Saturday around 2:30, we headed over to a hotel near the airport. It was only a 5 mile drive, but it took us half an hour due to the hellish roads and the fact that we had to stop at the liquor store. That was important.
We checked in to our room on the highly exclusive Concierge Level (which basically means that it’s more complicated to have visitors there, because the elevator requires a room key). Matt took one look at the giant HDTV and declared his intention to just stay in the room all night. Mary and Paul came up to join us, carrying bottles of champagne and rum. We celebrated in the room, and then Paul drove us over to the mall to meet everyone else for dinner at the Twin City Grill.
We had dinner and cocktails, and had to fill out a list of hobbies/interests, and at that point I knew my hunch about this year’s twist was right… we’d be shopping for each other as well.
My boss handed out ornaments to all the employees (as she does every year), and mine was a little slot machine that actually worked. She then gave us a sheet of paper with The Night Before Christmas written on it, and $50. We were sent off rushing into the mall for our first task. It’s way too complicated to explain, but the result of it was us ending up with a bottle of Cabo Wabo and a red bandana with skulls on it. From Hot Topic, of course.
We had another drink there, and then she sent us off with our next task, an envelope of cash, and a substantial bonus check. We were each given the list of hobbies from another employee, and $100 cash to spend on them. Mary’s list was brutal; it pointed to only one thing (a telescope), and it could not be had in the mall, particulary for $100. We ran all over, and finally called her to see if she had any ideas. We decided to meet after getting our other items.
We also had $250 to spend on ourselves. As Matt and I are very prepared, we made a beeline for Game Stop, and bought the Guitar Hero band kit. After determining how much cash we had left, I ran over to the Mystic Lake store, which was about to close. I caught them right before their Ticketmaster system shut down, and was able to buy a pair of tickets to the P.O.S. show at First Ave, and another pair for Reel Big Fish at Epic. WIN.
Then panic really started to set in, because it was 9pm, stores were closing, and we still had nothing for Mary. Who wants to show up with presents for themselves and nothing for their coworker? We ran across the mall, Matt toting that gigantic Guitar Hero box, and met her at Brookstone. We’d decided to pool the $350 and order a telescope from the catalog. They had a $300 model, and two for $200. Relieved, we asked the employee to place an order for us. Except they were totally sold out, even the cheaper ones. ARGH.
We sent Matt and Steve to the bar where we were supposed to meet with about 20 minutes left to shop. Mary and I ran upstairs to Best Buy, and she decided on a PSP for her kids. I got some accessories that added up to $100, and we checked out. The employees must’ve thought we were crazy. We were sweating, dropping change all over, giggling, and probably smelled strongly of alcohol.
We finally made it to Cantina #1 and met the rest of the company at a big table in the back. We ordered margaritas, and then Steve decided shots of Patrón were an excellent idea. Once everyone was assembled, we went around the table and showed off everything we’d picked out. For the three different rounds of shopping, we had to vote on which person got the best things, or had the most creative story. Whoever had the most votes won an extra $100.
Rich (one of our clients from Missouri, who was a guest at the party and I’d just met for the first time) had my name, and produced a bag with a maroon Gophers jersey. I almost died of awesome. That’s pretty much the most perfect thing he could’ve gotten me. He won money on that round!
We migrated from the restaurant to the bar. A couple coworkers took off at that point, but the rest of us stuck around til the place closed at 1am. There were more drinks, more shots, and dancing. Well, Matt and I danced. Most of the time, we were the only ones dancing. The DJ became our best friend, and played reggaeton for us. I’m pretty sure dancing my ass off at the Mall of America ranks up there in the top 10 most ridiculous things I’ve ever done. I love it.
My boss was extremely perturbed that it was only 1am and we were being kicked out of the bar. We all staggered around the Mall to the taxi stand (much to the dismay of the security guards, who herded us along as best they could) and got in cabs to head back to the hotel. We agreed to meet in our room, since we already had a substantial bar established, and more than one of us had purchased liquor at the mall.
Everyone stayed til about 4am. You know what’s weird? Having a bunch of coworkers hanging out on your bed until the early-morning hours. Matt and I crashed until 11am, at which point our only goal was to check out of the room and get ourselves home. I spent the next few hours laying on the couch at home, and finally recovered sometime that evening.
You know how I always say we have the best work Christmas parties ever? I mean it. (Here are the rest of the photos.) And no, we’re not hiring.