Every so often, when the President of my division becomes thoroughly self-satisfied with his smashing success and the overwhelming industry of his worker bees, he throws us a congratulatory wine-and-cheese party. This takes place in the dim lobby near the elevators, and is always the topic of breathless whispers throughout the great cubicle labyrinth.
This afternoon, two hours beforehand, the reception area has already been cleared for the soiree - chairs haphazardly thrust into corners, forcing waiting visitors to camp refugee-like near the toilets, bare tables lining the walls, awaiting the laden platters and hungry masses to come.
All throughout the floor, desks are buzzing with a hushed energy - wide-eyed secretaries speculate on the vast varieties of cheese and nervously await breaking their diets with plates piled high with smoky gouda, sharp cheddar and runny brie. Analysts loosen their collars while debating the merits of goat versus blue. The receptionist twists her hands anxiously, silently cursing her decision to give up wine for Lent.
All around, employees smile to themselves in the warm glow of their computer screens, knowing that a few short hours will find them clutching a glass of merlot, syrah or pinot grigio and gnawing on a stinking hunk of Stilton. Shy researchers anticipate dazzling their secret crushes with a wit plied free by wine. Assistants prepare to gather in clusters, munching almonds from salty fingers, murmuring intimately as they trade gossip about their bosses.
We will go home to our spouses, children and televisions with full, content bellies, blaring our radios a bit louder than usual, singing along in tipsy gaiety. We will sleep tonight eager to rise and return to our screens anew, where, stomachs rumbling, we will dream of our next reward.