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“…and then I told him, ‘why don’t you code that into your system? Maybe it’ll take care of your bugs!’”
Eric roared with laughter, along with the other six coworkers at his table, as their CTO finished up a long, rambling, and objectively unfunny story. He had been zoning out since the first coding-related pun but had been maintaining a constant stream of chuckles and head nods throughout the tale. As he finished his fake laughter, he caught his coworker/friend Tom’s eye and saw them change seamlessly from genuine mirth to blank boredom. They shared a look that said a lot.
It said, “I can’t believe we picked the table with the most boring and stingiest executive at it. The CMO just bought shots for his table, and that dude is legitimately hilarious.” It said, “Fake laughing to this guy’s boring life story makes me hate myself, but if it gives me even a ten percent chance of getting a promotion, I’ll laugh at every horrible pun that comes out of his dumb mouth.” The look also said, “Let’s sneak to the bar and take some shots before the open bar tab runs out.”
“Hey, I’ll grab the next round from the bar,” Tom said with a little too much enthusiasm in his voice. “Eric, do you want to help me carry the beers over?” Eric gleefully accepted the offer and thanks of his fellow coworkers as he headed to the bar. Waving down the cute bartender, he ordered in a loud tone, “Could we get four more pitchers of the Blue Moon, please?” Followed by a whispered “…and two shots of Bulleit Rye?” The bartended winked knowingly at him and turned towards the tap when Tom chimed in as well. “And make those doubles, please.”
Eric looked at him incredulously and received a sly grin in return. “Hey, if the boss is paying, might as well take advantage, right?” Tom said. “Plus, if I have to listen to that guy tell another story I need as much booze as I can get.” Eric sighed in agreement, and lifted a finger in Tom’s face as they clinked shot glasses. “Fine, but just one. I can’t get sloppy at happy hour with all the big dogs.”
Ninety minutes later, the Eric that had thought to limit his alcohol consumption was long gone. He had managed to break away from his table and found himself by the bar with the sales team, who were taking no prisoners tonight. He had already had several more shots and beers, and was now nursing a whiskey ginger while getting his ear talked off by one of the sales managers that had disappeared to the bathroom early in the evening and returned with way more energy. Eric furrowed his brow and nodded intently, attempting to look, if not interested, then at least like he was sober enough to understand the conversation.
“…anyway, I gotta hit the head,” his conversation partner said, wiping sweat from his brow.
Eric took this opportunity to place his elbows on the bar and take a second to compose himself. He was drunk. He knew he was drunk. But the question was, did everyone else know he was drunk? He surveyed the bar, making his best attempt to look like Don Draper, if Don Draper wore $22 H&M shirts with jeans.
At a four-top were three engineers, loudly arguing different fan theories for a TV show Eric didn’t recognize. Were they drunk? Probably, the couldn’t hold their liquor. Did it matter? No, since they were so weird normally no one could really tell.
On the other side of the bar, he witnessed two senior managers having a serious discussion over matching glasses of scotch. Were they drunk? Yes, but they were never going to show it. They had been drinking six scotches a piece at various company happy hours since Eric was still stealing his parents liquor in high school. They were veterans of the game, and were not his allies in this bar.
No, Eric needed to camouflage himself near employees that were as drunk, or ideally, more drunk than himself. Much like a zebra, the more he blended in with the herd, the safer he was. “Goddamn it.” He thought to himself. “I’m ‘making unnecessary Animal Planet metaphors’ drunk. I gotta reign it in.”
He looked to his right, and saw exactly the group he needed. Three girls in the marketing department consoling one of the female interns, who was crying. Perfect. He wandered over with a concerned look on his face and caught the eye of one of the girls who had started around the same time he had.
“Hey Mandy. Is she ok?” He asked, gesturing somewhat sloppily with his glass. “Mandy took this opportunity to grab him by the arm and pull him away, back towards the bar. “She’s fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. “She’s crying because her sister is getting married and she just went through a breakup. She’s just a drunk crier, she’ll be ok. What are you drinking? That looks good.”
Eric glanced down at his glass and wordlessly offered it to her. As slow as his brain was, he finally noticed that Mandy hadn’t let go of his arm, despite them having walked back over to the bar. In fact, even as she took a sip of his drink, her fingers remained wrapped around his bicep. She drained his drink and looked at him flirtatiously. “Mmmm this is good! Too bad you’re all done. Let’s sit a table, I’ll grab us two more from the bar.”
Eric attempted to control his voice as he replied. “Uhh, sure thing. I’m just gonna take a pi- go to the restroom real quick. I’ll meet you at the table.”
Mandy smiled over her shoulder as she walked to the bar and Eric nearly tripped over his feet walking to the bathroom. He walked in and beelined for the sink, where he splashed cold water on his face before raising it to look at himself in the mirror. Yup, he definitely looked drunk.
“Get a hold of yourself, you drunk baby.” He said to his reflection, in an uncharacteristic show of expression. “There’s a cute girl that’s giving you all the signs, and you’re blowing it. Sure, she works with you. That’s not ideal. But it’s not like she’s in the same department. Shit, half the people in this company are banging each other, why not join in on the fun? You deserve this. Just don’t let any of the higher-ups see you and for the love of god, stop taking shots.”
Eric smiled at himself in the mirror, pumped up by his own speech. Then the smile drained, as he heard the last noise he wanted to hear. A toilet flushed. His head turned, seemingly in slow motion, as his eyes widened in fear. The door to a stall creaked open. He could feel his heart beating in his throat. His boss stepped into the light, and stared him right in the eyes. He screamed internally, already mentally preparing for unemployment, when he saw the figure in front of him stumble and bounce lightly off the wall.
“Oh heyy Eric. I, uhh…watch out of the the uh, the floor over there. It’s…uneven,” his boss slurred, waving an empty glass at the offending patch of tile. “Are you having a good- having fun? It’s good to have the employeesh, excuse me, employees come together to, you know, enjoy our time, outside the office. Anywaysh, I think it’s time for me- I’m going to head home. Enjoy yourshelf.”
And with that, he exited the restroom, with no mention of Eric’s pep talk, a speech on the company relationship policy, or even an attempt to wash his hands. Eric slumped against the wall in relief. His boss was HAMMERED. He wasn’t getting fired today..