Choose Your Own Misery: The Office Secret Santa

**Play along as a bitter, slightly dense drone in another ho-ho-horrible office adventure**

You mindlessly click the next article on Buzzfeed's header. You would work, really, but everyone checks out in December, right? Wouldn't want to embarrass your colleagues by gunning too hard.

An email comes in from Bev. You don't know her well, but she is your Secret Santa recipient in this year's office-wide exchange. Has she figured you out already?

You click open the email.

Hey folks,

I was under the impression that all Secret Santa gifts were meant to be non-denominational, right? My Frosty the Snowmen Advent calendar implicitly supports Christianity. As a Wiccan, I of course don't subscribe to the church's authoritarian imposition of "Advent." I can't help but to feel as though my present deliberately marginalizes my, and other, belief systems. Additionally, the chocolate found within the calendar seems to be non-organic, non-fair-trade, and appears to contain milk derivatives, though I think it should be obvious by now that I'm a vegan. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but didn't we say ethical presents only?

Love to get some clarification here.

Thanks, Bev

Oh for fuck's sake.

You'd absolutely love to stick an icicle into Bev's retina right about now. However, because she's a manager, and chummy with your boss, you should probably do something to help mitigate against the damage.

If you want send out an office-wide email which satirizes Bev's "war on Christmas," click here.

If you want to win Bev over by making her next gift the best Secret Santa gift ever, click here.

You go to the break room where you know the grimy, outdated communal computer is always logged into the company's "info@" email account.

Might as well give Bev-humorless scold that she is-something to really gripe about.

You hit "reply all" to her email and start typing away.

Every Employee in the Secret Santa pool liked Christmas a lot...
But Bev, who worked downstairs in ad sales, did NOT!
Bev hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
She thought even Santa was religious treason!

Oh yeah, that's good. Subversive and biting satire at its finest. The Onion would probably pay a king's ransom for your work.

You finish writing the poem and give it a quick once over.

Even more brilliant at second glance. And of course you're shielded by "info@" anonymity!

Click.

It's sent.

You head back to your desk feeling extremely pleased with yourself. That "But for organics, an $8 limit won't buy a lot!" line especially stuck it to her!

Time to get back to the grind. Facebook, Pinterest, or Reddit?

You opt for Facebook and start scrolling down your feed.

Whoa! It looks like Debby, your sort-of-work friend, just posted Bev's email and your poem with the heading "Today's office email chain - LOL!"

You feel your heart swell with pride as the likes and comments start pouring in.

"Hilarious."

"We have this person at my office, too, ugh."

"LOLZ!"

This is easily the most creative thing you've ever done in your working life. People are absolutely loving it!

If you want to claim credit on Facebook, click here.

If you want to remain anonymous so you don't get in trouble, click here.

You'll get to know a little more about her, and your last couple gifts will smooth over any issues she had with this one. It's always better to make friends than enemies, right? Especially if those friends are friends with the person who decides your continued employment status.

You wait until you know she'll be in an all-manager's meeting and head over to her cube.

You start poking around, hoping for inspiration.

The cube is painfully neat, even the pens separated into different holders based on color and size. No personal photos are tacked on the wall, hinting at hobbies; no kitschy toys or cube-art give a sense of her taste; even her screensaver is just black expanse being replaced by white, then the white by black, black, white, black, white.

You turn to her bookshelf.

I'm Disgusted! How to Shame for Maximum Results

That's Not Funny: 1,000 More Jokes No One Should Be Laughing At

Essays on the Lasting Pain of Other People Not Thinking Like You Do

Jesus fucking Christ.

Resigning yourself to getting reamed out for whatever you give-even if you found some perfect, shame-inducing Wiccan amulet (is that what they use?) she'd probably rail at you for appropriating her beliefs-you pull open the file cabinet drawer.

You expect to find brutally orderly files marching into the black.

Instead, you find a silky-haired dog. You can see the glint of bared teeth from here.

The animal is totally motionless, staring rigidly at the side of the cabinet. Tentatively, you reach down to pat its head. It doesn't move. And it's strangely cold.

You bend down for a better look. Ah, that explains it: it's not moving because it's dead. And stuffed. And has little glass marble eyes that are staring right into your soul.

If you want to give her some weird, dead-dog-related gift, click here.

If you want to tell HR that Bev is possibly psychotic, click here.

You click open a comment window on Debby's Facebook thread and frantically start typing.

Thanks for sharing Debby! I have to own up: I wrote this about an hour ago.

Click.

You feel a rush of exhilaration quickly followed by self-doubt. It's not tacky claiming credit, is it?

Your comment gets three likes in quick succession. You feel much more confident and self-assured.

Who knows, maybe you should buy that screenwriting software?

Just as you're about to sign out, you see your comment get commented on.

Oh shit, it's from Bev! You should've known she'd be friends with someone from the office.

You read it.

Really funny to mock my values, asshole.

Your pulse is racing wildly. You've flown too close to the sun on wings made of hilarious prose.

An email comes in from your boss almost instantaneously, with the subject line "HR meeting re: sensitivity training in my office NOW."

Gulp.

You should have known when you entered the realms of biting social commentary that you'd be made to pay for your incisive views. You and those Charlie Hebdo guys. Martyrs for your beliefs.

Too bad you can't claim credit. You can't risk getting into trouble for this.

You're about to sign out of Facebook when you see Morgan, your office nemesis, add a comment.

Yup. I wrote that, so speculate no further. I thought we could all use a little laugh around the office.

There isn't a word that captures just how furious you feel. Unless mega-furious counts.

