Partying with your colleagues, office-sanctioned or not, is a tricky business.  Where to go, what to wear, what (and how much) to drink are all dependent on your particular office atmosphere, the seniority of the attendees, and the occasion. 

You may work in an office in which the merits of various class-A street drugs are debated on a weekly basis, or an office in which more than two glasses of champagne at a function is viewed as excessive.  The balance is a difficult one to strike; on the one hand, These People are your professional peers, and their judgment has a serious impact on your career.

On the other hand, you spend more time with These People than you do with your own family, and sometimes the daily stresses of that familiar camaraderie can best be relieved by getting totally mauled together.  You’re invited to share your own stories in the comments (and can submit for postings), but first, I reveal the details of my own recent, and potentially deadly, foray into the Office Party Abyss, as well as a US/UK comparison.

From the trenches of Saturday:

So, it’s Saturday, and I am in recovery from another typically brutal drinks night with my office.  As opposed to drinks in my US office, here in the UK, we go out with not only the implicit but also discussed understanding that we are going to get trashed.  It’s kind of refreshing, actually, because you can relax a little bit, and while you’re not expected to get wasted and make a fool of yourself (and should make every attempt to avoid tomfoolery), if you end up saying/doing something idiotic, you don’t have to spend the next 48 hours convinced that you’ve committed professional suicide and that hara-kiri is your last practical option because you can never step foot in work again.

My hair of the grog is not cutting, it however, as I sit alone with my laptop and a bottle of Rioja, atoning for my sins.  I’ve spent the day watching X-Factor, nursing my headache, feeding, and napping – altogether very pleasant and necessitating minimal commitment or concentration.  But.  Every 20 minutes or so, a scene from last night will flash across my brain in Technicolor horror, and I cringe and bury my head into the sofa cushions filled with deep, pervasive shame.

First off, I work in a pretty relaxed office environment.  Explicit conversations about anal sex have been known to occur at 10:27 am on a Tuesday, which was deeply shocking to a litigiously aware American like myself.  However, I’ve embraced the relatively easygoing atmosphere and while I’m still cautious about oversharing, I have a real appreciation for the casual innuendo and insults that whiz about on a daily basis.

Drinks nights at my American office typically took place on ill-advised Thursday evenings, when we would go to a sushi restaurant/club and everyone would pretend to be far more sober than they actually were.  Then, we would all get to drive home (excepting the very drunk, who would have to deal with the embarrassment and hassle of taxi-ing home and picking up their vehicle in the morning).  We would make a point to come in extra, extra early the next day, in a preemptively defensive posture of how not-hungover we were.  And then we would all order breakfast tacos and eat them greedily at our desks, spilling salsa and regret on our keyboards. 

But I feel completely fine, you know – maybe that seventh margarita went to my head just a tad, but nope, I don’t feel queasy at all.  When I said that Tom in accounting has a hot ass, I was completely joking.  Oh, I said that I want to duct tape him to a bed in Saõ Paulo and not come up for air for a week?  Harmless joshing, ha ha!  Ha.  Anyway, very busy, must get to these emails.  Oh, I proposed a mutiny?  Yes, I’m quite the joker.  Is that my phone?  Must dash.

Conversely, there is some good-natured ribbing the Monday that follows a Friday night work drink in my present office.  We tend to bring clothes to work to change into (which we never would in the States, because that implies sluttish behavior, or something – I’m not sure exactly why, but it would look bad), and people make arrangements for how to handle their cars/family/responsibilities ahead of time.  This goes along with the understanding that we will be drunk.  Drinking is a serious activity here, one that is not to be undertaken lightly, and I like that it’s treated as such.  Plans are made to facilitate The Drinking, whereas at home, we all knew we would probably get drunk, but had to make every effort to pretend this was not the case and we’re all civilized, professional people and not slobbering disco apes (we are actually slobbering disco apes, and dishonest ones at that).

As far as these things go, last night was not that bad, or so I keep telling myself.  I didn’t whip my top off, make out with a colleague (ew), call the CEO a cunt, or pass out in the street.  It could have been far worse.  But that doesn’t make it good.

