Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Say No to Secret Santa

It's almost Christmas in the office, so you know what that means: time for the Secret Santa exchange! Ah yes, the Secret Santa experience: a time in which a bunch of people forced to inhabit the same area every day from 9-5 pull names out of a hat to see who they'll pretend to like. Now, awful benefits and no potential for career mobility won't be the only thing we share with our co-workers. We'll all have some horrible DVD or cookbook to bond over.

Secret Santa sounds like what the New York Post headline would be if Santa Claus was a real person and he came out of the closet.

Like all Christmas traditions, this one has a long and storied past that goes back ages. You see, many Christmases ago, someone realized that the words secret and Santa began with the same letter. So, they expertly deduced, why not combine them? A custom was born, and the laziness that went into thinking up the name was then matched by the people buying the gifts.

Maybe I'm just bitter. The first time I was forced to be in a Secret Santa exchange, I was in fifth grade. The kid who picked my name forgot to get me anything. You know what he gave me? Two Hershey kisses. One of them was half-opened. It didn't even have the little banner they put in the top. He could have licked it first for all I know. He might as well have given me a cheeseburger with a giant bite mark in it.

Growing up in my family, we called it Secret Angels and did nice stuff for the person whose name we picked. If you buy into the spirit of the holiday season, this actually makes sense. You spend the whole month - we picked names at Thanksgiving - doing what you can to help them out and not let them know that you're doing it. That makes sense. With Secret Santa, there's not even a reason to keep your name a secret. That's why I think to live up to its name, every Secret Santa gift exchange should also come with a shocking revelation. "Here's your gift and one time I came into the office around 10PM and sat on everybody's chair bareass. Enjoy the dinette set."

As soon as you read the name you picked, an initial rush of fear hits you like a bolt of lightning. You have no idea what to get that person. You don't know his interests or hobbies. How the hell are you going to find out without being obvious? Should you start snooping through his stuff? Obviously, it's only to give you a clue, so it wouldn't be an invasion of privacy, right?

All of the sudden, the panic ceases as the realization washes over you: you don't even like that guy! Why are you worried about what present to get him when you wouldn't stop to piss on him if he was on fire? You don't care if he's satisfied with his gift. In fact, you want him to have a bad gift. So you go from worrying about it to actively thinking of horrible gift ideas so he'll be unhappy.

"Oh....the Steven Seagal box set....uh, gee, thanks I guess....I couldn't find Fire Down Below anywhere. Um, I scoured every Best Buy in the county."

The real problem with Secret Santa is that it's as much about office politics as it is about celebrating a holiday. If you decline, everyone might look at you weird and it could hurt your career. But don't worry. I've got a time-tested routine I use that's 100% foolproof. The next time you're approached by a smiling office manager gingerly shaking a hat full of names, do what I do: claim Judaism. Not only will you not be forced to partake, but everyone will get really quiet, as if they insulted you by even asking. If they're really gullible, you can con them all into buying you eight Hanukkah presents. Then you're sitting on like 90 presents.

I'm telling you, tell them you're a Jew and you won't hear a peep. Sometimes I even hammer the point home by coming in the next day with a driedel, a yarmulke, and a giant fake nose. None of those available? Just walk around yelling things like, "I love money, Bubbala!" and "You want I should bring in a schtickel of latkes, you schmedrick?" over and over. If you get fired for that, don't worry about it. You don't want to work for a bunch of anti-Semites anyway.

This holiday season, don't give into the tyranny of Secret Santa. Go for the Zionist Bailout Option instead.

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