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The Pen Pusher

A Quick Drink

Felicity Cloake

The Disgruntled Ruminations of an Office Worker Meant for Better Things

I think the time has finally come to take a deep breath and tackle the big one … the Quick After Work Drink. It’s a phenomenon which prompts in me a sort of grudging respect for the instigator’s

unswerving commitment to the cult of masochism (or perhaps sadism). All day you work diligently away towards the goal of 5.30 when, contractually, you’re free to walk out that door and spend some time with friends, family, or even The Simpsons.

And then, out of the blue, a mass email pops up in your inbox suggesting ‘a few quick ones’. Desperately, you begin trying to think of an excuse. The gym? No, too square. Sets you up in prudish opposition to the crazy hedonist on a mission to ruin everyone’s evening. Meeting other friends? That’s a good one. Not only watertight, but oozes the unspoken truth that you’re way cooler than the morons you work with. But, as you’re luxuriating in your smug get-out clause, your workmates are already plotting around you. ‘Just come for one,’ they wheedle. ‘What time are you meeting your friends? Where are you going? What are their middle names? What’s their favourite cheese?’ Until eventually you break down and agree to go for ‘just the one’.

The trouble starts before you even leave the office. Although you may make a point of making a sharp exit on the dot of home time, for some reason those who suggest going for a drink are never ready to go until at least an hour after you’ve stopped being paid to be at your desk. ‘You can go if you like,’ they say. ‘We’ll meet you in there.’ However, this is not an opportunity to go and enjoy five chapters of your book over a nice glass of red wine as you might fondly imagine. It is an opportunity for you to sit in awkward silence with the work experience boy, and have to buy him a drink to boot, because not only is he working like a dog for free, but he has a face full of pimples and looks about fourteen. As both of you would prefer to be at home, or at least anywhere else but Wetherspoon’s, the conversation soon dries up as you desperately watch the door, hoping for reinforcements.

When they finally tumble in, you’ve spent £25 on double vodkas and are more than willing to accept any offers of drinks from the recent arrivals. Now, take note, there are some people who never, ever forget a drink, be it a pint of tap water or a shot of sambuca they’ve pressed upon you. They will bring it up, in a faux jovial fashion, every time you bump into them by the printer, or pass their desk, for ever and ever and ever, until you buy them at least three more expensive ones in return. (Always accept a triple from your boss, however; it is his or her duty, by dint of earning more than you, however many children and other expensive financial burdens sit around their neck, to finance this bloody unpleasant experience on your behalf.)

Once you have the drink, and you’ve all jockeyed for position in a space too small for half the number of people, you’ll all realise that you have nothing whatsoever in common outside the office. This is the signal to start bitching freely about colleagues sly enough to have avoided attending. And once you’ve opened your mouth, you’re there for the evening, begging others to stay for ‘just one more’ and saying the ‘friends’ you were meeting ‘can just fuck off’. And that’s where I’ll leave you, with your shiny red face, and your indiscreet admission about thinking the work experience boy has ‘quite a good body’, and your new best friends from the IT department. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you tomorrow morning.