I’m going to skip ahead to tell a story about Christmas, because everyone loves a festive tale in December. I think this was my penultimate Christmas Party, but it may have been the last. They all tend to blur into one. Even if you don’t drink.
The Dodge & Burrow Christmas Party usually got a half-and-half reaction. One the one side would be the people who could not take even a single minute more of Dodge & Burrow’s presence in their life and would staunchly refuse to go. On the other side were the people who realised that they were never getting a pay rise and the only way they were getting a penny more out of the tight-fisted Scrooges at the top of the Dodge & Burrow food chain would be to attend the Christmas party. (There may have been a third section who were on both sides – and signed up but never went, but you could get in trouble for that, so they had nerves of steel and/or job offers at better firms.)
I fell somewhere in the middle. While I hated Dodge & Burrow with a fiery passion, I did have a lot of close friends who worked there, and socialising on the company’s money was a sort of bonus.
Usually I got ready alone for the party, and then met up with friends there and we all went in together, but for this particular party, my friend Amira had got a hotel room at the venue, and we got ready there. Amira is Asian, and for the first time at work, she had decided to wear traditional Asian dress. For the SJWs out there, I am aware that Asia is made up of many different places, but Amira herself constantly referred to it as “traditional Asian dress”, so that’s the phrase I’m using. Amira is also Muslim, which in terms of the Christmas Party meant she was having a very unappetising vegetarian option, and not drinking.
The party itself was really quite boring, same-old, same-old. I’m pretty sure someone retired, and after 50 years with the company, Dodge & Burrow bought them a caravan and a laptop.
(Those of us who didn’t get pay rises that year wondered if we too would get a caravan in another 46 years. Answer from the future: No. Dodge & Burrow was taken over by a real law firm recently. No caravans for you, underpaid serfs.)
Somehow, Amira and I ended up talking to Paddy, who used this conversation to earn himself the title (on this site at least) of “Paddy the Racially Insensitive Buffoon”. The first thing he did was tell Amira she looked like a “Pakistani Princess”, then asked if she was actually Indian.
Amira politely changed the subject by saying we were just about to get a drink. We were too near the bar for that excuse to really work, but it was a valiant try.
Instead Paddy, in great festive spirits, said he would get us a drink from the bar – I can’t remember if it was a free bar at that point or not. Dodge & Burrow, having been burned several years ago by their own generosity, offered a free bar to a point, once that point was reached, everyone had to pay.
Amira and I specified no alcohol. I asked for orange juice, she got a diet coke. Off Paddy went, and came back not long after with drinks. I sipped my drink, and then spat it back into the glass.
“Urgh! There’s vodka in that!” I said. Then I realised I’d just been uncouth in front of people I work with.
As I dealt with my embarrassment, Paddy cheerfully commented, “Yeah, I know. I thought it would be a nice Christmas treat.”
Amira gave her glass a suspicious sniff.
“Not you, Amira,” Paddy added. “I know you don’t drink.”
“But I don’t drink either,” I said.
“Yeah, why is that?”
“Because I’m allergic,” I said.
Paddy paled dramatically. “What really?”
“No, of course not. I just don’t drink.”
At this point, I stopped feeling bad about spitting my drink out – well, as far as Paddy was concerned. I still felt awkward about doing it in front of Amira, who’s a very elegant human being. “Because I’m Muslim.”
“Oh! So that’s why you’re friends with Amira!”
Both Amira and I gaped at him. After a moment, I managed to clarify. “No, Paddy, I’m not Muslim. I just don’t drink.”
I glanced at the ground. “Well, I don’t like to talk about it much, but I had a really rough couple of years, and I started relying on alcohol to get me through, but I’ve been sober for seven years and two months…”
“Oh my god, I feel terrible.”
“No, Paddy, I’m still lying. I just don’t drink. No reason, I just don’t drink, ok?”
“But there must be a reason!” he persisted.
“I don’t want to drink!” I snapped.
“Dove,” said Amira. “Harry’s been waving at you for five minutes now – sorry, Paddy, we really have to go.”
And so we went and threw ourselves at Harry – who, naturally had not been waving constantly, but we made awkward small talk. Harry was the security guard for Dodge & Burrow, and a fellow smoker, so I had spent many a morning enjoying a hot drink and a cig with Harry and/or Amira before everyone else trickled in. We told Harry about what had just happened, and we all rolled our eyes at Paddy’s behaviour.
We moved on and circulated, and eventually it got boring enough for us to call it a night.
Dodge & Burrow does not shut between the holidays, and during my tenure there, I never once managed to book Christmas off, it was always, “Oh, Susie worked last year…” or “Well, Cathy’s got kids and you don’t….”
So I was in the next working day, which may have even been the next day, because law firms like to have their Christmas parties mid-week to slow down on the binge drinking.
My bum barely grazed my seat before a Senior Secretary – I can’t remember which one – said, “Dove, have you got five minutes? Room Five?”
In the room was Avril, who was secretary to John the Very Important Asshat (next in line for the job of Managing Partner), and Avril herself was the second most important Senior Secretary in the building. “Dove,” she said. “We need to discuss this incident of hazing at the Christmas party…”
Seniors like to trail off and look at you expectantly, so that you will immediately incriminate yourself. It’s a good rule of thumb to give them nothing. Even if you’ve broken one of their rules, don’t start talking because there is a solid chance that you’re in Room 5 because of bad intel or because it’s been awhile and they’re bored.
But in this case, all I could do was flail incoherently. “Hazing?”
“Your little joke at Paddy’s expense. He’s spoken to John the Very Important Asshat, and I’ve had to talk him out of lodging a formal complaint against you.”
I gaped at her.
“Not to mention,” she continued, “the fact that you asked Harry to beat him up.”
Further gaping and flailing.
After a few minutes of being too thunderstruck to respond, I finally managed to tell my side of it – as best I could when being blindsided by bullshit.
But somehow the conversation ended with me agreeing to apologise to Paddy.