"Here is only one thing worse than being unemployed," a recent e-mail to me began. "Being employed." Office culture has sucked more than usual recently. Everyone's completely paranoid about layoffs, and all the big companies are cancelling Christmas parties. They were an important company-designated place for employees to act out, get loose, and maybe do something inappropriate—a poorly-chosen liaison will have the office bonding over gossip for months. But
Christmas holiday parties are out of step with today's office culture, anyway—it seems that the modern office grows more and more alienating. More of us "talk" to people in close proximity to us all day by using a keyboard and screen.(Then you get home and wonder what to do with your evening, and why you're so tired.) We are alone together—surrounded by people, but people who are are sitting in front of screens wearing earbuds, listening to their separate musics, updating their personal social networks, and living in their separate bubbles. Maybe that's another reason why people like Mad Men so much: it takes us back to a time when you really did forge personal friendships (or other "connections"), and pal around with your co-workers. Even the two most recent novels about work, And Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, and Personal Days, by Ed Park, mostly concentrate on the paranoia and gallows humor around arbitrary layoffs. "But considering the ubiquity of the work experience in American lives... perhaps the question shouldn’t be why there are two work-related novels right now but why there aren’t many more," wrote the NYT recently. Anyway! You don't have to worry that much about whether Christmas/holiday/Kwanzaa/Chanukkah parties are outdated, because if you work in media, you probably won't be having one: Newsweek isn't, nor is Hearst or Conde Nast or Viacom or ABC News or NewsCorp. Uh-oh. From my desk, I can see three of the top dogs having a smoke outside right now. It's making me nervous.