Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Grab Bags

During my tenure as the head of Production at DC Comics, the Christmas season would bring a large number of vendor gifts to my desk. Probably as a throwback to the "Mad Men" era, most of these gifts were bottles of alcohol. There was the occasional box of candy or a cheese selection, but wine, champagne, vodka, scotch, et al made up the majority.

Non-drinker that I am, I had virtually no use for all this booze, so I would give it away to the people in my department. One year fairly early on, I got the idea that, rather than just giving it away, I would have a Gift Grab-Bag at our department Christmas party. I piled all the various packages on a table in the middle of the room. As each staff member entered the party, they drew a slip of paper from a bowl and that determined the order in which they would get to pick.

It went pretty well the first year. However, after the first couple of people picked up various packages to get an idea of what might be in them, I made a "You touch it, you took it" rule. This resulted in a gift-trading after-market as some people tried to get something they liked better.

In the second year, when I tallied up department personnel versus the number of available gifts, I found myself one present short. So, I took a bottle of champagne out of its box and then put a couple of cans of Diet Coke in the box, turning one into two and creating the first "You got coal" (or, more accurately, cola) gift. It was quite amusing to see the face of the staffer, who had traded numbers to get an early pick, when she grabbed that very fancy box and discovered she had two cans of soda. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to trade with her.

The following year, I added another twist. One of the gifts appeared to be some comic books with a ribbon tied around them and everyone avoided picking it. There was much laughter as the numbers were called and all the other gifts were chosen, leaving the comics for the guy who had the final pick. He was not so disappointed, however, when he opened the comics and discovered there was a $25 gift certificate with them!

As time went on and my departments grew, so did the number of gifts. My production managers contributed gifts they received. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that my female managers would get things like soap and candles instead of the usual bottles of liquor, so there were a wider variety as well. One year there was a really ugly clock made from a piece of a tree-trunk; no one wanted to trade for that one and it came back into the gift pool the following year!

One gift that no one ever seemed to want was the fruitcake. In fact, one year, when that was the only thing left, the person who would have gotten it opted out of taking it. Actually, that was fine with me. I may be the only person on the planet who does, but I like fruitcake. So I took it home.