My very first introduction to the Secret Santa game in the office has unnerved me, to the point of ruining it for me for life.
I was a graduate joining the workforce for the first time more than twenty years ago. At the weekly team morning tea, Big Ego and Frankenstein announced that they were organising for the section to have Christmas party at a restaurant in town. I raised my concern about the long travelling time to the restaurant and asked if we could go to another one nearby. Frankenstein’s intimidating stare at me made me feel nervous and regretted giving my opinion.
The person whom I always tried to avoid in the office was Frankenstein. I once questioned the accuracy of one of his work documents and that enraged him such that he rolled his eyes then towering over me, he spoke in an arrogant and loud voice: “I NEVER made mistakes. Do you think you have enough knowledge about the matter?”. His thick lips were pursed and I sensed as if he was about to punch me.
Bougainvillea, who witnessed it all, later told me: “Don’t worry too much about Frankenstein! He came from a culture where women take second place after men and are supposed to be subservient. His aggressive attitude towards women thus are understandable.” I always admired Bougainvillea for she is a Vietnamese and a Team Leader in the section. Bougainvillea was a matter-of-fact woman who rarely showed her warmth towards others.
In preparation for the party, Big Ego and Frankenstein told each of us the name of the person in the section we would have to bring a gift for in the Secret Santa activity.
I thought long and hard about buying the Christmas gift for the designated colleague as I didn’t know him well. I ended up buying him a box of chocolates.
My Secret Santa’s gift was a table runner with Christmas mistletoe embroidery.
Bougainvillea wasn’t very lucky with her present as hers was a pack of female sanitary napkins. She looked glum. Big Ego was looking at her and smirking. In my mind, I had no doubt Big Ego was Bougainvillea’s Secret Santa. Big Ego had long been airing his disapproval of Bougainvillea’s leadership, in everything she said and did. He thought he was smarter than her even though he was her subordinate. In his male chauvinism’s view, his “gift” to her carried the insulting message that she was just a lowly, dirty female.
The gift for Eucalyptus was a ceramic outback dunny. Eucalyptus, who was an Aborigine, was the same age as Bougainvillea and a Team Leader. Eucalyptus tried to laugh at her present but later I saw she cried in the restroom. Frankenstein couldn’t contain his amusement when Eucalyptus unwrapping her present. In my mind, I was certain that he gave her the “gift”. Frankenstein had the habit of saying “shit” this and “shit” that and he was warned by Eucalyptus, his supervisor, about him regularly coming to work very late in the morning.
We were all stunned and pitied Bougainvillea and Eucalyptus for their public humiliation. After the Christmas party, Bougainvillea changed. She didn’t come to the office saying Hello to everyone as usual and became quiet. Since the event, Eucalyptus was less confident in her demeanor.
Big Ego and Frankenstein couldn’t tell us who were Bougainvillea and Eucalyptus’ Secret Santa because apparently they didn’t remember.
The vile use him
To send hurtful messages
To their disliked, chosen victim.
In the office,
Brings people nervousness,
Thru gifts, who’ll be hit with, who’ll miss