When December descends someone in the office (usually the excitable one who skips everywhere humming Mariah Carey from October onwards – no not me!) will tout the idea of a Secret Santa.
The office will immediately be split into two camps. Those who believe it will be fun, and those who would rather receive their P45, or at least spend their £10 on anything other than a gift which historically has proven to largely be a total waste of the orange note.
Those in the latter group will fear the cries of ‘scrooge’ from the office elves, so begrudgingly agree to join the festive cheer. This is textbook office stuff. If you haven’t had a work Secret Santa yet (and you will) then watch for the reactions around the room. I promise you it is a 50/50 split. It’s practically science.
Anyway, every year, regardless of your initial reaction, you can’t help but get caught up in the buzz of it all when the names are drawn. You are excited because you recently thought of an absolutely awesome gift for Anna in marketing. The second you saw it, you thought, “awesome, that is so Anna, she will love it – it’s creative, personal and funny”. As a back up you think of something hilarious to buy Dan in IT.
And then the names are drawn, and every year it’s the same.
You don’t get Dan or Anna. You get the person in the office that you know the least about. You get Carol.
You don’t know Carol. Truth be told you didn’t even know there was a Carol. You have to ask who she is. Someone points her out. “Oh jeez, that’s Carol?”
Carol works in accounts. You’ve seen her hovering by the water cooler, and frequently hear her blowing her nose into a handkerchief. That’s it. That is literally your full dossier of information on Carol; she drinks water and suffers year-round allergies.
You decide a bottle of Evian and pack of Benadryl isn’t quite the level of festive cheer that’s in-keeping with Secret Santa. Having asked around, it turns out nobody knows much about Carol so you have zero chance of swapping her for Dan or Anna.
Then the big day comes, Secret Santa exchange.
Having given up on being thoughtful, you settle on purchasing Carol a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and an iTunes voucher for £8.01 to take it up to the pre-agreed £10 spending limit. What you lack in thoughtfulness, you make up for in wrapping skills with well turned down corners an festive ribbon.
Carol opens her gift and seems unmoved. She mumbles something to a fellow colleague in accounts about not eating chocolate (turns out Carol is a vegan), blows her nose and trudges back to her corner desk. You’re glad you don’t know Carol any better, you and Carol wouldn’t be friends.
Then someone hands you your Secret Santa gift. You unwrap it to find a 2014 desk calendar, some chocolate coins and a pencil sharpener shaped like Rudolph, which you specifically remember someone else receiving last year. You smile through the disappointment and trudge back to your desk.
Suddenly it hits you. You are someone else’s Carol. Someone, somewhere will have watched your reaction and confirmed their stance that they definitely do not want to be friends with you.
And that folks, is how every office-based Secret Santa pans out. Every. Single. Year. You will know exactly what to buy almost everyone in the office, but you will always get a Carol.