Jim Bartlett's Blog

"What Do We Do Now?"

The year was 1997. I was out of radio, working for a publishing company. My wife, who had spent the last several years managing a retail store, was working for an insurance company. For many years before, Christmas Eve had been a regular working day for both of us. I would almost always be on the air on Christmas Eve; as a retail manager, she had to stay until the store closed, plus a couple of additional hours to get ready for the after-Christmas sale on the 26th. (When did you think the stores set up for the after-Christmas sale?) It was not unusual for it to be 8:00 or later until both of us were home. Sometimes, we'd immediately hop back in the car and drive to my parents', which was two or three hours away, depending on what year and where we lived at the time. In other years, we'd throw together some kind of simple dinner (simple because neither of us wanted to invest much time in cooking), maybe open a gift or two, and doze off in our chairs by 10:00 so we could get up early and make the drive to Mom and Dad's in the morning.

Then came 1997. Each of our offices closed at noon. We had lunch together, and afterward we did some last-minute shopping. It must have been 3:00 in the afternoon when we got home and put all of our purchases away. Then we looked at each other and said: "What do we do now?" It had been so long since we hadn't had one of those harried, haggard, hurry-up Christmas Eves that we weren't sure how to go about it.

We figured it out, of course. She's managed to stay out of retail since then. I, however, got back into radio a few years later, one thing led to another, and here it is 2014. And as it happens, I'll be on the air on Magic on Christmas Eve from 3 until 6 in the afternoon. That's not a bad thing. Christmas Eve is my favorite day to be on the radio, and I especially like to be on as the sun goes down and nighttime arrives. (The reason is too extensive to get into in this space. To read more about it, go here.) So while you're setting the table for your Christmas Eve dinner, coming or going to a church service, and/or trying to keep the kids from losing their minds with excitement, turn Magic on. It'll be great.

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Party Time

Consider the office Christmas party. Your employer forks out for dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant, and you can let your hair down for a while with your fellow compadres. Sounds like a good thing—so how come so many parties are so awful?

Maybe 25 years ago, the owner of the radio station I worked for scheduled our Christmas party for a mom-and-pop restaurant willing to trade the cost of the dinner for advertising on our station. Imagine having the party at Denny's, only with a limited menu, and you're getting close to the vibe. The message to the staff was pretty clear—this is all you're worth to me. And maybe it dawned on him that he'd skimped, because the next year, the party was scheduled for the most exclusive restaurant in the city. As the waitstaff brought the menus that night, the thought flashed from table to table instantaneously—let's stick it to him. And so everyone ordered appetizers and bottles of wine, expensive entrees and desserts. Ann and I racked up the most expensive dinner we've ever had, one that probably still holds the record after all these years.

Even though I loved many of the people I worked with, the company Christmas parties at my post-radio jobs were almost always dreadful. Dinner and drinks were fine. Even the little speech by the company president was OK. But when the party was planned by a committee, there always had to be an entertainment program of some kind—and I am convinced that there's never in history been an office-party entertainment program that's actually entertaining. Memo to party planners everywhere: don't waste money hiring a hypnotist or some similar thing—just reopen the bar and let people hang out together.

At my last corporate job, over a decade ago, I resolved to skip the holiday parties--but I soon found the company did not approve of party-skipping. The HR manager actually visited the cubicles of those of us who had declined the invitation to find out why. (Sometimes I had a good reason, and sometimes I lied.) There's no such pressure here at Mid-West Family Broadcasting, because we don't do the formal, after-hours, at-a-restaurant holiday party anymore. We do a during-the-workday potluck, which is a thousand times better, even accounting for the fact that there's no bar.

If you have a really good (or really crazy) office party story, I'd love to hear it. E-mail it to jim.bartlett@magic98.com.
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