Adam O'Neill
The (Introverted) Pipe Smoker's Guide to the Office Christmas Party

It's that time of year again.

*We appreciate that Christmas parties for most people out there aren't like the ones here at With that in mind, here's a survival guide for what most of you can expect out of your own end of year work function.

Yep, that's right ladies and gents, it's that time of year. PSL is out and peppermint mocha is in, supermarkets have been spruiking Christmas decorations for a solid month and change, and every visit to your folks is scored by "that nice Michael Bublé fellow". That could only mean one thing. Despite having spent 261 out of the last 365 days with them, it's time to give up your personal time to go hang out with your semi-drunk co-workers (more formally known as the office Christmas party).

Okay, so it's not as bad as all that. I mean, we survived that gastronomical game of Russian roulette that was the office potluck (fool me once tofu turkey), so how bad could it be? Well if, like me, you're a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, the answer is: pretty bad.

Unfortunately, if you like your job or, at the very least, need your job (and despite that Christmas bonus burning a hole in your pocket you do need this job), there's no way around it, you're going to have to just grin and bear it. To that end, here's some quick and dirty tips to get you through it.

Plan Ahead

You're going to want to smoke at this thing, if not for the nicotine fix, then at least to have an excuse to detach from the co-worker that has suddenly decided that you're co-conspirators, just because you shared an eye roll over the third retelling of your bosses favourite drunken knock-knock joke. So plan ahead and bring a pipe.

Small bowls are the order of the day here, so pack your dressiest Group 1, a good VA or aromatic, your most obnoxious English, and enough pipe cleaners to see you through the night.

Be Seen

First a quick ground rule. You're at this thing for a reason, and that reason is so that the higher ups think you're a team player. Sure, your idea of "team" might be you, your couch, and your spouse/cat/40oz of malt liquor, but they don't need to know that.

Our not-so-intrepid hero and one of his "teammates" (unfortunately the couch had other plans).

What Do I Do With My Hands?

Granted I'm terminally awkward, but I'm never sure what to do with my hands. Not only do I get self conscious and can't find a natural place for them, but when I inevitably get bored of a conversation I start fidgeting with my watch or, even worse, checking my phone.

Thankfully there's a solution to be had in the way of an old toy from days gone by — the bubble pipe. Plus, as an added bonus, you're there to be seen, and nothing stands out more than a grown adult with a bubble pipe. You can find these things on eBay, or failing that we've got some pipe shaped licorice that'll get the job done.

Don't Drink

A lot of people will tell you not to drink at work functions as, at the end of the day, it's still work. There's probably some truth in that, but honestly the most compelling reason is that it limits your escape options. Drive yourself, stick to two drinks, and bounce after a couple of hours (but never before speeches).

An Arms Length & The Art Of Moving On

Worse than the speeches — worse even than that usually shy co-worker, who every year insists on drinking far too much and telling everyone they've so much as walked past in the hall how much they love them — is the introverts natural enemy: the extrovert. Though not a particularly cunning foe, what the extrovert lacks in wiles (and, arguably, dignity) he more than makes up for in raw, unbridled, and incredibly annoying enthusiasm.

Luckily as a pipe smoker you have a ready-made defense against such creatures. Load up your pipe with that obnoxious English blend I mentioned and duck out for a quick bowl. Pay particular attention to where you're exhaling here; counter to usual practice you'll want to get as much of that on your clothes as possible. I call this defense the "Wall of Latakia".

Unfortunately though that won't stop all comers, so you'll still have to be quick on your feet. Luckily this is a party, so there's always opportunities to move along, and if there isn't, make one up.

The dreaded extrovert.

Ducking Out For A Bowl

Although this tactic can't be employed exhaustively (remember what we said about being seen), one of the more enjoyable avoidances is simply excusing yourself for a quiet pipe.

I say quiet, but I think we all know that's not entirely true. Unfortunately you will be joined by smokers, and yes, you will have to talk to them. This also means you'll probably have to answer a bunch of questions about your pipe, including the perennial "How did you get into it?" This is where you can have a bit of fun. Instead of giving the rote answer of "in college" or "through my metal weapon medieval re-enactment club", try making up something utterly crazy. A couple of my go-tos here include:

  • This particular pipe was a gift to my uncle from the (then) Queen consort of the United Kingdom, and it's been a family habit ever since.
  • My grandfather was a sea captain who salvaged a great fortune, and left it to me on the condition that I wear his eyepatch and smoke his pipe for no less than a year. The pipe stuck, the eye patch did not.

Ride With A Smoker

Finally, if you do insist on drinking at this thing (against our advice, let the record state), make sure that whoever you're pooling with is a smoker. Yeah, their car is probably going to smell, but you ARE going to want a pipe after this thing, and your ride isn't going to want to hang around for 30 minutes while you burn your pipe out puffing like a mad man to get in one last bowl. Choosing a smoker means you can smoke AND be driven home. Oh, and this is where the VA/aro comes in: after a night of obnoxious behavior, the one person you don't want to offend is your ticket out of there.

Did our guide help? Got any Christmas party horror stories? Want to share your own tips for getting out of dodge? Please feel free to comment below.

Category:   Resources Tagged in:   Editorial Humor Satire Tips


    • Jon Horton on December 6, 2016
    • Great reading Adam.

    • KevinM on December 6, 2016
    • Here is the formula I used before I retired: 1) Arrive a little bit late. You want witnesses that you were there. 2) Once there, make a sweep of the venue, having a brief chat with as many people as possible, looking for opps to mention that "Hmm, my tummy isn't feeling 100%" 3) there will come a point in the program where you can kind of filter away. Oh, yes, you parked your car in a readily accessible spot, right? The next workday remember that you planted your reason for leaving in #2. That's your story. Stick to it.

    • Duane C. on December 6, 2016
    • Volunteered to work during my company's party. Avoided the social interaction, the speeches, and the inevitable arrival of the police followed by arrests. ;)

    • Adam O'Neill on December 7, 2016
    • @Jon Horton Thanks Jon, glad you enjoyed it!

    • Adam O'Neill on December 7, 2016
    • @KevinM Sounds like you could even milk it to call out that next workday ;)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Adam O'Neill on December 7, 2016
    • @Duane C. Wait, what? Where do you work sir?

    • John McWilliams on December 7, 2016
    • Good plan! You never know, you just might strike up a conversation that's interesting and sustainable. But if not, the exit plan is there....

    • Eric G on December 8, 2016
    • Thanks for the entertaining article as I too am an introvert. At my office, drinking is part of being a team player. We are just a step or two away from Mad Men levels of office drinking so I will be getting a bit tipsy at the party. As for getting the hell out of there, it just occurred to me...I wish you could request a smoker car from Uber. Can somebody make this happen?

    • Adam O'Neill on December 9, 2016
    • @Eric G We'll see what we can do ;)

    • Dennis Wilkins on December 11, 2016
    • Thank you for the info!

    • Bill Brooks on December 10, 2017
    • Don’t treat this as something endured. Eat and enjoy yourself and for heavens sake drink your share of the free booze. Lighten up and participate

    • R Mutt on August 16, 2018
    • There's an app for this.

    • Billiam Biscuits on August 16, 2018
    • Go incognito in a mask -- if you get up to any hijinks, no one will know who to blame.

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