We got out of work early to nab a table at the bar across the street that has a patio section and a burger grill.  I worked until 5:00, changed, put on going-out makeup, and joined my colleagues at about 5:15.  I was wearing skinny-jeans and boots and alternated between the belief that my ass looked really hot in the jeans and the belief that it looked fat and I was embarrassing myself.  Drinks would help, I thought.  We sat around outside for a couple of hours, terrorized by a contingency of wasps that would buzz about our drinks and scatter three of us at a time with high-pitched yelps of panic (this includes the men, absolutely).  We were the most pathetic table on the patio, as everyone else sat around casually swatting the wasps away and looking bored.  I accidentally yelled “fud” just as we were leaving, attracting more derisive stares from the infinitely cooler Europeans around, and this set the tone for the rest of the evening (“fud” is slang for vagina, and my voice rose to an unintentional pitch when I delivered the relating story – I slunk away immediately after, to the amused glances of some actually hot guys over on the grass).  This was the first instance of shame.

After that, we made our way over to a pitstop bar for a couple of rounds, and then to a karaoke bar.  This exceptionally random karaoke place was a good mile away, so we hopped into a couple of taxi vans.  In retrospect, I was quite toasty at this point, but convinced I was sober.  It was not really a karaoke bar, but a working man’s pub with a karaoke machine and a projector for lyrics.  I swapped wine for beers and mixed drinks, as it was clearly not the kind of joint at which to order the house red.  When we approached the bar, I saw that the group of smokers outside were all rather fit-looking blokes.  I was excited.  “This,” I said to my boss, “looks excellent!”  However, as we drew closer, I saw it was a glorious but misleading mirage, and all of the men were either old, deformed, or dumb-looking in some way.  My disappointment was intense.

I got into a conversation inside with a couple of boys from a bachelor party, and made a deal with one that if he did “Livin’ On A Prayer,” I’d perform my own Gloria Gaynor rendition of “I Will Survive.”  When my turn came up, I started late, and had to sing the first three verses in chipmunk hyperspeed.  I eventually got into my groove, but am traumatized to say that I blatantly played the crowd, shimmying about, pointing at random folk, and encouraging a group singalong/clapping thing.  Thankfully, it went down a storm, which is the benefit of picking a popular song and an undiscriminating audience.  My brand-new colleague, the excuse for the drinks venture, sang a tune called “Delilah,” which is probably the folkiest and most chipper song about murdering your cheatin’ woman I’ve heard.  On our way out, the bartender offered him a free shot for his participation.  I grabbed a couple of the other girls and slurred, “Hey, we sang too, where’s our free shot?”  She gamely poured out three more drinks for us and I slammed mine back with no hesitation.

Mistake.

I don’t know what this shot was, but can say that it was a watery urine-yellow color.  Moreover, it tasted of cheap liquor and honey, and I have an extreme aversion to honey.  The second it hit the back of my throat, the vomit came.  I clapped my hand over my mouth and sprinted for the door.  My stomach contents were spurting from between my fingers and I made it around the corner into an alley before I unleashed.  But I was not quick enough, because the liquid vom also traveled up, down, and out, and as a result, I threw up in my eye.

“It’s in my eye!” I shrieked.  “There is vom in my eye!”  My friend sprang into action and rushed for toilet paper, as I sat blindly on the pavement, overcome with the shock of my supreme indignity.  We mopped me up (there is vom in my makeup!) and trudged to meet up with the rest of our colleagues at the next bar.  Fortunately, witnesses were minimized.

Things somehow went downhill from there. 

I recall that there was a group U2 singalong at the next bar, which had an old country cottage theme, lending a “drinking with your grandma” atmosphere to the joint.  We were all drunk enough that our appreciation for the daffodil curtains was expressed in snorted laughter and extra-large tips.  There were an additional three people at our table who someone assumedly knew, but the relationship was never clarified, and at one point, the patron (Grandma?) walloped my boss upside the head with an open hand for being smart.  Shots for everyone, though!

