No matter what type of office you’re stuck in all day, I’m willing to bet there are rules about alcohol on the premises. However, the world of publishing is an awkward middle ground between the corporate arena and your high school art class. So pretty much anything goes. Here are a few of my most memorable spirits-related office incidents and the lessons I learned from them:
Back in a Flask
At my first publishing job in New York, I was seated next to an older, burly editor named “Sal”. Sal was a cross between Lou Grant and Rodney Dangerfield; he had a gruff exterior and complained about getting no respect, but he was the best at what he did, so people just let him be. He could be quite unpredictable…if he saw a semicolon out of place he would rip out the page and curse the incompetence of the whole world. But then he’d turn around and calmly explain to me the differences in AP and Chicago Manual Style references with all the patience in the world. Go figure.
(Example of a classic Sal moment: On my first and only birthday there, Sal asked me how old I was. I told him 24 and he responded with: “What?! Nobody’s that young!” and stormed off.)
One day Sal got into an argument in a big meeting where it was him against the world. All the higher-ups wanted things one way and Sal wanted it another. He lost that battle and when he returned to his desk he was fuming. My plan was to stay as far away from him as possible, but in a surprise move, he turned to me and asked if I wanted a drink. I thought I misheard him but then he pulled out a flask from his drawer along with a beautiful crystal bar glass (at least the man had taste). I politely refused his offer of whiskey (Barf! I mean, at least offer me something that comes with a little umbrella or something that ends in –ini). He spent the next twenty minutes slowly sipping while throwing out random tidbits of life advice to me: “Don’t take any wooden nickels!”
Lesson learned: If you’re the best at what you do, you can get away with just about anything. Keep honing your craft!
Is This Seat Taken?
If you read my post Can You Stop Please? then you already know how much I disliked my last job. The only thing that made working there worthwhile (besides gaining two work besties) was the office holiday party. They would rent out a swanky seafood restaurant near the water. Everyone would get dressed up and enjoy the food (this was where I had bacon-wrapped scallops for the first time and my whole life was changed), and the open bar. “Open bar” can be the two scariest words when you’re attending a party with your boss and the company owners. So I made it a point to get a glass of white wine and sip it slowly throughout the night. After all, I wouldn’t want to make a spectacle of myself. As it turned out, I really never had to worry about that.
One of my work besties warned me beforehand that our coworker “Olivia” had a history of taking advantage of the open bar. Right after I had finished my third (or thirteenth) scallop, I heard guffawing followed by several gasps toward the back of the room. I turned to see what was going on and my jaw hit the floor. Apparently, after several glasses of wine, Olivia started flirting heavily with one of the (married) company owners. He was sitting on a couch and she tried to step over someone and sit in his lap. But he saw what was coming and pulled out an NFL-worthy spin move to dodge her. She tried to recover, but through a series of unfortunate events, landed in a nearby trash can.
So there she was. Trashed. Literally.
Lesson learned: It’s OK to cut loose a little in front of coworkers but if you find yourself butt-first in a trash can, you may want to reel it in a little.
On Your Mark…
Later, I went to work at another company that had lavish holiday parties that looked almost like wedding receptions. During my first party with that company, I went up to the open bar and ordered a Malibu bay breeze. When the bartender handed it to me, an elderly gentleman standing next to me said my drink looked so good that he wanted one too. I had been working there for eight months already but I still didn’t know everyone’s name. I didn’t recognize this man but he seemed friendly enough. He made some light conversation and when his drink came he said “I bet I can finish mine first.” On my résumé I had written that I was looking for a challenge but this isn’t what I expected. But hey, a little friendly competition never hurt, right? I replied, “You’re on!” and we were off! I easily beat him but he smiled and we both had a good laugh. Later on, I told a work friend what happened and I pointed out the man. My friend looked stunned and let me know that my challenger was the husband of the company owner. Yikes! Thankfully, there was no backlash from that situation and he promptly forgot who I was (as he has introduced himself to me a couple of times since then).
Lesson learned: Leave the drinking contests for the bar or for when watching election debates. And always know the other players!
Stop! In the Name of Work
In one of my previous positions, my supervisor “Ian” was what one might call a “functioning alcoholic”. He did his job well enough, but his temper could snap at any moment. It certainly didn’t help that he must have tied a few on in the evenings (it would come through his pores during the day).
In my first few weeks in that position, I was sitting at my desk (which was near his) doing some filing. I had my earbuds in because when you perform mindless tasks, it’s always good to have some Motown as background music. Just as The Supremes were promising that “someday we’ll be togeeeeether”, I see something fly past my head. I looked up, startled. Ian had gotten so frustrated with a file of papers he was working on, that he threw them across the room. Two lives were saved that day. Mine, because the file missed me by mere inches, and his, because if it had hit me I would’ve had to tackle him.
Nothing was ever thrown my way again, but the outbursts continued. I much preferred the days when he came in with a hangover migraine and decided to sleep it off under his desk. Those days were so peaceful and productive.
Lesson learned: If you are sitting at your desk and see files of mass destruction headed toward your face, leave Diana Ross where she is and duck for your life.
Now let me end this by saying that I’m not opposed to enjoying an alcoholic beverage at a work function. Just please make sure that if you are driving home, have a crush on a coworker, have an anger management problem, or don’t know your drinking buddies, that you’ll proceed with caution.
– R. Alexandria