Morgan's comment starts racking up the likes. Then Bev chimes in-perfect, let him take the...

Wait, she just said "touche?" With a smiley face? WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?

You've never tried it before, but right now, blinded with rage, the only thing you can think of is the weird, hippie abdominal breathing technique your ex used to start doing whenever you were trying to have a fight.

"Hwooooooo...Haaaa. Hwooooooo...Haaaa."

You sound like Darth Vader doing sprints.

"Hwooooooo Haaaa....Hwooooooo Haaaa."

Oddly enough, it starts working. You're starting to feel the tiniest bit more relaxed, when you see a new email from Bev.

I hadn't eaten lunch yet, I must have been having blood sugar issues! sorry! Thanks to Morgan for dealing with my email in such a smart and witty manner.

Fucking Morgan! Is there anyone in the world you hate more than Morgan?

"Hwooooooo Haaaa....Hwooooooo Haaaa."

Nope, still filled with blinding rage.

"Excuse me," you say, stopping in the entryway of 'The Inner Eye Spiritual Paraphernalia' shop. The smell of incense is overwhelming, and judging by the looks you're getting from shoppers, your khakis-and-button-down getup isn't going over well. "Could you help me find a gift?"

"Shopping for the solstice?" The man who glides over to you looks like a cross between a sophomore philosophy major and a Renaissance-faire enthusiast: a little oily, a little superior, and wearing a full-length monk's robe.

"Um, yes. Specifically, I was hoping to find something for a dog?"

"Mmmm. Our animal companions help us connect with mother Earth." He smiles patronizingly. "Follow me, please. Perhaps some canine quinoa pudding?"

"Do you sell dog outfits?"

"We have some earth-fibre cloaks sized to animal companions. Perhaps that and a pentacle collar?"

"Sure. That would be fine."

You manage not to roll your eyes until you leave.

* * * * *

At the end of the week, an email goes out telling the office who had each other for Secret Santa. You should've known Morgan had you. Only Morgan would give someone a diet book at the holidays.

Within minutes, Bev's at your cube.

"Oh, hi, Bev," you say tentatively.

"I just wanted to thank you for the incredibly thoughtful gifts. I never knew you were so spiritual!" Her face is cracked in what must be a smile, though it's very lip-curly. "Can I take you to lunch?"

"Well..." you're not sure you'll make it through an entire meal without accidentally offending Bev, but 'can I take you' does imply she'd pay. "Sure!"

That was just the beginning.

Every day now, Bev drops by your cube to say a 'blessing' with you, rail loudly against the breakfast choices of coworkers within hearing range, or loudly denounce the 'Judeo-Christian fascism' of PBS's children's programming. At first you worried you'd offend her somehow, but you've realized that's not possible: she almost never lets you speak, and when you do, seems to relish correcting your 'wrong thinking.'

Your social stock was already low, but hanging around with the office scold definitely isn't helping. Even Debby-chortling, snorting, velour-wearing Debby-seems to be avoiding you.

And of course every minute with Bev is a special kind of hell.

It just goes to show: you should never, ever, try to be thoughtful of other people's beliefs.

"...and I think I saw some weird mangy spots. Like maybe there were bugs getting at it? The smell was strange." Of course that's not true-the dog's fur was preternaturally well maintained-but you want Sharon in HR to understand why you're tattling on Bev.

It's legitimate tattling.

"Alright," Sharon croaks in her hungover-frog voice. "Let me call Bev in here and see if she can explain why she has a taxidermied animal in the office." She leans over to the phone, clicking at the keys with a long, polished fingernail. Stale Parliament smoke wafts over on the slight breeze from her leathery arm.

"That's not really necessary, I don't think-"

"It's policy," Sharon says, her voice like a rock tumbler.

A few moments later Bev shows up.

"Your coworker says you have an animal corpse in your office?"

"I didn't say corpse," you mumble.

"Do you mean my therapy animal?" Bev sneers at you, obviously disgusted. "Which has been approved by HR as necessary to my mental health?"

"But it's dead."

"Yes. Carrie Nation was certified as a therapy dog for my anxiety issues. Keeping her around now also helps with my grief over her death. Which of course is much more intense than most pet owners', since our relationship was both one of love and of professional care."

Sharon squints at you. "Satisfied?" she rumbles.

"I'm not," Bev says, glaring through her large, unflattering glasses. "Carrie Nation is kept out of sight in my filing cabinet, specifically so her presence won't disturb my coworkers, since creating a safe space for other grieving pet owners is important to me. Which means you must have been digging through my personal effects in order to find her in the first place."

Sharon raises an eyebrow at you.

"Well yes, I was," you say, "but only because I wanted to learn more about Bev. I'm her Secret Santa, and I wanted my next gift to-"

"Oh wonderful. So you're a trespasser and a religious extremist. Not to mention an indirect funder of guerilla warfare in Co-lohm-bia." She says it in an aggressive accent. "Their corrupt government is funded almost entirely by chocolate profits."

"What? Santa isn't even religious. And chocolate doesn't-"

"Is that all?" Bev stares at Sharon levelly. Sharon, that dried-out husk impervious to even the most reasonable pleas, breaks eye contact first, nodding. Is she blushing?

"I'm so sorry about this, Bev. Rest assured I'll be issuing a formal reprimand for the invasion of your privacy."

Bev sniffs approvingly and marches off, back ramrod-straight.

"For the record," Sharon says in a throaty stage-whisper, "I think that dog's freaky too. But I can't put that on your reprimand."

Fantastic.

Loved this mini-adventure? There's much more where that came from in Choose Your Own Misery: The Office Adventure, now available for pre-order!

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