The tinny, appallingly optimistic and jolly music zapped at my ear drums and swirled around me as I sat, mindlessly jabbing at a, defenseless piece of limp green goo that could once have been plant-life or a slice of something which used to know what it is to fly, I caught my reflection in the wall length mirror before me. I looked forlorn, bereft even and then it hit me; It is xmas time. Now, whether you use the x rated version of the son of a Virgin version, it still boils down to the same thing. It is a time of dread, fear and trepidation.
This is not a diatribe against the accuracy of religion, the benefits of family unity, or a rage against the pernicious, insidious and relentless commercial nature of our age. No, this is something far more sinister. This was my work’s xmas lunch and I was stuck.
It is a time of year where social awkwardness and foibles are liberally and deliberately mixed with work based paranoias. It is a time of year where expectations are silently made of you, a time where your natural inclinations have to be subsumed, a time where your latent alcoholism must be pushed to one side and jailed deep inside you.
Politic and polite behaviour are the distinctly fascistic order of the day. It is lunchtime, so you are not able to push away your natural inclination to remain silent and content in your own company. Because it is lunchtime, you cannot use Mr or Madam Booze to prime your personality for fear of a perpetual reputation for rampant alcoholism because you had one Merlot too many. But you cannot go the whole lunch without anything to drink can you? Well, can you? If you’re unlucky the Stalinist seating plan has you sitting next to the boss, or the office bore who has more social hangups than you do. If you are even more unlucky, you are sat next to the person who thinks they are either so interesting or so funny that it is their duty to regale you with their one-man/woman show. Let’s be frank here, it will be always be a man. Men, and I say this as a fully fledged member of the species, largely have no sense of when or whether they are boring another living being.
There is no ideal place to sit. The company is not something you have any choice over and is composed of peoples you would gladly decapitate if you could get away with it. You have forgotten what you ordered when asked to do so 6 months previously, so are condemned to take pot luck when the waiter arrives. You will prod, stab and jab at your congealed slice of something that litters your plate, sigh and then finally eat it because your stomach is growling at you and you realise that the 2 glasses of beer/Merlot or Rose have started to to go your head. It is now not your choice any more.
And that, as my reflection looked back at me for any signs of hope, was where I found myself as we came in to this place. Season’s Greetings one and all…………