Johnny America


An­oth­er Per­spec­tive: Drink­ing at Work


Con­ven­tion­al wis­dom says that drink­ing at work is best con­fined to those look­ing to get fired or toast­ing a fond farewell at a go­ing-away par­ty. Sad­ly gone are the days of three-mar­ti­ni lunch­es at least for the lit­tle guy. Pre­sum­ably those with enor­mous wal­nut desks and leather couch­es still nip a bit of scotch while they en­ter­tain their wealthy bene­fac­tors, co-in­vestors, club­mates, etc. Let’s face it. This is­n’t a world we’ll ever know.

Wageslaves like our­selves will find it frowned up­on, if we should de­cide to keep a bot­tle of John­nie Walk­er in our desk draw­ers. Even if that bot­tle goes un­opened for years, it is seen as a sign of de­gen­er­a­cy. If we go to lunch with a busi­ness com­pa­tri­ot and it turns in­to a booze-fest of lengths up to four hours, we will not re­turn to the wel­come we de­serve (a nice qui­et room with a couch to nap on). In­stead, you may find a su­per­vi­sor ques­tion­ing why you haven’t “clocked out” (bar­barous). You may find your­self “sus­pend­ed.” Your co-work­ers, in­stead of the def­er­en­tial be­hav­ior they ought to ex­hib­it, may take the oc­ca­sion to laugh open­ly and to mock your afternoon-stumble.

And yet I pro­pose that the world un­der­es­ti­mates the val­ue of al­co­hol in open­ing our eyes to the sub­tleties of busi­ness eti­quette and plan­ning strate­gies. Con­sid­er this:

Pro­fes­sion­al A has an on­go­ing feud with Pro­fes­sion­al B, but they have to work in close con­cert with one an­oth­er. For one year, Pro­fes­sion­al A and Pro­fes­sion­al B nurse a slow­ly-in­creas­ing ha­tred of one an­oth­er. They are snap­pish, and un­cor­dial. Ul­ti­mate­ly morale in De­part­ment X goes down. Oth­ers tip­toe around Pro­fes­sion­al A and Pro­fes­sion­al B, fear­ing an out­burst. Em­ploy­ees call in sick, or linger at the cof­feepot. Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty suf­fers. Then one day Mr. W, the de­part­ment su­per­vi­sor, an­nounces the birth of his first child and every­one in De­part­ment X cel­e­brates with a case of cham­pagne. Pro­fes­sion­al A and Pro­fes­sion­al B re­al­ize the fol­ly of their ways. They gig­gle and slap one an­oth­er on the back. Per­haps they even con­tin­ue their ben­der through the rest of the night and wake up in an old shed some­where, but that’s a bit much to hope for. Let’s just say they make up and be­come, if not pals, then at least ami­able co-work­ers. As you can plain­ly see, much time and ef­fort was wast­ed, when a small dose of al­co­hol could’ve smoothed things over.

A sec­ond scenario:

Pro­fes­sor M is a sci­en­tist work­ing on an im­por­tant de­vice that he be­lieves could rev­o­lu­tion­ize the sci­ence of chill­ing bev­er­ages. How­ev­er, he’s be­come stymied at a par­tic­u­lar point in the process and can­not seem to get past it. He is dis­tract­ed and has a hard time con­cen­trat­ing on his work. He leaves pots of wa­ter to boil and for­gets them for hours. He for­gets im­por­tant oc­ca­sions like Moth­er’s Day. He grows thin, for­gets to eat, and be­gins look­ing rather ghast­ly. His col­leagues start to wor­ry. Then one day, in his frus­tra­tion, he de­cides to par­take of one of the bot­tles of white wine he keeps for his bev­er­age chill­ing ex­per­i­ments. Be­cause he’s not usu­al­ly a drinker, Pro­fes­sor M be­comes in­tox­i­cat­ed quick­ly and ends up sleep­ing on the floor of his lab. When he wakes up, he finds he has dreamed the pre­cise an­swer to his dilem­ma and pro­ceeds to per­fect his bev­er­age-chill­ing de­vice that very day. He makes his com­pa­ny a lot of mon­ey and se­cures him­self a promi­nent place in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. Some­how al­co­hol gave Pro­fes­sor M the change in per­spec­tive he need­ed to make the log­i­cal jump in his work.

And so you see, the val­ue in drink­ing is not just for chat­ting up cute girls in bars. That same so­cial lu­bri­cant is use­ful (I dare­say nec­es­sary?) in the work­place. Do not look down up­on those of us who can be both drunk and pro­duc­tive. It is not a tal­ent of the many. Those of us who un­der­stand its pow­er can har­ness it for good, not evil. Rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate em­ploy­ers of the world, the next round is yours.

Filed under Commentary on March 8th, 2004

Care to Share?

Reader Comments

Derek wrote:

But I am of­ten drunk on the job, though rarely pro­duc­tive! All I seem to do, un­der the in­flu­ence, is surf down my list of too-clever web­sites and send e‑mails to old room­mates and girl­friends! What gives?

French Fry wrote:

I liked this one. I liked the names.

Travis Klekler wrote:

wait, by writ­ing this — you — you who have writ­ten this — i may pre­sume have — you who have dri­ven down mon­terey pass road af­ter at least one beer — have drunk on the “job” — while work­ing — maybe not a road job but a temp job — maybe — yes, yes, i do love you.… east LA at 6:15 PM smells bet­tern all every­where any­time… even though the peo­ple want to kill you cause your white

Currie Sauce wrote:

I was re­cent­ly very po­lite­ly asked to re­sign from a job i hat­ed for drink­ing on the job. I can say with all hon­esty that I was much more pro­duc­tive dur­ing the three months that I sipped on the job than the five years be­fore that. As a re­sult of drink­ing on the job, I was more as­sertive, less stressed and more straight­for­ward. I ac­tu­al­ly worked hard­er, be­cause the te­dious work did­n’t bore me so. ap­par­ent­ly my boss did­n’t see it that way.

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.