CHARLESTON, S.C. — Employees at a local publisher are crying foul over an announcement this week that the company’s traditional Halloween “costume day” has been extended to last the entire week, and that the previously optional practice is now compulsory. At Your Best Yellow Pages on upper Meeting Street, manager Proncil Lesfester sent out a company-wide e-mail memo to all 13 employees on Thursday stating that the costume policy, in years past purely an elective practice which roughly a quarter of the staff participated in, would be mandatory this year — and would be in effect the full workweek, from Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Moreover, the memo stated that “scary” costumes are discouraged in favor of apparel that’s “more celebratory and whimsical” in nature.

“Celebratory and whimsical?” asked copy editor Granger Fallow from his cubicle. “That sounds basically like ‘gay’ to me. I’m supposed to spend all week in this dump dressed like Little Bo Peep or Chuckles the Clown? He can’t be serious.”

Ad designer Gabby Meister saw a specific and more cynical motivation at work behind the announcement.

“Come on, it’s so obvious. Look at the sales staff: all attractive, busty girls in their mid-twenties, every one of them itching to wear the same ‘catwoman’ hotsuit she wore last year and the year before that. Have you seen the sales staff? There’s enough silicone over there to refloat the Titanic.”

Julie Meatthrottle, an editorial assistant, was of a similar mind. “I totally busted him listening to Amanda Whipper tell Jocylin Karmike about the ‘sexy nurse’ outfit she’s gonna wear to the Nightmare on Calhoun Street Ball,” Meatthrottle said. “It’s the same stupid outfit she wears every year. Dumb little hat, boobs popping out of a white minidress, fishnet hose, garters, and a stethoscope,” she snorted. “Come on! Have you ever seen a real nurse wearing garters?”

Production manager Balthazar Silvestri protested that most of his staff are rarely out of the building during work hours, and therefore have little to no contact with clients or vendors.

“What’s the point of me wearing a costume for five straight days if the only people who are gonna see me are the introverted sociopaths I work with in this dungeon day in and day out? If Lesfester thinks that’s a morale booster, he’s been sniffing too much toner.”

For his part, Lesfester maintains that the only calculation behind the memo was that it might serve as an enjoyable team-building exercise that all could participate in.

“It has nothing to do with sales,” he said, “although, sure, October’s not typically not one of our strongest months. And it definitely has nothing to do with some silly notion of me wanting to ogle the sales team dressed as French maids or fallen angels or dominatrixes or nasty little devils in red thongs and stilettos. Give me some credit here. Though none of those options are necessarily off the table, either. It’s all in good fun.”

Lesfester noted that in addition to the costume policy, he plans to take the entire staff out for happy hour drinks each afternoon next week, though he acknowledged some of the edit and production staff may not be able to get away from the office in time to join the festivities. He also observed that the wearer of the most ‘celebratory’ costume, as judged by Lesfester, will get a free dinner with the boss.

“It’s not a ‘date’ or anything,” Lesfester laughed. “It’s just my little way of saying thank you.”

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