Oh What a Tangled Web

Who loves surprise parties?  Who’s with me? 

[crickets chirp]

Who loves…I said who…ahh, forget it.  After being part of many uncomfortable surprise parties I now understand that they are for the surpriser, not the surprisee.  Example:  is it more fun to hide behind a door then burst out in front of someone who screams and drops his coffee cup, or to be the one who gets an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and scorching hot liquid spilled on your crotch?  Yeah…surprises are great, and with that sound logic, what could be bad about surprise parties?

Last year someone in our office decided to throw a surprise birthday party for the boss.  The setup was that she was to give an office-wide presentation, and just before she started we would all yell “Surprise!” and begin a surprise party instead.  Unfortunately all the planning went into the setup of lies and deception and nobody figured out how to make the transition.  So our entire office sat in the conference room while our boss began her presentation, complete with Powerpoint and speaking notes.  Who was going to spring the surprise?  Sweat ran down my back and I wondered, “How did I get roped into this?”  Eventually someone brought in the cake and presents, and my boss graciously acted surprised and managed to hide her annoyance and preparing for a presentation that wasn’t going to happen.

Lesson learned:  the complication of the deception is directly proportional to the discomfort played by unwilling participants, and inversely proportional to the genuine joy experienced by the unwilling recipient.

So what did we do yesterday?  Throw ANOTHER surprise party for our boss.  Because the last one wasn’t quite excruciating enough.  This time there was even more subterfuge, distraction, false pretense, and complication.  About 15 minutes before the fake presentation, I was briefed on how it would go down.  It involved something with a story of lunch not arriving, the boss going out the front door…honestly I lost track halfway through and nodded and smiled during the rest of the sotto voce instructions.  We all piled into the conference room with the shuffle of inmates walking towards the firing line wall.  At one point the boss was outside, an employee was hiding under her desk with a cake, empty pizza boxes were borrowed from a pizzeria down the street, and a random passer-by was brought into the office to play the role of a presenter. 

It was horrifying.  When the random stranger was introduced to our boss with a fake name, and he looked at all of us with the same look an antelope gives a pack of lions, I had to avert my eyes.  You know when you’re watching The Office and Michael is getting in some horribly awkward situation?  This was like that, but real and ten times worse.  Again, nobody yelled surprise, there was no clean transition from ruse to reality, just a Greek tragedy that began with lies and ended with cake. 

People of the world I beg you:  if you’re even considering a surprise party, give yourself a good hard slap in the face.  Then on the other side.  WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??!!

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Writer, architect, father, husband.

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One comment on “Oh What a Tangled Web
  1. Babs says:

    Whoever dreamed up surprise parties is a sadist–no doubt about it. Oh–just a reminder, if you want to be a beneficiary in a will, don't EVER give me a surprise party!

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