Tuesday, December 18, 2012

That Time Again

Above you see the rose and pine centerpiece I won this year at the annual work holiday party. I was the lucky chap at the table who had a gold star on the underside of his Christmas coffee mug. It also came in handy the next day as we entertained my father-in-law and others for lunch.

I've posted about my workplace holiday parties most Decembers since I started this blog. They're fun to document, even if "nothing happened". That's an accurate way to describe this year's outing, held at the local culinary institute's restaurant. It's been a good spot for lunch or dinner for nearly 20 years, I think. Students manned the outdoor bar on a sunny but awfully humid and warm afternoon. I will refrain from my usual rant about holiday weather in Florida. Other students were visible in the open area kitchen and at carving stations, serving salmon and beef and also cooking up fresh pasta. Each station had excellent offerings. The food was easily the best of the 4 parties I've attended. The dessert table was deadly good, especially one of my new favorites, bread pudding. Like diabetes on a plate.

My practice has been around for well over 40 years. Some of the employees have been there for 30 plus, so I've heard the stories of the old days.  Got pretty wild. The good ol' liquid courage brought the party animal out of even the meekest. At this year's annual gathering with this gang, I observed an interesting tone shift. The first party was quite lively - you can read the post from 2009. The next at the Greek restaurant was even livelier, complete with sword wielding belly dancers. But these last 2 have been almost reserved. Last year there wasn't one flash of potential Monday morning embarrassment. This year, aside from this white boy's attempts (again) at gyrations on the dance floor, much the same.

The dancing came at the very end of the gathering, with 2 deejays spinning lots of contemporary dance pop with which I was not familiar. Well, other than "Gangnam Style" which cleared the floor in an instant. What an annoying track that is. I did flail around to that one at my wife's cousin's wedding reception back in October, but I knew better this time (and wasn't as intoxicated).

The mood was pretty close to solemn throughout the afternoon.  There was the occasional explosion of laughter at a table, but mostly polite smiles. Why? Have folks mellowed in their advancing age? Most of the crew had been with us for awhile.  The newbies have quiet personalities. There were several regulars who did not attend this year, a few who might've stirred things up.

There could be one perfect explanation: maybe they heard the news. Like I had, when I glanced at my phone right after the hors d'oeuvres. The terrible, inexplicable massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. I read only a few sentences, but enough to ensure a hollow feeling in my gut that continues at the the time of this writing. I at first wanted to chat with others about it, but then thought the better of ruining everyone's afternoon.  There was the possibility of the whole thing degenerating into a gun control debate, to boot.  It was hard to be jolly as I thought of the chaos and tears. I wondered who in our group - the majority of them parents- were aware and trying to keep a happy face.

But I think the mood of the party also reflected some of the current dynamic in our practice.  The older physicians have a more carefree, even playful manner about them, even to this day. The Halloween pictures from years ago reveal some elaborate get-ups that even the top docs wore while seeing patients. Nowadays, very sparse. The younger docs are far more serious. Less social, less likely to kibbitz with patients about the golf game they shared the week before. Even our everyday lunches in the work kitchen are a telltale - the younger docs pretty much always eat at their desks while charting. I do much the same lately, though I try to sit at the table when I can, lest I appear a recluse.

For me, some of the enjoyment was also marred by the admission of a colleague who works in our other office (who I see in person maybe twice a year) of a rather tense e-mail exchange between she and another colleague. As well as our staff gets along, there's still the occasional dust-up. The ultimate resolution of the cyber dilemma was a bit disheartening. But she did relay her exciting engagement news. She's a wonderful person and I'm very happy for her.

But listen, overall it was still an enjoyable 4 hours. Staff anniversaries were again recognized and rewarded. Laughs were shared. I'm still very, very blessed to be among such a professional group, doing what I find very fulfilling. I look forward to more parties, even without the table dancing.

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