Thursday, August 4, 2011

By "Always Drunk" I Don't Mean Every Minute...Right Now, For Instance

I'll bet your workplace prohibits drinking on the job. Unless your job is town drunk or wine taster. Or vodka taster, which would be a great job but probably doesn't exist. It's vodka - of course it tastes good.

Anyway, your employee handbook probably specifically addresses the issue of using drugs or alchohol at work. Here's what mine says about it:
Any Employee suspected of possessing, or suspected of being under the influence of, alcohol, an illegal drug, intoxicants, or a controlled substance (during working hours, while on premises owned or occupied by the company, or at any other location while conducting business on behalf of [redacted] and its affiliates and subsidiaries) is subject to have his/her personal and work property inspected and searched with or without notice.
Any Employee who reports to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be appropriately disciplined up to and possibly including termination (with the exception of over-the-counter or physician prescribed medications).

This looks like a totally productive work environment to me.
I used to work for a company that had very similar language in its employee handbook. And we took it very seriously, violating the policy only on Fridays, holidays, and when we felt like it. 
Pulling a little red wagon filled with beer around the office
surely fell within the intended scope of the policy.
Leftover beers were stored in the refrigerator in the break room. And because we were responsible and loyal employees, we kept a spare refirgerator in our warehouse, so we could move them out of sight when a representative of our corporate office came to visit. No point in stressing out busy executives with knowledge they didn't need to have. Unless they asked for a beer, in which case we could rapidly and efficiently comply with the request.

I loved that guy.
If you didn't like beer, a couple of people always kept something a little stronger in their desks. You just had to know who they were. This typically was accomplished by getting on the P.A. system and saying, "Hey, who's got booze in their desk?" Kidding! We would never do that. Everyone knew damn well who had booze in their desk.

Sadly, my former employer went out of business. It had nothing to do with the fact that we were a bunch of alcoholics. I'll say it was because of the tanking economy and not dwell on the gross incompetence of the people who ran the company. The less said about the gross incompetence of the people who ran the company, the better. In fact, who even mentioned the gross incompetence of the people who ran the company? Not me.

Technically, my former employer didn't go out of business. The company was bought by a competing firm. The new corporate overlords agreed to acquire all of the branch offices. Except mine. That one they closed and then they fired everyone who hadn't already been laid off. After stringing us along for several months. Oh, and this is not painful to write about at all.

It was at this point that the office booze really would have come in handy. I say "would have," because before we were unceremoniously thrown out on our butts after years of service during which we were consistently profitable despite our drinking habits, something terrible happened. In an attempt to keep our doors open, several months earlier we had downsized to a smaller office. We subleased a space from another company that had done some downsizing of its own and needed the rent money. It was a good arrangement, if by good you mean we had to work in very close proximity to our landlady, who was a complete psycho and also didn't allow alcohol on the premises. And she meant it.

Perhaps I exaggerate. She wasn't this old.
So there we were, struggling to survive, a shadow of our former prosperous selves, beaten down by the recession, our morale plummeting...and stone cold sober. This was no way to run a business. If we wanted to drown our sorrow, we had to leave the safe confines of the office and drive to a bar to do it. Come to think of it, we probably could have reported our landlady to OSHA for creating a dangerous situation. Although she likely would have retaliated by tearing off our skin in strips with her teeth. She wasn't a mean person, but she was gibbon-shit crazy.

Anyway, flash forward to the present, past about a year and a half worth of depressing crap that will make a great movie starring Ed Harris as my heroic boss and Tina Fey as the psycho landlady. (Sounds like an Oscar contender already, doesn't it?)

And there's just got to be a part for Owen Wilson.
I'm now working for another company. We manufacture green technology, and we're experiencing tremendous growth, and it's all very exciting. Especially the part where I could totally stash booze in my desk drawer in violation of the drug and alcohol policy quoted above because I only have one co-worker and he's easy to hide shit from. Also, my phone never rings, so I could drink all the freaking time and no one would know except the security guard who strolls past my suite a couple of times a day.
If you're wondering how any of that equals "tremendous growth," I have three words for you: Government contracts, baby.

However, I do not have alcohol stashed in my desk drawer. I don't drink on the job. When I did that before, it wasn't because of the stress or the long hours. It wasn't just because of that, anyway. It was because I had really cool people to drink with. And because we all worked really hard together and enjoyed taking a break from it together. And that was worth committing a firing offense for. Now, I'd just be sitting alone, drunk and miserable, wondering how things got to this point. I can do that at home.

Right after I whip up the best darn chocolate layer cake in town!
My point is, employee manuals were invented to give managers a reason to fire employees when they can't fire them for the real reason, like sleeping with the boss' spouse or being a total douchebag. So they're filled with contradictory statements like "We want our employees to have a positive experience" and "You can't drink at work." But there are ways to get both. And there are ways to end up with neither. And it has very little to do with what's written in the manual, but a lot to do with the people who are reading it. And coming up with fun ways to ignore it.

I'll drink to that. Later.


  1. We often frequent a brew pub for lunch that's just down the street from the office - they make their own, and it's great.

    I have to remind myself that although we're technically allowed to have a beverage with lunch, most people - even the cool ones - don't.

    Now, at dinner - even with our's on.

    Last night, I had dinner with my boss, who had two glasses of wine - I had a specialty cocktail called a Pink Cougar, involving Limoncello, raspberry vodka and cranberry juice.

    It was really pretty and very delicious.

  2. Is someone a tad gibbon-shit crazy for Owen Wilson? Just asking.

  3. I used to work at an advertising company during the '80s. I have no idea if there were any rules against drinking on the job. All I know is that sometimes you'd hear a tinkling in the hallway, and before long the president of the company would show up with a cart containing vodka, whiskey, and several types of mixes, and ask you what you'd like.


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