hand and we moved the parties off-site and kept them restricted to staff only. This was, of course, the right thing to do considering the fact that the parties were becoming known more for their debauchery than anything else. And somehow I don’t think the meaning of Christmas could be reconciled with damaged careers and reputations.

office partyBut man, they were fun while they lasted – especially because of the fact that I was never one to get myself into trouble at these events. The Monday morning after, however, did result in a few people skulking around sheepishly in the hopes that everyone had forgotten their antics from the Friday before.

Eventually, a number of legal decisions elsewhere in the country scared everyone into being super cautious – especially where alcohol was concerned. Liability became an issue – even after partygoers had left the site. That threw cold water on everything. In retrospect, it was a good move since things were getting out of hand.

Now that summer is here, some employers may be tempted to have summer get-togethers that may end up going too far. Do yourselves a favour and splurge only on food – and perhaps one drink or two. And no, ‘two’ is not code for a case of beer. I mean two drinks, literally.

Having been privy to a few Twilight Zone scenes taking place at booze-filled office parties, I can assure you that nothing good will come of an alcohol-laced get-together. Be generous with the steak and lobster but hold back on the alcoholic beverages. Drunken office parties aren’t team-building exercises, they’re recipes for disaster – especially in these days of social media.

Social media! Oyyy! There was none around during those legendary office parties I mentioned earlier – and thank goodness there wasn’t. We’d all still be hiding in embarrassment because of some of the things we did in the name of workplace camaraderie. These days, even the most innocent blunder by a tipsy co-worker could be put on social media for the entire world to see – not exactly the best advertising and branding tactic in the world, except for your competitors.

I repeat: more lobster, less booze.

Hump Day: Honing forgiveness skills in a world that badly needs it

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Well, it’s been quite a week filled with much sudden and unexpected loss.

I’ve often wondered how people react when they get shocking news about the completely unexpected death of a loved one. Thankfully, I’ve never been on the receiving end of one of those calls and I hope I never am. I’m honestly not sure what I’d do. Would I remain calm? Would I completely lose it? Would I just remain numb like a zombie? I just don’t know. (Note to the universe: This is not a request for the experience. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.)

About 10 days ago, I checked my email late one night before bed. My penchant for going to bed way too late regardless of my 5:55 a.m. alarm has not changed.

Hopefully, I’ll come to my senses one of these days and start hitting the pillows earlier. Until then, I’ll remain a broken record and continue to whine. Anyway, usually when I check my email for ‘big’ news that can’t wait until the next morning, my email doesn’t cooperate and it’s just the usual stuff – either nothing at all or some routine alerts I receive throughout the day.

This time, however, I received a note from someone telling me that they were in shock from the death of an extended family member – someone I knew – due to a motorcycle-vehicle accident. Although this person wasn’t part of my daily life, I’ve known him for many years. My jaw dropped. I read it again. I’d heard of the accident in the news earlier in the evening but didn’t think I knew the person who’d died – not even for a second. Well, come to find out that I did.

I sent an email message back immediately expressing my shock and then sent an email of condolence to some good friends who are directly related to him. It was nearly 12:30 a.m. and I really needed to go to bed. Sleep didn’t come easily that night until well after 2 a.m., though. I’m certain that it was a million times worse for those closest to him.

ForgivenessHow utterly devastating for his family. Here one minute, gone the next – and just a few hundred metres from his house. A motorcycle is no match for a truck – no matter whose fault it is. In the end, the result is the same, but we must resist asking ‘what if?’ It’s a question with no answer based in reality – and a question that only leads to insanity.

I heard a story earlier this week about a woman who gave an elderly gentleman she knew a drive home from where she works. At one point, she looked over and there he was, slumped over – dead. Perhaps not as shocking as the death of a younger person in a motorcycle accident, but still gone without warning.

And of course, there are the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse club in Orlando. They were out for an evening of fun in a place where they thought they were safe. It ended in tragedy in a hate crime fueled by homophobia and extremism based on some horribly warped sense of religion. Sudden. Unexpected. Violent. Wrong – oh so wrong.

While it’s easy to make sense of someone elderly who dies – even if they’re seemingly in perfect health – it’s a lot more difficult when someone dies in an accident or by the hand of another, such as murder. Even if I knew someone who was 95 and chipper as a daisy, I’d be shocked if I heard they died, but I wouldn’t feel like they – or we – had been cheated from their not having lived longer.

Being only 55 and dying in an accident, however, that’s another story. Knowing that accidents are preventable, the rage of those left behind must be overwhelming.

Yet, the knowledge (hopefully) that the only way to move on is to ‍forgive is also there. Even if it’s temporarily buried deep in immediate grief, I do hope ‍forgiveness comes. The alternative is for one death to spread like a spiritual cancer. What a great shame that would be for survivors. It takes tremendous courage to ‍forgive in the case of true accidents when there was no intention to set out and harm someone.

I’ve had to ‍forgive people – certainly not for taking the life of a loved one – but still, ‍forgiveness comes in all shapes and sizes. I’m also fortunate to have been forgiven for things I’ve said and done.

We also have to remember to ‍forgive ourselves. Sometimes, that’s the most difficult ‍forgiveness of all – but every bit as vital and empowering.