Next to fires caused by faulty decorative lights, the greatest peril of the holiday season is all those foolish office romances triggered by booze and sappy music at Christmas parties.
It's such an easy trap. Everybody knows everybody. The rails are already greased. Oh boy.
Drink by drink, song by song, your better judgment short-circuits, just like the faulty lights. Thoughts flicker from "no way" to "maybe" and then "probably," and finally the one that puts you over the cliff: "Hey, why not? It's Christmas!"
A quick trip to Rite Aid, a drunken cab ride, and finally (again, just like the faulty lights) a blackout. You awaken hours later and ask that tender pre-dawn question uttered by countless Christmas party lovers:
"Where do I catch the subway from here?"
Hammering hangover and all, reality hits like the night train back at the office.
I once had a dreadful Christmas party romance that dragged out for a few ridiculous weeks. It ended with a Saturday meeting on neutral turf in Central Park to return each other's goods - toothbrushes, books, underwear.
No chance of either of us making a scene - we'd both yelled ourselves hoarse the night before. We stood there in the January slush near the Robert Burns statue and exchanged bags, the way military cops exchange prisoners in the middle of a bridge.
She clutched her things and gave her hair a dramatic toss. "Goodbye forever," she snarled.
"Okay," I replied. "See you Monday."
I wasn't being a wise guy, just truthful. I was breaking up with her but I remained monogamous to my paycheck and my desk, which happened to be a short, steely gaze away from her desk.
What could I do? I was too young to retire, too old to join the Marines, too lazy to look for another job.
Boot camp would have been a breeze compared to life back at the office. My hopes that we'd forget about the past few weeks evaporated when my chirpy Monday morning "How are you?" triggered a hissing "As if you care!"
I thought a big leafy plant might solve my problem. I put it on the edge of my desk to block our views of each other, but as an irresponsible young Manhattan male it never occurred to me that plants need water.
The leaves soon collapsed as if the plant had been doused with Agent Orange and there I sat, an enemy Viet Cong soldier directly in the crosshairs of my Christmas party ex.
They say time heals old wounds, but when your old wound is 20 feet away and radiating hatred, time is like lemon juice on a freshly scraped knee.
I tried everything to make it bearable. I focused on my computer screen, acting as if I had no peripheral vision.
I made fake urgent phone calls whenever she passed by, nodding intently as the automated operator informed me of the correct time.
I came in early and left late to avoid bumping into her on the elevator. (Side benefit: My boss thought I was a real go-getter, so I got a raise.)
I couldn't eat at my desk, because I couldn't unclench my teeth. (Side benefit: I dropped ten pounds and fit into pants I hadn't worn in years.)
I was lucky. My "Goodbye forever, See you Monday" agony only lasted for a few weeks. My ex was transferred to a bureau outside the main office, and I could breathe again.
So remember these dangers when temptation strikes at the Christmas party, and you're full of holiday cheer, and Nat King Cole is singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Funny thing about those chestnuts on an open fire - they're a lot like Christmas party romances. Sooner or later, they go up in smoke.
Charlie Carillo's latest novel is "One Hit Wonder." He's a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition."