Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas! It's the most booze-fulled time of the year!

Christmas is a weird time - if you don’t count all the Jesus stuff… what is it all about? How has it managed to last so long? How has it come to be so all-consuming? The first time there was a Christmas, someone probably said, “don’t get me wrong; I like receiving presents, but this’ll never catch on”. How wrong can you be? Alexander Graham Bell once famously said that he could foresee a time when there was one of his new telephone contraptions… in every town. To predict Christmas would never catch on would be more wrong than that.

The telephone’s a great idea though, isn’t it? Can you imagine before there were telephones? Someone would have to think, “wouldn’t it be great if I could talk to someone in a completely different place, in the present moment, without having to be there? Perhaps I could send a voice down a wire.” You’d have to be a genius to even imagine that.

I strongly suspect that the idea of Christmas was conceived to give us something to look forward to in the midst of those cold, dark and damp winter months that, here in the UK, last forever – even into the summer it seems sometimes. Yeah, maybe, maybe not, but either way, that’s probably why it has caught on and lasted. Funny that Christmas isn’t so big in the Middle East, where it all began…

You know what else isn’t so big in the Middle East? Booze. Christmas is a special time in the booze calendar, so even though I normally fall into the ‘bah humbug’ category when it comes to embracing Christmas, there are still things I need to write about. I was going to say that you could think of this as the Drink it How You Like it Christmas Special, if you wanted to, but it isn’t going to be that special.

Just before Mrs Cake reads this and dies a little inside because she loves Christmas, let me just say, I don’t hate Christmas altogether. There are some things that I like about it very much. I like for example, how most people seem to be more cheerful than they might normally be. I like the goodwill to all men thing. I like giving and receiving presents. And I like pigs in blankets. Sure, there are probably more things I could think of, but that’s not the point of these posts – and I could start a list of the things I don’t like, but I’m trying to maintain a positive outlook.

So instead of focusing on boring Christmas things like mulled wine and Christmas markets, let’s have a good laugh at the fun, debauched side.

The real highlight when it comes to drinking at Christmas is the Christmas Do. It might be awkward, it might be embarrassing, but it will be very funny. People are going to get very drunk, and a certain amount of chaos is going to ensue – all to the tune of free booze provided by your employer, if you’re lucky like I am. If you’re unlucky, your employer might make you pay for it.

For me, Christmas dos always walk the fine line between awkward and fun, because I find social situations with anything other than good friends very stressful, and seeing work acquaintances in casual circumstances is akin to seeing a cat on a lead, or a dog in a suit. It’s just weird.

type "dog in a" into google, and "suit" is the first thing it comes up with
Go limp!
Speaking of weird things; I went to my football Christmas curry last night, and when I got there I didn’t recognise anyone because they were wearing normal clothes instead of football kits.

Christmas time is extrawkward (new word, you can have that one) for me because I always seem to be working in two offices at the same time, so there’s always going to be at least two Christmas dos. On top of that, I work at a university, so there’s a faculty do as well as two school dos, and one of my offices has two dos instead of the regulation one. So the amount of time I spend standing awkwardly on my own, drinking far too quickly, and looking for someone I know to actually talk to increases exponentially at this time of year.

The worst case scenario of course, is that you find another lost soul who you might have spoken to once during the year, and end up talking to them. It’s actually a relief at first, but then you run out of things to talk about and need to find a way to leave without seeming rude… Argh! Why is it so hard to talk to people?!

Eventually the free wine kicks in, and things get easier. And I usually find a group that I can hang out with, so it all becomes fun after a while.

You probably knew all that already – you’re a person aren’t you? You’ve probably had a job, and I don’t think the recession has quite hit that badly yet. I suppose you might just be out of school, and new to the whole world of work thing.

Anyway, now it’s time for the interesting part. You can join in here, too. It’s time to talk about the things that happen at Christmas dos as a direct consequence of people drinking too much – because they will, and because mad things will happen. When people are exposed to free booze they do things they wouldn’t normally do. Like stealing, or allowing their lesbian tendencies to surface and making a pass at the boss…

ew... supposedly these belong to a politician
The cliché things of course are things like photocopying genitalia or someone shagging their boss in the car park… I think though that reality often proves to be better than cliché.