I believe it was somewhere around this point in time that I discovered I had lost an unopened pack of cigarettes, and had probably left them on the patio table by accident.  This could only be determined by squatting to upend the entire contents of my purse on the sidewalk outside the bar, my last unlit fag dangling from my mouth, and shouting towards the general heavens, “I had another PACK!  It’s been STOLEN!”  More than one text to this effect was sent to my boy, who was less sympathetic than I had hoped, given that I clearly had been robbed.  There was also a now notorious “I JUST THREW UP IN MY EYE” text, which will shortly be deleted from his phone, as soon as I get my dirty hands on it. 

I grumpily spent $28 bucks on the cigarette machine for two more 16-packs, one for me, and one for my girlfriend (robbed again!).  Outrageous country, this, to rob people of cigarettes and then charge them the shirt off their back to replace what has been stolen.  IT IS A THIEVING GYPSY COUNTRY THAT EXPLOITS HARDWORKING IMMIGRANTS AND SPITS ON THEM AND DENIES THEIR BASIC RIGHT TO CARCINOGENS.  It is understood that a monologue to this effect was maintained for approximately twenty minutes.  At this point, it is also understood that my ass looked hot in my skinny jeans and I was the most attractive red-eyed and ratty-haired woman in the city. 

From there, we group-staggered around the corner to Leopard Leopard, and had many, many more drinks, the majority of which were shots, enjoyed with no hands.  This classy endeavor naturally led to dance floor grinding, and there is no grinding like colleague-grinding to make you want to take up permanent residence in your sock drawer the next day and never come out for light.

Oh, wait, I’m sorry, there may be one exception to this rule.  And that, my friends, would be BOSS-GRINDING.  Never, ever undertake this.  For this abomination, I lay the blame squarely at the stilletoed feet of my colleague, Bad Influence.  Bad Influence and I were enthusiastic consumers of the club music and put on a floor show that likely rivaled Madonna in terms of athleticism, creativity, and general pelvic action.  We proceeded to get our freak on, together and apart, for three hours; while other co-workers were occasionally swept up in our collective storm, there was no doubt we owned the floor.  At some point, she convinced me it would be hilarious to tagteam the boss at the bar.  And I agreed, God help me.   

In our flimsy defense, this was a joke grind, a tagteam on his hip area, not on his groin region.  I felt it was a poor choice a mere ten seconds in, and withdrew, shaking my moneymaker (loser?) back to the general dance area.  My sincere hope was that the incident would be forgotten entirely in the haze of apple martinis and general foolishness, and it probably would have, if not for one small hitch:  The Pregnant Co-Worker.

The Pregnant Co-Worker, in my fortunate case, is a good-humored individual.  She is a person pounding the OJ only by necessity, and so her scorn is not as feared as it would be in the case of The Voluntarily Sober Co-Worker, who will turn his or her eagle eye on you in your moments of carelessness and DESTROY YOU the following week via allegedly humorous recountings of your many sins.  I am thankful for my lovely Pregnant Co-Worker, who can be relied upon to proffer a good teasing without compromising anyone’s reputation.

The night eventually ended.  The following is reported by the boy, who witnessed my triumphant return to the homestead.  Apparently, I phoned him from the street outside his flat, from which he could watch my approach to the door, and demanded that he observe my “sober walk.”  Witnesses (the boy) allege that my sober walk attempt was precisely the same as my drunken walk attempt, in that I appeared to lurch through a thick layer of invisible mud, which would cause one to pitch to the left at times. 

I then proceeded to clomp up his stairs like a stampeding buffalo herd, disturbing various neighbors.  I am naturally skeptical of this description of events, as I recall floating up the steps like an extremely sexy feline-person, seduction on the brain.  However, it is alleged that, once safely indoors, I proceeded to lie on the floor and complain loudly about a mysterious hand injury and a pack of cigarettes I lost four hours previously.  I then refused to get up and demanded that the boy remove my boots and my jeans.

I asked for a glass of milk, drank it, and passed out.  These are events as reported to me this morning, with further mortification pending encounters with my colleagues.

Please, share your Office Party Abyss horror stories in the comment section.  If you have a more detailed (but not too long – do as I say, not as I do!) story to share and would like it to be considered for publication, email tarred.and.tailfeathered@gmail.com, and we’ll post the top story.  Include your chosen pseudonym and title your email “Office Party.”  

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