Here are a couple of stories about a senior colleague at one of the schools I work in. To protect identities, let’s call him Colin, and say he’s the ‘Senior Head’. That’s a completely made up title, but it represents his position in the organisation.

For the previous two years he’s been involved in incidents at one of the two school Christmas dos, so it will be interesting to see what happens this year. In fact, during the summer, he was involved in an incident where the girlfriend of one of his staff was lapdancing on him. Bizarre. He’s gay, which probably makes it ok, though that doesn’t seem fair. Like, how come gay guys are allowed to grope ladies’ boobies, and it’s not harassment or assault? I’m not saying we should all be allowed to, but the no groping rule should be universal. Just sayin’.

A-a-a-a-anyway… Two years ago Colin loaded up on far too much free wine, and a taxi had to be called. I was there when he was put into it, and somehow he couldn’t remember his address. How do you forget your own address?!? Someone had to call his partner to get it. That’s bad enough I suppose, but the real story is the part I played in proceedings. Colin had gone up to his office, and another member of staff had gone to get him, to help him to the cab. For some reason I was waiting for this other person so we could both join a group of people who had left for a pub a little earlier. The person I was waiting for came back and said, “Colin’s pissed in his office.”

Really? Blimey!”

So, come Monday morning, I went around telling everyone that Colin had been so drunk that he had had relieved himself in his office.

It was odd, though. No one had heard this from anyone else, and the rumour wasn’t really gathering pace. Colin’s office was just across the corridor from my team’s office, and no one had seen anyone make any attempts to clean the office. There should be a hell of a mess, shouldn’t there?

I decided I’d best get some validation for my story – after all, this was my boss I was slandering here! Eventually I managed to speak with the lady who had told me, “Colin’s pissed in his office”.

“Do you remember Friday night, when Colin had a piss in his office?”

“No. I didn’t know that had happened!”

“You told me! You said, and I quote, ‘Colin’s pissed in his office’!”

“Yeah, ‘Colin is pissed in his office’, not Colin has pissed in his office.”

“Oh. I’ve been telling everyone he had a piss in his office.”


“I’d best start quashing those rumours…”

Luckily the rumour didn’t take off to the extent it might have, so all’s well that ends well.

The second Colin story is from last Christmas. This do was at a club in Manchester, which will remain anonymous to protect anonymity, and involved a traditional style Christmas dinner, followed by some dancing. I left fairly early since it was on a Thursday and I was one of the few people who hadn’t booked leave for the next day. That was a relief, since it was a good excuse to get away from the predatory middle aged lady who was determined that I should bounce up and down with her on the dance floor, downstairs. By that, I mean ‘dance’ of course, not dry hump. Ew.

Nevertheless, it meant I left before Colin’s next alcohol fuelled faux pas. I learned the following Monday, when everyone returned to work that he had been so drunk he’d passed out in his chair and started to vomit turkey through his nose, all over the tables and in full view of diners from other parties. There’s no way someone could have misheard that one, is there? There’s too many witnesses and too much detail.

Aside from being very funny, this was actually a relief for one of my colleagues, as she’d gotten very drunk also and had been careening around the restaurant and club all night, falling over and into things, and aggressively asking academics if they thought she was a nob. So that she wasn’t the biggest disgrace at the school was something of a victory.

What fascinates me about people’s behaviour at Christmas dos is the clash between professionalism… and free alcohol. It’s not often you get free booze, so the temptation is to go a bit nuts, and get as much as you can before it’s too late – what I’m going to call the Booze Buffet Mentality. I think it leads to people remembering how much they used to drink as younger people, and thinking they can still do the same, even though they rarely drink anymore, and have been out of practice for years. If you’re going to fill your boots, it is essential you try to maintain some degree of match fitness during the year. And try eating something, too. That clearly didn’t work with Colin, mind.

So now it’s your turn. What are your funniest Christmas do related stories? I’d like to say there’s a prize for the best one, but there’s not. You just get the prestige of having the best one.

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